Celtics try to regain footing at home vs. Bulls
BOSTON -- There aren't many people out there who figured the Boston Celtics would be 7-6 after the first 13 games of the season.
After all, Brad Stevens' team made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last year and did it without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With both players coming back and LeBron James leaving for Los Angeles, the Celtics were tabbed as favorites to win the conference.
But a 1-4 road trip has Boston reeling as the Chicago Bulls (4-10) come calling to start the Celtics' three-game homestand.
"Just thoroughly outplayed," Stevens said after Sunday's loss in Portland. "I don't know what else to say. When we're desperate and urgent, we're pretty good. We've got to do a better job, and I've got to do a better job of making sure that we start games that way.
"You find your flow by making the next right play and playing hard, that's it. When you're in the game, you have a job to do on that possession, you do it. Then if you do it really well over and over again, you have a good team. We're not there yet and so that, to me, is well-coached teams get there. We're not a well-coached team right now, that's pretty obvious."
After leading the NBA by allowing 96.2 points per game in October, Boston has yielded an average of 110.3 points and allowed at least 100 in all six November games. They have trailed by at least 20 points in the last three games.
Irving has bounced back quickly, while Hayward's progress has been slower after he missed all but five minutes of last season. With Irving back and the center of attention, Terry Rozier's minutes have been reduced and there seems to be a bit of a chemistry problem with the Celtics struggling and the Toronto Raptors are off to a flying start.
The Bulls, 103-98 losers to the Dallas Mavericks at home Monday night, are 4-10 on the season as they've had to go without the injured Lauri Markkinen and Kris Dunn. But they are 2-2 over their last four games, with Zach Lavine averaging 28.3 points per game over that span.
Monday night, the Bulls, who came in shooting 36.9 percent from 3-point range, went 8 of 33 from behind the arc with LaVine missing all six of his long-distance shots as the game got away.
"We came out too lackadaisical," LaVine said after the loss. "We've got to come out and play better. We've got to have more energy."
Markkanen, originally slated to miss 6-to-8 weeks with his elbow injury, will now apparently be out longer -- as long as 9-to-11.
"He's still not shooting a lot," coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday. "He's shooting short-range shots. He's getting really good conditioning workouts in, so when he is cleared to start shooting and has no pain in that type of activity, hopefully he can get back soon as far as when he's cleared for contact. He's doing as much as he can right now.
"We need to make sure that he's 100 percent before he goes back out there. You'd hate to have a setback that keeps him out for a longer stretch. We'll continue to test that elbow, and as soon as it's pain-free, he'll be cleared to go out there and take some contact."
The Celtics will play three home games in a four-day stretch, with the aforementioned Raptors coming to TD Garden on Friday and the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Boston has already lost once to both teams this season.
The Celtics have won six straight home games against the Bulls over the last three regular seasons. Chicago won the first two games of the 2017 playoff series in Boston before the Celtics came back to win.