CHICAGO (AP) — This time, Boston delivered the big beating in Chicago with Kyrie Irving sidelined.
Jaylen Brown scored 21 points, and the Celtics pounded the Bulls 105-89 on Monday night even though their All-Star guard sat out because of a sore left knee.
They remembered what happened when they visited in December, getting blown out with Irving sidelined by a bruised quadriceps, and made it clear right from the start that wasn’t going to happen again. The Celtics immediately took control, building a 37-point lead on the way to their fifth win in six games.
“Kyrie didn’t play last time (and) they felt like they could beat us and they did beat us by 20-plus points,” Brown said. “Coming into this game we had the mindset we needed to get out on them early and we did that.”
Jayson Tatum scored 14, while Al Horford and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece for Boston.
“We were ready to play,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Our defense was really good in the first half, obviously. I thought we were really flying around, covering for one another, playing the right way. And then we were aggressive in taking the ball to the basket. That opened up some 3s.”
Chicago lost for the 14th time in 17 games. Denzel Valentine scored 20 and nailed four 3-pointers for the Bulls, but that was about the only positive for them.
“They made us uncomfortable, things got tough and we just shut down,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We quit playing.”
Zach Lavine said the Bulls were “terrible all around” and added: “There’s no excuse for what we did out there.”
It didn’t matter that the Celtics held out Irving. He was still sore after aggravating his knee in Saturday’s loss at Houston, but his absence didn’t stop Boston from burying the Bulls right from the start.
They had no trouble driving to the rim against a weak defense and dominated in the paint 46-26.
This one got out of hand almost as soon as the opening tip.
After losing to the NBA-leading Rockets on Saturday by three points, Boston led 55-29 at halftime. Brown had 10 points as the Celtics raced out to a 26-5 lead. He nailed a 3 and threw down a one-handed jam before Horford’s steal and dunk made it a 21-point game with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
Stevens wasn’t sure if Irving will be ready to play at Minnesota on Thursday.
“It doesn’t sound like it’s a long-term concern, but certainly, it could last through the week,” Stevens said.
With Irving out, the Celtics opted to put Shane Larkin in the lineup rather than Rozier or Marcus Smart. That was because Stevens wanted to keep the second unit together.
Larkin had nine points and four assists in his first start since the 2015-16 season with Brooklyn. He made all three of his field goals — each of them 3-pointers.
“He was great,” Stevens said. “It’s one of the things we talked about — who should start? We trust all three of those guys. Then it becomes who you want to play off the bench. But (Larkin) was really good.”
Celtics: Brown was 9 of 13 from the field. … The Celtics scored 35 points in the first quarter, five shy of their season high for an opening period.
Bulls: LaVine shot 1 for 11. He along with G Kris Dunn and C Bobby Portis combined to go 6 of 29. … Hoiberg said the Bulls will recall G Antonio Blakeney from the G League Windy City Bulls “in the next couple of weeks.” Blakeney is averaging 7.1 points in 12 games for Chicago.
Celtics: Visit Minnesota on Thursday.
Bulls: Host Memphis on Wednesday.
More NBA basketball: <a target=”—blank” href=”https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball”>https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball</a>