The Boston Celtics, led by a determined and seemingly calmer Isaiah Thomas, found enough to beat the Chicago Bulls, 104-95 at the United Center to tie up their first round series 2-2.
The Bulls put up a better fight in the second half and closed the deficit to two points after being down by 20 but Thomas and company made more shots. Boston briefly trailed as the Bulls had 2 point lead however Thomas led the Celtics past the Bulls.
Chicago had its chances. Dwyane Wade missed a wide open layup that would have cut the margin but Boston rebounded the ball and got a three point play on the other end. The Bulls had open looks, yet the shots would not fall. The team hit for 42.1% of field goals and only 20.8% from long-distance in the game. It’s hard to win with that output.
Rajon Rondo’s absence was keenly felt when Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams played point guard. They could not move the team. When Jimmy Butler ran the team, the squad played much better. Butler scored 33 points with 9 assists and was all over the court. Niko Mirotic scored 13 points but was only 2-8 from three-point land. Dwyane Wade scored 11 for the Bulls.
Thomas had 33 points for Boston and seemed more relaxed on the court as he is dealing with the recent tragic death of his younger sister. Gerald Green had 18 points, 16 coming in the first half. Al Horford had a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards.
The Celtics made 10-37 three point shots, five more than the Bulls, and that instant offense hurt Chicago. The Bulls made a stronger effort, without Rondo, but fell short in putting the ball through the hoop.
Little used G Isaiah Canaan came off the bench for the Bulls and scored 13 points. He also guarded Thomas at times and was able to slow him up but not for long. Thomas has an uncanny knack for slipping through seams to find holes. Plus, he is deadly from outside and displayed that again Sunday afternoon.
It looks like Butler will pick up the point-guard duties. He played a strong game, making numerous shots from the free-throw line. But, it wasn’t enough and this series is even at 2-2.