By MyFM's Jake Archer - Don't freak out, Celtics fans. Kyrie Irving sat out of last night's tilt with the Chicago Bulls with a sore knee, but it seems the move was more precautionary then anything. The Celtics didn't seem to need him much either, as they pounded the Bulls on the way to a 105-89 win in Chicago Monday night.
"I just want to make sure I'm as healthy as possible," Irving told reporters. "At this point in the season, it's just about the big picture," he added. It seems that Kyrie played through the soreness on Saturday night against the Rockets, which makes sense because of the magnitude of that game. On a night when the C's were going up against a tanking Bulls team, he probably knew it would be a good time to get some rest. He was right.
Shane Larkin got the start in place of Irving, which confused some fans at first. Terry Rozier has been a great backup point guard all year long and was really good replacing Kyrie earlier in the year. Marcus Smart was also a very capable option. Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens knew that Rozier and Smart were integral to the second unit, which has been in a rythmn of late, and decided to keep that group together.
Larkin worked out well as he scored nine points on three 3-pointers while also picking up four assists and two steals. It was his first start since the 2015-2016 season when he was with the Brooklyn Nets. Rozier scored 13 with three rebounds, seven assists and a steal while Smart chipped in with seven points, two rebounds and four dimes.
In the first quarter, the C's raced out to a big lead and kind of set the tone early. They had their matchup from December on the mind, when Chicago blew them out without Irving, and they decided to take control and not let that happen again. It was 26-5 early and Boston wasn't looking back.
A strong defense on the green side gave up only 29 points in the first half while a very weak defense for Chicago let Boston do whatever they wanted. The Celtics drove to the rim with ease and knocked down shots all night. It was 55-29 at the break and 86-53 after three quarters. Jaylen Brown led the way on offense with 21 points while Boston picked up their fifth win in six games and delivered a great bounce-back performance after Saturday night's tough loss in Houston. Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Greg Monroe and Aron Baynes all had nice outputs as well.
Chicago lost for the 14th time in 17 games and fell to 21-42. Denzel Valentine led the way for them as he knocked down four 3-pointers and scored 20. That was about it for positives from the Bulls as they were pretty bad across the board and got bullied and outhustled consistently. Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis combined to go 6 for 29 shooting. Head coach Fred Hoiberg even accused his team of "shutting down" and "quitting" when things got tough.
The Celtics are now 45-20, which is now 1.5 games back of the Raptors in the East. They will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night and could be without Irving again.