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Avery Bradley torches the Wizards, leads Celtics to brink of Eastern finals 05.10.17 at 10:25 pm ET
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May 10, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards during the first quarter in game five of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley dunks against the Washington Wizards during the first quarter in Game 5 Wednesday at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Avery Bradley lit the fuse Wednesday and the Celtics exploded in the faces of Washington Wizards. 

In a relentless display of up-tempo, transition basketball and long-range sharp shooting, the Celtics ran the Wizards into oblivion Wednesday night, 123-101, in Game 5 at TD Garden to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Celtics can close out the Wizards and advance to the Eastern finals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers with a win Friday in Game 6 in Washington. 

With the likes of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount in attendance courtside, the Celtics were intent on returning the haymakers the Wizards delivered in Games 3 and 4. They didn’t disappoint, and it was Bradley doing most of the damage. Bradley had a new career playoff high by halftime and finished with 29 points, taking a lot of pressure off Isaiah Thomas, who came out with four minutes left and finished with 18 points and nine assists. Al Horford chipped in with 19 points and seven assists.  Marcus Smart was the biggest contributor off the bench with nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists. 

“I just thought we all came out with a better sense of purpose today than we probably did in those games (in Washington), but, you know, sometimes you feel a lot better when you make shots at the rate we did, and we’ll go back and look at the film and there are areas where we need to improve and get ready for Friday,” Brad Stevens said.

“We just wanted to impose our will. We were definitely the harder playing team tonight. We want that to (be the case) Friday night,” Isaiah Thomas said. “We limit 26-0, 22-0 runs, we’ll be OK.” 

“Avery was on fire,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We didn’t have the focus we needed tonight. We’re trying to get to a Game 7. We have to play a lot better in Game 6.” 

It wasn’t just offense either. John Wall (21 points) and Bradley Beal (16) struggled badly from the field, combining to connect on just 14-of-36 shots. 

“We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight,” Brooks added. “Did they make us miss or did we miss a lot of shots? Our started were 4-for-17 from three. We had an off shooting night. Avery was on fire, Al was terrific. We had no answer for those guys. We did a good job on their best player but not enough on the other guys.”

The Celtics continued the home dominance between the two teams this season. Including four regular season games, the home team has now captured all nine meetings by an average of 15 points per game. The Wizards will have to hold serve Friday just to force a Game 7 next Monday in Boston. 

The last two games featured the sight of Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford on the bench, sitting in stunned silence, watching as the Celtics were blown out of the building. On this night, it was John Wall and Bradley Beal who spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench staring at the jumbotron, as the Celtics built their lead to 26. 

The Celtics were again blistering from beyond the arc, draining 15 of their first 29 long-distance field goals. They finished 16-of-33 from deep. 

In a dramatic flip of the script, the Celtics were the ones who went on a massive run that provided separation. And they did it in the first quarter, no less. After allowing the Wizards to score the first four points of the game, the Celtics responded with the next 16 to take a 16-4 lead. 

Bradley was monstrous in the first quarter, hitting 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 points in the opening period. Bradley was the key to the Celtics in transition in the first, as he scored 9 of his 14 points before the Wizards could get back, three of them coming on dunks. 

The Celtics outscored the Wizards, 13-0, in transition as the took a stranglehold of the game. The Celtics led 33-21 after 12 minutes and this time they didn’t allow a 12-point lead to immediately wither away like they did in Game 4. 

Jae Crowder’s three from the right wing put the Celtics up 18, 41-23, with 9:51 left in the second quarter. Crowder banked in a three with seven minutes left in the quarter to give the Celtics a 48-26 lead. 

(For a full box score, click here.)

As was the case with Kelly Olynyk in Game 4 in D.C., the crowd waited for Kelly Oubre to come into the game so they could chant his name. He made one of two free throws with 9:30 left in the first half as the Wizards struggled to get back into the game. Oubre was making a return to the series after being suspended for Game 4 after his charge at Olynyk that knocked the Celtics’ big to the ground. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA
Celtics outclassed again, show no toughness in latest brutal collapse to Wizards 05.07.17 at 8:57 pm ET
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May 7, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and center Marcin Gortat (13) defend during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and center Marcin Gortat (13) defend during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Well, give the Celtics this much: They waited a full half before they allowed the Wizards to crush them. 

