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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
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t like WEEI.com asking him if Isaiah Thomas carried in Game 5 04.27.17 at 10:54 am ET
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Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg stirred the pot a bit after Game 4 of the series between his Bulls and the Celtics by insinuating Boston guard Isaiah Thomas was constantly carrying the basketball.

“Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player,” Hoiberg said after Game 4. “An unbelievable competitor. He’s a warrior [with] everything he’s going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight. But when you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he is impossible to guard. He is impossible to guard when you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball and take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

Well, after the Bulls’ Game 5 loss, WEEI.com’s Josue Pavon checked back in with Hoiberg on the matter.

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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Avery Bradley, Al Horford and how the Celtics made the Bulls crumble in Game 5 04.27.17 at 2:15 am ET
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What was most impressive about Boston’s 108-97 win over the Bulls in Game 5? Was it Avery Bradley coming out on fire and playing a great defensive game? Al Horford dominating in the 4th or the Celtics generating 23 points off 16 Chicago turnovers? WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss from TD Garden.

Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Celtics 108, Bulls 97: C’s roar to Game 5 victory, push Bulls to brink of elimination 04.26.17 at 11:08 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) lays the ball over the reach of Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the first half in Game 5 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) lays the ball over the reach of Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the first half in Game 5 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in three trips to the playoffs, it’s not all about Isaiah.

The Celtics on Wednesday took a 3-2 lead over the Bulls with a 108-97 victory in Game 5, their third straight win after dropping the first two games at home, and they did it without a banner night from All-Star Isaiah Thomas.

Though Thomas had his moments, particularly during the game-clinching run in the fourth quarter, this one was about the supporting cast.

Avery Bradley scored 24 points with six assists. Big man Al Horford, a weapon all night in the pick and roll, chipped in 21 points, 7 rebounds, and nine assists, filling the stat line in all the ways the Celtics envisioned when they signed him over the summer.

The second unit contributed, whether it was monster dunks from Terry Rozier and Jonas Jerebko, 14 points and some clever finishes from a fired-up Kelly Olynyk, or another energetic performance from Marcus Smart (8 points, 8 assists).

That said, this one was still a game until midway through the fourth quarter. Despite playing without injured point guard Rajon Rondo, who was unable to go just days after breaking his thumb in Game 2, the Bulls hung tough and actually entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead following Jimmy Butler’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third.

But Thomas and Horford took over in the fourth, spearheading a 25-8 run to open the quarter as the Celtics pulled away. After scoring just seven points in the first half on 1-of-6 shooting, Thomas came alive in the second half and finished with 24 points, including a number of the fearless drives that are his trademark. Though he shot just 1-for-10 on 3-pointers, he went 11-for-11 from the free throw line; as a team, the Celtics went 23-for-23.

On the other side, aging star Dwyane Wade did his best to keep the Bulls in the game, nearly notching a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists.

The Celtics had too much, however. They can close out the Bulls in Game 6 on Friday in Chicago. There’s a chance Rondo plays in that one, but the way the Celtics have played the last three games, particularly their second unit, it might not matter.

Read More: Al Horford, Bulls, Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
Al Horford says Gerald Green is biggest reason Celtics won in Chicago. Will it continue? 04.26.17 at 8:24 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

After facing a 2-0 hole in the best-of-7 series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knew a change had to be made to the starting lineup. 

Stevens’ decision to start Gerald Green over Amir Johnson was a surprising one, to say the least, but certainly made a difference in Chicago — where the Celtics won two straight against the Bulls to tie the series, 2-2. It was a move that Al Horford says is the biggest reason why the C’s topped the Bulls twice on their own floor.

“For us, the lineup change is what helped us [the most], I think,” Horford said. “Being able to add Gerald to the starting lineup, I felt like that gave us better spacing.”

Green certainly made his presence felt in Chicago, especially in Game 4 when he scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and finished with 7 rebounds in the crucial momentum-changing win. Now as the series swings back to Boston for Game 5, Horford is confident the Celtics can top the Bulls at home for what would be their first home victory of the series. 

“We’re gonna do what we do, that’s just playoff basketball after you play a certain amount of games,” Horford explained. “This is the ninth time we’ve played this team this year. I think it’s just a matter of keep seeing the same guys, keep running the same plays over and over and over. For us it’s just to make sure we go out and handle our business.”

Aside from Green’s Game 4 scoring outburst, Isaiah Thomas’ attitude, along with his 33-point performance of course, and his smile, certainly stood out on Sunday. It was the first time in the series we’ve seen that side of Thomas, since the untimely passing of his young sister, Chyna Thomas. 

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo says he won’t play in Game 5 vs. Celtics 04.26.17 at 11:56 am ET
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Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo

The Celtics don’t have to worry about Rajon Rondo just yet.

The Bulls point guard, speaking to reporters after at shootaround before Wednesday’s Game 5, said he’s not ready to return.

Rondo broke his thumb during Chicago’s victory in Game 2, which he dominated by falling a rebound shy of a triple-double. At that point, he had been instrumental in the eighth-seeded Bulls sweeping the first two games in Boston.

They then returned to Chicago and lost two on their home court without their floor general, stymied by poor play from backups Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams. Isaiah Canaan, who hadn’t played more than seven minutes in a game since the All-Star break, as USA Today noted, will get the start in Game 5 after scoring 13 points in 34 minutes in Game 4.

There’s no word yet on whether Rondo will be able to return in time for Friday’s Game 6.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, NBA playoffs, Rajon Rondo
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