Sure, they played the Celtics even after the first quarter. But the damage already had been done, as the Bulls were outscored 28-14 in the first.
BOSTON — It was a night of self-reflection.
The underachieving Bulls crawled to the halfway point of the season with a 113-101 loss Monday to the Celtics.
Battered, beaten, 1-16 against teams .500 or better and 14-27 overall.
Coach Jim Boylen was first in line for a self-assessment of what has gone right and what has gone wrong.
‘‘I think some of the pillars of our system have been installed,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘We’ve got a style of play on the offensive end, and we’ve got a style of play on the defensive end. We have established practice habits and playing-hard habits that I think have carried through September, October and into the season.
‘‘We have an opportunity to build depth now. With Wendell [Carter Jr.] out and Otto [Porter Jr.] out, we’ve had to play different lineups, different people than we envisioned when the season started. It’s difficult on the team, but I think it’s also a positive for a young team when guys get an opportunity.’’
Boylen did list some concerns, starting with rebounding, but he had more positives than negatives to focus on.
It was a real head-scratcher, considering where the Bulls’ front office thought the team would be compared to where it is.
‘‘I’m not discouraged,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I am excited that we have established some things. Our shot profile is top five in the league, our defense is — on any given day — between fifth and ninth, so that’s what we’re building.’’
Then came a point Boylen had trouble with. He was asked about the old adage that says you are what your record says you are. Right now, that record says the Bulls are not a very good team — good habits or not.
‘‘We’re going to work on the things that I think can help us build this team and build this franchise,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘Of course, we want to win; we’re trying to win every night. But I’m not going to get caught up in the negativity of that; I’m not.
‘‘We’re going to keep teaching and coaching. We’re at the halfway point, and I think we’ve done some things well and we need to do some things better. I think that’s what happens with young teams and new teams.’’
However the Bulls want to be labeled, they continue to have quarters they just flat-out give away. It usually has been the third, but they changed it up against the Celtics and were awful from the opening tip. Not only were they outscored 28-14 in the first quarter, but they also missed their first seven three-pointers.
The Bulls rallied in the second half, actually outscoring the Celtics after halftime. But much off that seemed to be a result of the Celtics going through the motions.
‘‘They exploited our pick-and-roll defense,’’ forward Lauri Markkanen said of the Bulls’ first-quarter issues. ‘‘Then they obviously made shots. Our defense wasn’t there at the beginning of the game.
‘‘I’ve got to watch the film to know what it was, but we kind of fought through the [second half], had a little more edge.’’
Too little, too late.
‘‘We were disappointed with how we played,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I thought we picked it up in the second half. . . . We won the second half, so we’ll try and build off that.’’