Playoff caliber teams can get embarrassed every once in a while but what’s happening to the Celtics is inexcusable in any context. 

Three days after allowing a 22-0 spurt that allowed Washington to blow them out of the building, the Celtics outdid themselves, permitting the Wizards to score 26 straight points in an epic playoff meltdown.  

The Celtics lost Game 4 to the Wizards, 121-102, Sunday night at the Verizon Center. The Celtics lost a game because they quit in an embarrassing third quarter display. The Celtics lost a game in which they were outscored 58-20 after building a mirage of hope with a 40-28 second-quarter lead. 

The series is tied at 2-2 and the Celtics are lucky to be that close after allowing a 16-0 spurt to open the series in Game 1 and a 39-17 explosion by the Wizards in the first quarter of Game 2. Game 5 is set for Wednesday night in Boston. Game 6 will be Friday night back in Washington. 

All of this as Gerald Green was heard proclaiming, “We are going to beat their ass in Game 4,” after the Game 3 embarrassment last Thursday. Not quite the way it turned out. 

The Wizards again outclassed and embarrassed the Celtics on the glass and in the paint. The Wizards got into the paint with almost no resistance and despite starting Amir Johnson, there was zero presence on the glass. The Wizards outrebounded the Celtics, 45-31 and outscored Boston, 56-38, in the paint.  

“You guys are good. I didn’t think you’d be this good but let’s keep this up,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks told his team after they outscored Boston 42-20 in the third quarter. The Celtics self-destructed with nine turnovers in the third quarter, leading to 21 Wizards points, one more than the Celtics scored the entire period. 

“If you turn the ball over against these guys, you prefer to drop-kick it into the stands so you can at least set up your D,” Brad Stevens said after the game. 

The Wizards broke out to another fast start with an 8-0 run to start the game. But the Celtics took Washington’s punch this time and didn’t wait until the end of the first quarter to respond. 

(Click here for the full box score)

Isaiah Thomas connected on his first three 3-pointers while Al Horford had four assists and a block in the first eight minutes. Jae Crowder provided the toughness on the glass with four rebounds. 

Amir Johnson got his second start of the series and quickly picked up two fouls in the first five minutes. He also surrendered a pair of offensive rebounds to Marcin Gortat and was getting overwhelmed in the paint. 

After Washington got off another big start, the Celtics started coming back quickly. An 8-0 run put the Celtics ahead 20-15. 

Kelly Olynyk, fresh from his controversial appearance in Game 3, made his debut with two minutes left in the opening quarter. He was loudly booed every time he touched the ball, including a missed three with a minute left in the first quarter. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
Wizards get nasty, fight back, Kelly Oubre shoves Kelly Olynyk, Celtics dominated in Game 3 loss 05.04.17 at 10:41 pm ET
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May 4, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) leaps to pass the ball as Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) defends in the first quarter in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall and Kelly Olynyk were the center of attention in Washington’s blowout win in Game 3 Thursday. of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

There was no miracle comeback this time. There was no Wizards collapse.

There was only complete domination by Washington in a must-have game to make this Eastern Conference semifinal series competitive. 

John Wall had 24 points and eight assists while Otto Porter came out of the gates red-hot hitting his first seven shots and finishing with 17 points as the Wizards cruised to a 116-89 win at the Verizon Center in Washington Thursday night in Game 3. After 53 points Tuesday in Game 2 and 33 points in Game 1, Isaiah Thomas was held to 13 points and did not play the fourth quarter. 

The Wizards dominated the paint, outscoring the Celtics, 56-28, Marcin Gortat finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds. 

There was a near-brawl, pushing, shoving, trash-talking and three ejections that will set the tone for the rest of the series and undoubtedly up the ante going forward.  

In an ever-growing intense, physical battle between the two Eastern Conference rivals, Kelly Oubre took serious objection from a pair of screens set by Kelly Olynyk midway through the second quarter. Oubre got up off the court and immediately ran at Olynyk and shoved him to the court. 

