BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum didn’t hesitate when asked about the team’s chemistry nearly halfway into the season.
“It’s a lot of fun when everybody’s contributing. Guys are genuinely happy for one another’s success,” he said after the Boston Celtics coasted to a 113-101 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.
Tatum scored 21 points and Jaylen Brown had 19 to lead six Celtics in double figures.
Questioned a lot last season about the team’s chemistry with former guard Kyrie Irving as its leader, the under-achieving Celtics of last season didn’t exactly react quickly most of the time with guys being “genuinely happy” about each other’s play.
Enes Kanter had 15 points and nine rebounds, Kemba Walker added 14 points and Marcus Smart had 12 points for Boston (27-11), which won its second straight after a season-high three-game losing streak. Grant Williams added 11 points and Smart had eight assists.
Gordon Hayward chipped in with eight points, eight assists and six boards for Boston despite shooting just 4 of 11 from the floor.
“I thought he was really good in the first half,” coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward. “It’s really important that he leads us with his reads and passing.”
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 30 points, including a couple of highlight dunks. Thaddeus Young added 17 points for Chicago (14-27), which has lost seven of eight.
“At halftime, we were disappointed in how we played. I thought we picked it up in the second half. I thought we came out, competed,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “We talked about winning the third quarter and we talked about winning the second half. That would help us win the game. We didn’t win the game, but we won the third quarter and we won the second half, so we’ll try to build off that.”
The Bulls trailed by 55-37 at halftime, but came out with a 17-5 run over the initial 4 minutes of the second half. LaVine had six points in the spree.
“They just came out and jumped on us early on their home floor,” LaVine said.
Chicago cut its large deficit at intermission to six points twice in the third, the last 67-61 on Kris Dunn’s 3-pointer from directly in front of Boston’s bench, but the Celtics closed the quarter with an 8-2 spurt to take an 83-71 edge into the fourth.
The Bulls never really threatened in the final quarter. They closed it to 95-84 with just under 6 minutes to play on Daniel Gafford’s put-back basket, but never tested Boston.
Bulls: C Gafford returned to the lineup after missing the last four games with a sprained left ankle. … C Wendell Carter Jr. missed his fourth straight with a sprained right ankle.
Celtics: C Daniel Theis missed the game with right knee soreness. … G Marcus went to the floor early in the second quarter after banging his left knee into Ryan Arcidiacono’s right knee. Smart got up slowly after a short delay, but stayed in the game. He also was limping later in the quarter.
The Celtics handed out small posters of Walker, Brown and Tatum to the fans, with their stats on the front, asking them to vote for the three for the All-Star game.
Williams took it further, holding one of each player in front of him postgame before looking into the cameras and telling the media: “If all them make it, I’ll be dying my hair pink for a month.”
Asked the shade, he replied: “I will let the fans choose what pink I’d dye my hair. It can be the brightest pink in the world or the darkest pink. If all three of them make it, it’ll happen.”
The Celtics only trailed once in the game — 6-4 in the opening quarter — and that was just for 22 seconds. They opened their first double-digit lead (21-9) on Walker’s 3 and shot 52.5 % in the opening quarter (21 of 40) en route to a 28-14 lead at the break.
Bulls: Host the Wizards on Wednesday night. Beat Washington on the road in the clubs’ first game, 110-109, in overtime on Dec. 18.
Celtics: Host the Pistons Wednesday in the teams’ second meeting of the season. Boston won the first, 114-93, at home on Dec. 20.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports