CHICAGO - It was a modest streak that figured to end with a bit of a thud on Monday night.
The Bulls defeated the Hornets and the Knicks to knock themselves out of a ten-game losing streak to bring a dose of positivity to a rough rebuilding season so far. With Eastern Conference leading Boston coming to town, the two-game winning streak figured to hold right there.
But then Kyrie Irving was ruled out with a quad contusion, opening just a minor window for the Bulls to take advantage of a short-handed Celtics team on the end of back-to-back games and earn what would be their biggest win of the young season.
Even without Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls took full advantage with help from their own version of the odd couple.
Playing in their third game together since their now infamous practice fight in October, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis combined for 47 points in a frankly shocking domination of the Celtics even without Irving. The pair helped the Bulls shoot 48 percent from the field in a 108-85 victory that give the Bulls that third-straight win that seemed improbable even a few hours before the game.
Irving was a scratch before the game, about 15 hours after he scored 16 points in a Celtics win over the Pistons in Detroit Sunday night. After the 4-for-12 effort, it was decided to the sit the guard against a Bulls team that entered the evening with just five wins on the season. Markkanen was ruled out just before the game with back spasms, but the Bulls weren't fazed by his loss at all.
After Boston led by one at the end of the first quarter, the Bulls outscored the Celtics 28-13 in the second quarter and never looked back after. Mirotic, who cracked the starting lineup for the first time since his return with Markkanen out, shot 9-of-14 from the field with a team high 24 points. Portis came off the bench and was just as good, hitting 10-of-15 shots from the field in scoring a career-high 23 points.
While the offense was strong, shooting 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line, the Bulls' defense did well in stifling the Irving-less Celtics for most of the evening. The forced 15 turnovers and held Boston to 39 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from the three-point line.
All were apart of a rare night for the Bulls in a rare streak for this rebuilding season.