That earned Oubre an immediate Flagrant 2 foul and ejection and no doubt, will merit a review from the league to determine his availability for Game 4 Sunday night in Washington. NBA director of discipline Kiki Vandeweghe was in attendance Thursday and will no doubt be busy reviewing the case in the next 24 hours. 

The Celtics have been remarkably consistent in the first quarter in this series. Remarkably bad. This time there was no coming back. The Celtics again were blown off the floor in the first quarter thanks to a 22-0 run that turned a 12-12 game into a 34-12 rout. 

Bojan Bogdanovic connected on all three 3-point attempts and John Wall and Bradley Beal attacked Isaiah Thomas in half-court and scored easy buckets in transition as the Wizards literally ran away from the Celtics for a third straight first quarter. 

The Wizards led 39-17 after the first 12 minutes. In the first three games of this series, the Wizards have outscored the Celtics 38-24, 42-29 and 39-17. 

The Oubre-Olynyk scuffle wasn’t the only confrontation in the first half. Jonas Jerebko attacked the basket on a drive and collided with big man Ian Mahinmi, seeing his first action of the series. Jerebko fell on Mahinmi and the Wizards big man took exception, getting up in Jerebko’s face. 

(For a full boxscore, click here)

Brad Stevens told ESPN after the first quarter that “we have to wake up before we have a chance to come back.” Stevens then told his team in the huddle that they weren’t going to get back in the game by “hitting home runs.” Apparently, Avery Bradley and Al Horford threw caution to the wind, hitting consecutive threes that temporarily cut Washington’s lead to 19, 55-36. But the Wizards attacked the paint on the next two possessions, driving the lead back to 23. The Wizards took a 63-40 lead to the half. 

The Celtics cut the lead to 18 to open the third quarter. But the Celtics missed their next six shots. 

Isaiah Thomas did not start the second half as Dr. Brian McKeon tended to his temporary bridge in his mouth.

The Wizards went up by 30, 85-55, on a John Wall three-point play with 4:07 to go in the third quarter. Wall set a new NBA playoff record in which he’s had 20 points and at least seven assists in 10 straight games.  

Stevens started resting his players late in the third quarter as Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Jae Crowder took a seat with the Celtics down 93-66 with a minute left in the third. 

The Celtics were again brutal on the offensive glass all night. They were careless taking care of the ball. Marcus Smart finished with eight turnovers in 21 minutes as Washington took a 95-69 lead into the fourth. 

With eight minutes left in the game, Terry Rozier and Brandon Jennings exchanged shoves, fouls and verbal insults. The initial contact drew the ire of Brad Stevens, telling the officials “that was all Jennings.” On the next play, Rozier was called for shoving Jennings to the ground and a foul was called on Rozier, causing Stevens to lose it on the sidelines in a rare moment of outrage. 

Rozier and Jennings were ejected from the game. 

The Celtics were beaten in nearly every aspect of the game Thursday night. During a timeout midway through the fourth quarter, Stevens kept reminding his team that there was something to play for, even down 19. 

“In games like this, you find out what you can take with you,” Stevens said in the huddle. “We’re taking something from this quarter to apply Sunday, regardless.”

The Celtics still lead the series, 2-1, and can take a 3-1 lead back to Boston if they capture Game 4 Sunday night in Washington. Game 5 is set for Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at TD Garden. 

Gerald Green, who returned to the starting lineup Thursday after not playing in Game 2, left a calling card for Sunday as he was leaving the court after the drubbing. 

“We’re going to beat their ass in Game 4,” Green proclaimed. 

Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Olynyk
Isaiah Thomas (53 points) can’t be stopped, neither can Celtics as they rescue Game 2 from weary Wizards 05.02.17 at 11:03 pm ET
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May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts during the first quarter in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas reacts during the first quarter in Game 2 of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports)

The Celtics and Wizards series is getting down and dirty. It’s also turning into a classic after just two games. 

