Daniel Theis’ days as the Boston Celtics‘ starting center may be long over, but the popular big man continues to help his old team out.
On Monday, Theis — now a member of the Chicago Bulls — had what was one of the finest games of his four-year career. In doing so, he helped his squad put another notch in the loss column for a club that is currently hot on the Celtics’ heels in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
With the Bulls facing a stiff road test against the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena, Theis brought the heat to South Beach, tying a season-high with 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting. He also added 12 rebounds, five assists (with zero turnovers) and two blocked shots in the game.
One of Theis’ rejections played a key role in the win. With just 3:46 remaining, Heat star Bam Adebayo drove to the hoop with a chance to cut the Bulls’ lead to two, but Theis came in from the weak side to turn back the attempt. After a tip attempt by Jimmy Butler, Theis secured possession by saving the ball to teammate Coby White.
When the final buzzer eventually sounded, the Bulls had won the game, 110-102, despite having been on the wrong end of a three-possession differential in the fourth quarter.
As a result, the Heat remained a half-game behind the No. 6 Celtics in the East standings.
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Theis’ Rough-and-Tumble Style Contributes to Winning
Nikola Vucevic, himself another trade-deadline acquisition of the Bulls, has always appreciated Theis’ game. Never mind the fact that much of what the former Celtic does evades the box score.
“He was actually always one of the toughest matchups I faced,” Vucevic said of his past bouts with Theis, via the Chicago Sun-Times.
“He’s a very, very good defender. Very smart. He doesn’t give you anything easy. He makes you work for everything. It’s hard to play against him. And he’s a great teammate. You see a lot of things that he did in Boston that people don’t necessarily see because it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, or if you don’t watch games regularly you won’t see it.”
Meanwhile, Theis relishes the opportunity he has to help his team win, even if it doesn’t always make for highlight-reel material.
“I care about the winning part,” Theis said after his outburst in Miami. “Stats don’t matter for me, I want to win. I’m just frustrated with myself when we lose games.”
That said, some of those stats are nothing to sneeze at. Over his 16 appearances with Chicago, Theis has put up 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes.
Gone, but Not Forgotten
Although parting with Theis was a necessary evil in freeing up minutes for rising star Rob Williams, his absence still stings in Beantown. Celtics star Jayson Tatum may have summed it up best after Boston lost to Theis’ Bulls last week.
“Sad to see him on the other side, but I’m always happy for him,” Tatum told reporters after the game. “I’ve got nothing but love for that guy.”
The same goes for several of Tatum’s teammates, as well as much of the fan base in Beantown. And Theis’ big-time effort against the Heat likely serves to make those hearts grow fonder in his absence.