Jaylen Brown scored 21 points and the Boston Celtics thrived despite the absence of Kyrie Irving while notching a 105-89 victory over the host Chicago Bulls on Monday at the United Center.
Jayson Tatum added 14 points, Al Horford and Terry Rozier scored 13 apiece and Greg Monroe contributed 10 points and nine rebounds as Boston won for the fifth time in the past six games. Irving was held out due to a sore left knee, but the Celtics built a 26-point halftime lead and were never threatened by the Bulls.
Boston, which shot 48.8 percent from the field and held a 53-36 rebounding edge, trails first-place Toronto by 1 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference race.
Denzel Valentine matched his career best of 20 points for Chicago, which lost for the sixth time in the past seven games. Lauri Markkanen added 12 points, and David Nwaba and Cameron Payne scored 10 apiece.
The Bulls shot just 39.5 percent from the field. Zach LaVine was 1-for-11 while scoring four points in 27 minutes.
Irving didn't play due to precautionary reasons after experiencing soreness during Saturday's loss to the Houston Rockets and again upon waking up Monday.
"I just want to make sure I'm as healthy as possible," Irving said prior to the contest. "It's just at this point in the season it's just about the big picture so I'm just trying to stay smart and get out of my own way and, when it feels good, get back out there."
Brown scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first quarter as Boston took a 35-16 advantage.
Brown tallied eight points during a 19-0 burst that saw the Celtics grab an early 26-5 lead.
Tatum drained a 2-pointer with 2:49 left in the half to boost Boston's lead to 49-22
The Bulls shot 28.2 percent in the half and trailed 55-29 at the break.
The lead went over 30 for the first time when Shane Larkin, starting in place of Irving, drained a 3-pointer to make it 71-40 with 7:09 left in the third quarter. Brown's layup made it 78-41 with five minutes remaining in the stanza.
The Celtics cleared the bench, and Chicago outscored Boston 36-19 over the final 12 minutes.
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