Isaiah Thomas, with his new smile, set a new personal playoff standard with 53 points, offsetting 40 from John Wall and the Celtics beat the Wizards, 129-119, in overtime in Game 2 Tuesday night at TD Garden. 

The brilliant performance from Thomas was the greatest of his career and ranks among the greatest in the storied playoff history of the Celtics. It also came on what would have been the 23rd birthday of his late sister, Chyna, who died in a one-car accident on April 15. 

“Today is my sister’s birthday. She would have been 23 today,” Thomas said after the game. “So, the least I could is play for her. 

“There’s no way I couldn’t play on her birthday.” 

In addition to the personal tragedy, Thomas spent six hours in surgery Monday fixing his front teeth and four more at the hospital on Tuesday, treating swelling, just hours before Game 2. 

There’s no other way to say it, the Celtics with Thomas look unstoppable and a team of destiny. 

The Celtics, who have won six straight games since their 0-2 hole against the Bulls, take a 2-0 series lead to Washington for Game 3 Thursday. Game 4 is Sunday, also in Washington. 

Bound and determined to not let another opportunity slip through their hands, the Wizards got physical and chippy at times to make their point. 

It was obvious early on that the Wizards had every intention of getting their best player involved much earlier than was the case in Game 1. There was no such wait in Game 2 as the Wizards, down a game, wanted to make sure they gave themselves the chance to come out of Boston with a split, a split they thought they were getting after the first six minutes Sunday afternoon. 

In the series-opener, the Wizards relied on the physical dominance of Marcin Gortat to race out to leads of 16-0 and 22-5. John Wall didn’t get going until the second half, finishing with 20 points and 14 assists in the 123-111 Boston win. In the first six minutes Tuesday, Wall had 11 points and four assists. He finished the quarter with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. 

But with three minutes left in the quarter, Wall went up over Kelly Olynyk and fell over him, landing hard on the court. As he was bracing his fall, his left hand and wrist was caught under his body. He came up grimacing and holding the wrist but remained in the game, taking the next two possessions on drives to the basket.

Isaiah Thomas was nearly Wall’s equal early. The Celtics point guard was 6-of-10 in the first quarter with 15 points. 

“I don’t know what else there is to say,” Brad Stevens said. “I thought Isaiah was really going to have to gut this one out and he goes out and scores 50.” 

(Click here for the full box score).

The Celtics committed seven turnovers in the first eight minutes as the Wizards converted that into eight points. Boston finished the quarter with nine turnovers that led to 10 Washington points. Unlike Sunday, when the Celtics closed the first quarter with momentum that started their rally, it was Washington that ended the first on a 13-8 run to take a 42-39 lead. 

There was another fascinating showdown besides Wall and Thomas. Markieff Morris came back from a sprained left ankle in Game 1 and started Game 2. Intent on showing his physical presence early, and perhaps retaliation for Al Horford’s foul that led to his injury, he threw Horford into the first row of seats under the basket in front of the Wizards bench just three minutes into the game. No foul was called. Moments later, as the teams returned from the timeout, Morris and Horford had words, with each staring the other down. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
Could Isaiah Thomas and Celtics copy Steph Curry, Warriors and win an NBA championship? It’s looking more and more possible 04.30.17 at 10:56 pm ET
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Apr 30, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) during the second half of the Boston Celtics 123-111 win over the Washington Wizards in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots over Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) during the second half of the Boston Celtics 123-111 win over the Washington Wizards in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics have gone where no other team has gone in NBA playoff history. 

Not even the Golden State Warriors of the last two NBA finals appearances have mastered the art of the 3-pointer the way these Celtics have. 

Good thing, too, because most teams down 16-0 and 20-3 the way these Celtics were Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semis against Washington would have zero chance of coming back. 

And most players who got in on a red-eye nine hours before Game 1 after attending his sister’s funeral would have absolutely no ability to play let alone scoring a game-high 33 points in leading his team back to a 123-111 win. 

“I got in at 4 a.m. I tried to get as much sleep as I could on the flight and then when I got home this morning,” Isaiah Thomas said of his cross-country flight from Seattle. “It’s tough, but it’s the playoffs so there are no excuses. I decided to play and I just tried to give it all for my team and we came out with the win.”

