CHICAGO – Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.
Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23, and the Bulls blew out Boston, 108-85, on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.
Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.
Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.
Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.
But the two have played well together the past two games.
“We need to give the credit to [coach Fred Hoiberg],” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”
As for the fight?
“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”
Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.
Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three of his 3-pointers.
Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.
“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”
Boston got within 12 in the fourth quarter before Portis hit a 20-footer and Mirotic made a 3 to make it 90-73 with just under eight minutes left. The Bulls remained in control the rest of the way.
Mirotic came through with 16 points as the Bulls grabbed a 56-42 halftime lead. Portis scored 15 in the first half.
The Bulls wiped out a four-point deficit and led, 52-34, after a 24-2 run in the second quarter. Portis scored 10 during that stretch, nailing two 3s, and Mirotic finished it with a short hook.
“It feels like it’s March, but it it’s not,” said Mirotic, who has averaged 16.5 points in March during his career – more than in any other month.
Celtics: Stevens said he doesn’t expect Irving to be out long, although he added: “Who knows with muscular injuries.” ... Stevens also said doctors will re-evaluate F Marcus Morris’ ailing left knee on Tuesday. Morris sat out for the second straight night and the third time in four games. He also missed the first eight games of the season. ... Horford had five assists. ... Boston’s 85 points were a season low.
Bulls: Markkanen participated in the morning shootaround and got treatment afterward. But Hoiberg said the prized rookie’s back continued to tighten. ... Kris Dunn had 12 points, his career-high fifth straight game in double digits. ... David Nwaba had 13 points and six rebounds.
Celtics: Host Denver on Wednesday.
Bulls: Host Utah on Wednesday.
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