Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Celtics 124, Bulls 97: Jaylen Brown leads Boston to win East Group C, advance in NBA's In-Season Tournament

The Celtics steamrolled the Chicago Bulls 124-97 Tuesday night at TD Garden to win East Group C and advance to the quarterfinals of the NBA's In-Season Tournament.

Jaylen Brown had a game-high 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists, while Jayson Tatum added 21 points and seven rebounds to lead Boston -- who won a three-team tiebreaker (3-1) with Orlando and Brooklyn by means of point differential to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and face the No. 2 seed Indiana Pacers next week.
"To be honest, it was a little weird but the ultimate goal was to come out and get a win tonight and that's what we did," Brown said in his postgame comments, noting that the focus on point differential was a little unusual. "It's tough because that's just not how the game is supposed to be played. One, you've got to respect your opponents."
Al Horford, who started once again in place of Kristaps Porzingis (calf strain), notched 16 points on 6-of-8 from the field to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. Jrue Holiday returned after missing two straight games with a right ankle sprain to record 14 points, seven assists. Derrick White also scored 14 points and dished out seven dimes to help the Celtics improve to a league's best 14-4 record and remain a perfect 8-0 at home.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 19 points, six assists and Coby White also registered 19 points, while Patrick Williams chipped in 14 points, seven rebounds to lead the Bulls -- who dropped to 5-14 on the season and 0-4 during group play of the In-Season Tournament.

Boston was up by as many as 35, as they needed to secure at least a 23-point victory to reach the knockout stage of the tournament, to which coach Joe Mazzulla was pleased with how his players held the Bulls to 43.3% shooting, including 9-of-28 from 3-point territory -- despite how it may have looked to others of running up the score in the second half.
"Call it what you want, but at the end of the day there's times human nature comes in and you get bored. You start to deteriorate from your habits or you take your execution or your shots for granted. Tonight, we didn't do that," Mazzulla said. "For that stretch tonight, we just kept playing. That was a win for us."
While Mazzulla says he wasn't comfortable telling his players to foul Andre Drummond repeatedly in the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading by a wide margin, he also had a discussion with Chicago's head coach Billy Donovan near halfcourt during a stoppage in play to explain the reason behind the decision -- which led to Drummond going 1-of-6 from the free throw line.
"[Mazzulla's] got to coach his team and do what's right, but I think it was putting Andre in a tough spot down 30 points," Donovan said in his postgame presser, on being upset about Drummond being fouled multiple times. "But this is from the league. This is what the league has done, making this point-differential thing."
The Celtics hit a season-high 21-of-49 from behind the arc with Horford and Holiday each knocking down four. Brown and Payton Pritchard (11 points, five rebounds) also made three respectively. The team overall connected on 52.2% from the field.

Boston had a 69-50 advantage at the break, before pushing the deficit to 78-55 to open the third quarter on their way to hand the Bulls their fifth straight loss.

The Celtics will host the Philadelphia 76ers (12-5) Friday night and ESPN has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET.   

Game Notes:

Boston out-rebounded the Bulls 52-37 and outscored them in the paint 46-42. The C's also had 36 assists (16 turnovers) on 47 baskets to Chicago's 25 dimes (eight turnovers) on 39 made shots. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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