But these Celtics are all about making history as Avery Bradley reminded us after Game 5 against the Bulls. 

The Celtics in the first round set a new NBA playoff series record with 76 three pointers. They started slowly in the first two games against the Bulls but then started to warm up from beyond the arc. In Games 4 and 5, they were 19-of-77 combined. On Friday, they were 16-of-39. Then it really all clicked Sunday. They converted 19-of-39 from beyond the arc. 

Are the Celtics finally finding their level from beyond the arc?

“Hope not. Hope we still have some level to find,” Brad Stevens said. “But we dug ourselves a pretty big hole shooting it in the first round; we did not shoot it great, except for two games. But hey, we’re going to have to shoot the ball in to be a good team. I mean, I think that the ability to space the floor, to open up lanes for drives for Isaiah and others, and then Al (Horford)’s rolls I think is really important. So you’re not going to make nineteen every night, but we took a lot of good ones and we got good ones for each other.”

There’s only team with this kind of attack to win an NBA championship. The 2015 Golden State Warriors with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green connected on 240 three-pointers through 21 playoff games on their way to the title. Through seven playoff games, the Celtics have 95. Multiply that by three and the Celtics would shatter the Warriors figure with 285 threes.

Celtics fans watching with pure ecstasy Sunday their team dismantle the Wizards after the 0-16 start now know precisely what those Golden State Warriors fans felt like the last two seasons. So many experts said there was no way any team could keep this up in the playoffs. There’s no way in the NBA playoffs any team could take 39 threes and make nearly half of them. 

In the 29 minutes following the 16-0 hole to start the game, Boston scored an astounding 91 points. Think about that. 91 points in a playoff game over two and a half quarters. 

“They were a little more aggressive than we were,” Bradley Beal said. “Our defense slipped a little, we lacked some IQ and focus. We gave up a lot of threes, I think 19. We gotta do a better job at guarding the three and being on the same page defensively.”

 “Yeah, I mean, I thought we were in trouble, obviously, the way that that game started,” Stevens added. “But it’s a long game and you know you’re only a run away from being right back in it. You know, I just think that you just stay the course. We were sloppy right out of the gate for the first five minutes. We can’t expect to play that way and be good for the rest of the series. But played well the rest of the time.”

In some ways this Celtics team might be even tougher than the Golden State team that won it all two years against Cleveland.

Just what happened to Isaiah Thomas alone on the eve of the playoffs has taken an emotional toll on him and his teammates. Then to be so outplayed on their home court by an inferior Bulls team and drop the first two games of the playoffs.

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Golden Warriors, Isaiah Thomas
Celtics show finishing kick, throttle Bulls in Game 6, earn date with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wizards 04.28.17 at 10:23 pm ET
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Apr 28, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gerald Green (30) dunks the ball as Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) looks on during the first quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald Green dunks the ball as Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) looks on during the first quarter in Friday’s Game 6 at United Center. (David Banks/USA Today Sports)

Goodbye, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Hello, John Wall and Bradley Beal. 

The team that battled for and earned the No. 1 seed in the East in the final two weeks proved they can put away an inferior (and injured) team as the top seed Celtics blew past the Chicago Bulls, 105-83, at the United Center. 

Avery Bradley led the way with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. 

“I thought Avery’s decision-making and basketball play the last two games has been outstanding at both ends of the floor,” Brad Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player and he had a great series for us.” 

As has been the case in the four wins, the Celtics were sizzling from beyond the arc, hitting 16-of-38 on Friday. They finished the series with 86 3-pointers in the six games. The 86 triples is a new NBA playoff record. 

“We’ve got more coming the way we shot before [Friday],” Stevens said. 

Since losing Rajon Rondo to a broken right thumb (suffered in the second half of Game 2), the Bulls didn’t win a single game, as the Celtics captured the first postseason victory of the Brad Stevens era, 4 games to 2. The Celtics became the third team in NBA history (in 24 chances) to capture a series after losing the first two games at home, joining the 1969 Lakers and the 1994 Rockets. 

