The Chicago Bulls snapped a four-game skid with a 121-107 win over the Boston Celtics on Monday night at the United Center. The victory also ended a nine-game winning streak for the Celtics, who sit atop the Eastern Conference at 13-4.
Here are seven takeaways from the win.
1. Zach LaVine bounced back after his late benching against the Orlando Magic.
All eyes were on LaVine after he was benched for the final minutes of Friday’s loss to the Magic on a career-worst 1-for-14 shooting night. The last time LaVine was similarly benched in 2019, he responded with a 49-point performance one night later.
LaVine’s response Monday wasn’t quite as theatrical — he scored 22 points on 8-for-20 shooting. But he showed why he believes he belongs on the court in the final minutes of any game by sinking three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to hold off any chance of a Celtics comeback.
As he continues to build back his explosiveness after offseason knee surgery, LaVine showed flashes of his typical bounce with several high-flying dunks.
“I just went out there and played hard, took my shots,” LaVine said. “Even in the game I went 1-for-14, my shot felt good. I’m getting there. I’m missing shots that I normally don’t, but I’m going to keep shooting with confidence, keep getting downhill.
“My legs are starting to feel better. I just try to be active, offensively, defensively. I think it shows and we came out with the win.”
2. Patrick Williams recorded a season-high scoring night in a confident performance.
Williams continued a steady increase in both confidence and scoring, tallying 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting.
The Celtics sagged off Williams early, challenging the young power forward to take long-distance shots. Williams responded by burying a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to force the Celtics to defend him tighter.
Williams eagerly attacked isolation opportunities against elite Celtics defenders such as Jayson Tatum throughout the game, capitalizing on the mismatch his combination of speed and length provides.
The performance added to a growing contribution from Williams, who is averaging 9.2 points after a slow start. He has scored in double digits in five of the last seven games.
3. The Bulls broke through a pattern of sluggish starts to outmatch the Celtics in the first quarter.
The Bulls have struggled at the start of games all season, consistently digging themselves into holes that either force them to attempt a late-game comeback or lead to a blowout loss.
Monday’s win provided a stark change from that pattern. The Bulls led 28-23 after the first quarter, taking advantage of the Celtics’ 27.3% shooting from the field and forcing six turnovers to gain an early upper hand.
The Bulls sustained this improved vigor throughout the first half, taking a 13-point lead into the locker room while outshooting and outrebounding the Celtics.
4. The Bulls still can hang with the best.
The Bulls were criticized often last season for their inability to beat the top teams in either conference. They’re staying more competitive this season with their toughest competition, including two wins now over the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics.
Despite their 7-10 record and recent losing streak, the win buoyed confidence in the Bulls locker room that a winning record is well within reach.
“I would rather be going through our struggles now,” DeMar DeRozan said. “In games like this, we realize we can compete with anybody. I really believe once we catch that rhythm, that confidence of playing at a high level, it’s going to be consistent.”
5. Goran Dragić exited with a stinger after a first-quarter collision.
Dragić left with 2:38 remaining in the first quarter after a hard collision with Celtics forward Sam Hauser. Despite the Bulls reporting him as questionable to return with a left shoulder injury, Dragić returned midway through the second quarter.
The injury appeared to affect the left-handed Dragić’s shooting. The veteran guard missed his only shot of the first half, a jumper from the left elbow. He played a little less than three minutes in the third quarter, then sat for the remainder of the game.
Coach Billy Donovan described the injury as a stinger that affected Dragić’s neck, resulting in numbness down the back of his left arm. Dragić insisted he could stay in the game, but Donovan held him out as a preventative measure.
6. Andre Drummond continues to provide much-needed rebounding.
Drummond again showed his importance to the Bulls around the rim with a 12-rebound performance, 10 of them coming in the first half. He continues to match the rebounding of starting center Nikola Vučević, providing depth at the position that was desperately missing last season.
With the Celtics missing starting center Robert Williams III, the Bulls were able to overpower the Celtics down low throughout the game, outscoring them in second-chance points (11-8) and points in the paint (44-34).
7. The win galvanized the Bulls ahead of a six-game road stretch.
The Bulls hope to ride the momentum swing Monday’s win created into a challenging trip featuring four teams above .500, plus the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
The stretch begins Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks (12-4), followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder (7-10) on Friday. The trip continues with games against the Western Conference-leading Utah Jazz (12-7), the second-place Phoenix Suns (10-6), the streaky Sacramento Kings (9-6) and the Warriors (8-10).
The Bulls won’t play at the United Center again until they host the Washington Wizards (10-7) on Dec. 7.