Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic Names ‘Biggest Difference’ in Loss to Celtics

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls are at their best when they run the offense through Nikola Vucevic.

At least they were against the Boston Celtics, according to the two-time All-Star big man. They still came away with a loss in their first game back from the All-Star break though; a 129-112 defeat.

The Bulls had erased a 16-point first-quarter deficit to take a 62-59 lead into halftime.

They outscored the Celtics 39-28 in the second quarter. But the Celtics responded with a 37-21 edge in the third quarter.

“In the second quarter when I really got going, I think it was we were playing at a quicker pace,” Vucevic told reporters after the game. “I was able to get a lot of my shots in the pocket, out of transition, and screen-and-roll, and things like that when their defense wasn’t set.”

“In the third quarter, with them making so many shots and us having to get the ball out of the paint so many times, the game kind of slowed down and they took away a lot of those in the pocket. They got into us. We weren’t able to get much going. So that was, I think, the biggest difference and took away stuff in the pocket.

“I have to look at it to see if I could’ve been more aggressive,” he said. “But that’s what it felt like.”

Vucevic had a team-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, adding two assists. But he had just two points on 1-for-7 shooting in the second half.

Nikola Vucevic: Bulls ‘Not a Good Shooting Team’

His shooting slump continued, though, as he was 0-for-3 from three. The Bulls notably took 28 threes all game to the Celtics’ 47.

Chicago sunk 10 of their deep looks compared to 23 for Boston.

“That’s what they do,” Vucevic said. “They’re a really good shooting team. They got a lot of shooting out there, I mean their whole starting five can really shoot it. So we knew that was coming. Obviously, that was the big difference. They almost hit as many threes as we shot.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard, especially a gap like tonight. I think we have been a little better this season with that at times. But, yeah, a game like tonight when they really get hot and we’re not really making shots – in general, we’re not a great shooting team for threes like that – it’s difficult.”

The Bulls rank 22nd in three-point attempts, and 19th in efficiency this season, per NBA.com.

The Celtics rank first and fourth, respectively. That is difficult for Vucevic and the Bulls to overcome, especially shooting a pedestrian 35.7% from deep to the Celtics’ 48.9% in the game.

Bulls ‘Didn’t Respond Well’ to Celtics’ 3Q Surge

“In the third [quarter], I thought they really took it to us and we didn’t really respond well,” Vucevic said. “We missed some shots early in the third quarter. And they made some shots and we kinda got down on ourselves and never were really able to get back into the game.”

The Bulls were only 6-for-14 from deep at halftime while the Celtics were 10-for-22.

But they were 2-for-7 in the third quarter while the Celtics went 7-for-11, sealing their fate and sending them to 26-30 on the season.

“Obviously, it’s a big, big difference. Definitely impacted the game,” Vucevic said. “They made some tough ones, for sure. But they’re a really good team. Probably the best team in basketball right now, and they showed it tonight.”

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