The 1969 NBA finals was also the last time the Celtics won a best-of-7 series after losing the opening two games when they beat the Lakers in seven games. 

“There’s only one goal in Boston,” Stevens said. “There’s 17 banners above us. We don’t have a choice.” 

As a result, the Celtics get a fascinating Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Washington Wizards, their newfound rival starting Sunday at TD Garden. The Wizards beat the Hawks, 115-99, Friday in Game 6 in Atlanta to also capture their series in six games. Game 2 will also be at TD Garden on Tuesday before shifting to Washington for Games 3 and 4. 

Tickets went on sale at www.celtics.com for the series 30 minutes after Boston’s blowout win in Chicago. 

The two teams had a rivalry that was fueled by a war of words between John Wall and Isaiah Thomas. Bradley Beal and Wall combined for 73 points in their Game 6 win Friday in Atlanta. 

The teams split their four meetings this season, with each team winning twice on its home court. That could be significant as the No. 1 seed Celtics will hold the home court advantage in the best-of-7 series.  

The Celtics came out looking bound and determined to avoid a Game 7 back in Boston Sunday at TD Garden. Boston hit three 3-pointers to start the game. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Gerald Green all hit triples as the Celtics raced out to a 9-2 lead. 

(For a full boxscore, click here.)

They connected on six of their first 11 attempts from 3-point range and showed significantly more energy and desire to be on the court than the hometown Bulls. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Isaiah Thomas, Washington Wizards
Why Rajon Rondo will be forced to save Bulls season in Game 6 04.27.17 at 3:04 am ET
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Apr 26, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) during warmups prior to game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo during warmups prior to Game 5 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It’s pretty obvious by now. If Rajon Rondo doesn’t force himself off the bench and out of his sensational civilian wardrobe and into the Bulls lineup on Friday in Game 6, this series is dead and buried. The Celtics will be moving onto the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2012. 

Rondo broke a bone in his right thumb in the second half of Game 2 last Tuesday. He sat out Games 3 and 4 on the sidelines for the Bulls, and was even fined $25K for trying to trip Jae Crowder. He said Wednesday that an x-Ray Tuesday showed some improvement but not enough for him to play in Game 5. 

Fred Hoiberg has tried Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams and Isaiah Canaan. The Bulls coach started Grant in Games 3 and 4 and were manhandled by the Celtics. 

Canaan showed promised starting the second half of Game 4 and earned the start Wednesday night in Game 5. He was 6-for-11 with 13 points. He was also a minus-13. The Bulls starting point guard Wednesday did not have a single assist in 36 minutes of action. 

After the game, Dwyane Wade acknowledged that he is -for all intents and purposes – the point guard and finished with eight assists. 

“I can’t speak to the details, I need to go watch the film to know exactly what happened,” Wade said of his team’s 16 turnovers leading to 23 points. “Looking at the box score, they scored 29 to our 16 (in the fourth quarter). So, they executed better, they made more shots; they got to the foul line as well got some and-1s. When you’re in a series like this small details are very important. They got some things on us that we didn’t want to give up.” 

But Wade knows what the Bulls have forfeited over the last three games. After winning the first two games in Boston, the Bulls have fallen apart without Rondo in the last three games. 

Wade tried to spin technical foul calls on him and Robin Lopez into a hollow defense that included pride and intensity. 

“I’ve been a one seed before against an 8-seed,” Wade said. “I understand what it means, especially on the road. Letting these guys know there are games where you’re not gonna get a call to our liking. The home team gonna get a little more cooking than you. Emotion run high, I’d rather see that than nothing. It shows that people care.”

The people of Chicago aren’t going to care about Game 6 Friday night at the United Center if Rondo hasn’t shed the cast on his right hand and is out on the court. 

When Wade hasn’t been on the court and Jimmy Butler has been, the Bulls have been trying to run the offense through Butler. Nothing has worked, even though they’ve tried. 

“We run a lot to Jimmy it’s not about the shot selection,” Wade said. “We put the ball in his hand. At the same time they are keying in on him. He made the right place and guys got open shots. He did what he was supposed to do.”

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