Streaking Celtics face Bulls, shooting for seventh straight

The Boston Celtics will look to run their season-long winning streak to seven games when they host the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

After a 3-0 West Coast swing, the Celtics returned home Saturday to defeat the Golden State Warriors 119-114. Jayson Tatum had 44 points and 10 rebounds in the contest as Boston overcame a 47-point night from Golden State star Stephen Curry.

Afterward, the two high scorers had a chat on the court.

“Obviously, he’s one of the all-time greats,” Tatum said of Curry. “Just to earn his respect and get a win on the same night — it was a good night.”

Good nights have been hard to come by of late for the Bulls, who just ended a five-game losing streak when they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-96 Saturday. Chicago has dropped 11 of its last 15 games overall.

“I felt we gave incredible effort,” said coach Billy Donovan after the win over the Cavaliers. “We played with that urgency; we had that desperation.”

Monday’s meeting will be the second between the Celtics and Bulls this season. Boston won at Chicago 119-103 on Jan. 25 as Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 50 points to overcome Zach LaVine’s 30-point effort.

The teams were also set to play Jan. 12 in Chicago before a COVID-19 outbreak led to Boston postponing three games. That contest will now be played May 7.

The Celtics’ win streak has vaulted the team five games above .500 with the end of the season a month away. Brown (non-COVID illness), Evan Fournier (health and safety protocols) and Robert Williams III (left knee soreness) were each unavailable Saturday, but coach Brad Stevens pointed to the club’s improved health overall as the key to its recent success.

“I think what we tried to do is stay afloat as well as we could and hope that we get to a time where we get a little bit healthier and put together some weeks of good basketball,” Stevens said. “Throughout all that, our guys have done an incredible job of staying together. And when that happens, and then you get a little momentum, then you have a tendency to respond when you don’t feel great.”

Tatum’s big night marked his second time surpassing 40 points in his last five games after scoring a career-high 53 against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 9. Tatum is averaging 29.3 points per game this month.

Fournier is out of quarantine but still not expected to play Monday, Stevens said. Former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker made his Celtics debut against the Warriors, finishing with 11 points in 16 minutes.

The Bulls’ leading scorer LaVine (27.5 points per game), missed his second consecutive contest Saturday due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. LaVine is away from the team and his return remains uncertain.

“We’ve got to figure it out,” said Lauri Markkanen of playing without LaVine. “Even without him, I still think we have a lot of talent.”

Nikola Vucevic led the Bulls with 25 points against the Cavaliers. Chicago got 45 points from its bench, including 16 from Markkanen.

The Bulls enter Monday tied with Toronto for 10th place in the Eastern Conference as they vie for a spot in the postseason play-in tournament. Spots 7-10 will compete for the last two places in the conference playoff field.