Fred Hoiberg says Bulls ‘quit playing’ in hideous loss to Celtics
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Monday was supposed to be the latest audition: Bobby Portis in the Bulls’ starting lineup, Denzel Valentine leading the second unit. A new night, a new look.
By the second quarter, it was better to just look away.
In one of the uglier games of the season, the Celtics — playing without Kyrie Irving — dominated the Bulls in almost every way in a 105-89 humiliation at the United Center. The Bulls trailed by 37 at one point.
“It’s really disappointing the way we came out of the gate,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They made us uncomfortable, and we just shut down and we quit playing.
“We gave in and said, ‘OK, this is too hard for us tonight,’ as opposed to getting tough and getting them off you, making plays and getting in the paint. We just settled way too much.”
Guard Zach LaVine, who had four points in 27 minutes, classified the night as “terrible all around.”
“There’s no excuse for what we did out there in the beginning,” he said. “I think the game shows for itself.’’
The hope was that the energetic Portis would help the Bulls buck their trend of poor starts since the All-Star break. Instead, the starters struggled right from the tip, falling into a 7-0 hole. By the end of the first quarter, the Bulls (21-42) had shot 6-for-19 (32 percent) from the field, were outrebounded 14-8 and had turned the ball over five times.
That wasn’t even the worst of it, as the defense was atrocious, allowing 35 points in the first quarter as the Celtics (45-20) shot 58 percent from the field and 67 percent from three-point range.
“It’s on all of us, man,” LaVine said. “It starts with me and goes down the line. We’ve all got to be better. That’s what happens when you’re getting your ass whooped out there, but we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be able to fight still.’’
Surely the second quarter had to refocus the Bulls, right? Instead, they were 5-for-20 (25 percent) from the field and 1-for-7 from three-point range as the Celtics outscored them 20-13.
Valentine, coming off the bench, had a team-high 20 points with five rebounds, followed by 12 points from Lauri Markannen. The Celtics had five players in double-digit scoring, with Jaylen Brown leading the way with 21.
Despite his comments, Hoiberg stood behind Portis and David Nwaba as important pieces for a rebuilding team, even if they might not be the key foundation blocks that Markkanen, LaVine and Kris Dunn are considered to be.
“I think David has fit in very well with that first group,” Hoiberg said. “He’s done a great job getting out and running the wings. We’ve liked what we’ve seen. He’s tough, he never backs down from a challenge of guarding the other team’s best player . . . so we really do feel good about David, and really proud of the improvements he’s made over the course of the year.
“[Portis is] becoming a guy that you have to guard all over the floor. He’s improving his game — he’s backing down guys. The ability to stretch the floor. You can see how comfortable and confident he is behind the line.’’
This game didn’t reflect well on either player. Nwaba finished with 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting and Portis was just 2-for-8 for seven points.
“Just a terrible effort [by everyone],” LaVine said. “This won’t happen again.”
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.