Letdown loss to Bulls puts Celtics in tough spot

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The Boston Celtics failed to build off Wednesday's rout of the Orlando Magic as they fell flat against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

The Bulls were the ones playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but it was the C's who looked sloppy on both ends of the court. They entered the half down 14 points and were unable to recover as Chicago was victorious for the second straight matchup, 121-99.

Zach LaVine led the way in his second game back in the Bulls lineup with 25 points on 10-for-24 shooting. Coby White chipped in 25 points of his own for Chicago.

Here are a few quick takeaways from Boston's loss, which brings it to 35-32 on the campaign with five games remaining on the regular-season schedule.

Brutal perimeter defense cost the Celtics

The Celtics allowed far too many wide-open 3s and that proved to be the difference-maker. The Bulls shot 18 for 40 (45 percent) from beyond the arc with 11 of those 3s coming in the first half.

Coby White was the primary culprit for Chicago. The 21-year-old's seven made 3s topped all Celtics players not named Kemba Walker combined.

One particular play in the second quarter summed up the C's defensive woes. Zach LaVine got a wide-open 3 on a miscue by Jabari Parker and capitalized.

It didn't get much better for Boston from that point on.

Absences of Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams were glaring

Jaylen Brown missed his second straight game with a right ankle sprain and Robert Williams was ruled out with turf toe on his left foot. They both certainly were greatly missed in Friday night's loss.

It was an off night for Tatum to say the least as the All-Star forward shot just 3 for 15 from the field and 0 for 7 from 3-point range. He finished with only nine points, and while Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier did what they could to keep the C's in it, the rest of the supporting cast struggled throughout.

Marcus Smart was 2 for 7 from the field and 0 for 4 from 3. He finished with four points and was a -19 on the night. Outside of Grant Williams' nine points, the Celtics bench was a non-factor.

Brown's impact is obvious, but the Celtics are 10-2 when Williams starts and that isn't a coincidence. Time Lord has been a legitamite difference-maker on both ends of the floor this season and this final stretch of the regular season could be rough as long as he's out.

Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier stayed hot

If you're looking for a bright spot in what mostly was a mess of a game, look no further than Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. The duo combined for 50 points for the second straight game and Walker put up a season-high 33 points.

Fournier finished with 17 points on 7 for 11 shooting after dropping 18 in Orlando.

Walker and Fournier's chemistry, which our own Chris Forsberg discussed in-depth here, was on display once again. In the first quarter, Walker dished it to Fournier and appeared to know the 3 was going in before his teammate even let go of the ball.

While it didn't lead to a victory, Walker and Fournier deserve praise for stepping up on a night where everyone else on the team just didn't have it. Their recent stretch is the most encouraging Celtics storyline at the moment.

Celtics' playoff position takes a hit

The Celtics put themselves in a tough spot with this loss. By failing to take down the Bulls, they fell one game behind the Miami Heat and back to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.

That makes their upcoming two-game set vs. the Heat even more pivotal. The C's will have to win both games to overtake Miami in the standings. Boston would get the tiebreaker thanks to their win over the Heat in January.

If they can't get out of the seventh-place spot, the Celtics will be forced to take part in the dreaded play-in tournament.

The first of the two games against Miami will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The second is on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. You can watch both matchups right here on NBC Sports Boston.

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