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Thanks to Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas, Celtics tie series, finally showing true colors vs. Bulls 04.23.17 at 9:10 pm ET
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Apr 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gerald Green (30) grabs a rebound against the Chicago Bulls during the first half in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald Green grabs a rebound against the Chicago Bulls during the first half in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. (Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports)

As has been the case all season, when it mattered most Sunday, Isaiah Thomas was savior for the Celtics. 

With the United Center crowd roaring after the hometown Bulls came all the way back from a 20-point hole to take their only lead, the Celtics’ NBA MVP candidate took over the game in a way only he can. 

Thomas, still mourning the death of his 22-year-old sister Chyna, scored a game-high 33 points with seven assists to lead the Celtics to a 104-95 win over the Bulls in Game 4 Sunday night in Chicago to pull Boston in a 2-2 tie as the series heads back to TD Garden for Game 5 Wednesday night. Game 6 will be next Friday back in Chicago. 

“It’s unfathomable the way he’s performed on the court,” Brad Stevens said of Thomas after the Game 4 win. 

“Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player. An unbelievable player. A warrior with everything he’s going through,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg added. 

In his first public comments since his sister’s death, Thomas took to the podium after the game, asking that reporters not ask him about his sister’s death. 

“Not one man can guard me,” he said when asked about his best game of the series so far. 

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here, so I just feed off what the guys give me. Being here is what makes me, I guess, sane and makes me feel normal through this tough time. They’ve been everything. This organization is the best organization there is.”

The visiting team has won all four games in the series while the Celtics have taken full advantage of the Bulls without Rajon Rondo (fractured right thumb). 

Gerald Green showed exactly why Brad Stevens put him in the starting lineup. 

For the second straight game, the Celtics came out on fire. While not quite as blazing hot from beyond the arc, the Celtics still drained four triples in the opening 12 minutes as they raced out to a 30-18 lead. And for the second straight game, the Bulls looked utterly lost without Rajon Rondo, who appealed his $25,000 fine for attempting to trip Jae Crowder in the first half of Game 3 Friday night. 

The key to the first quarter was the energy Green was able to provide, getting his second straight start. He was flying all over the court, driving to the basket while hitting a 3-of-5 shots. Green finished the first half with 16 points, already a playoff career high. He finished the game with 18 points and seven rebounds. 

“He’s a guy that you have to account for. He opens up space for other people,” Stevens said of Green.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 10 first-quarter points as visitors claimed a 30-18 lead after 1. The quarter ended on a horrific missed goaltending call when Terry Rozier went up for a layup in the closing seconds. Bobby Portis blocked the ball after it had hit the glass. Brad Stevens spend the closing moments of the quarter screaming as he approached the midcourt line. The Celtics coach managed to avoid a technical foul. 

(For a full statistical recap and box, click here).

The Celtics opened the second quarter with mainly reserves and managed to build a pair of 20-point leads. With the Celtics up 41-21 following Green’s third 3-pointer, there appeared to be a bit of a turning point. Marcus Smart came down with a defensive rebound only to be stripped from behind by Isaiah Canaan, who converted a lay-up. Jimmy Butler trailed on the play and a frustrated Marcus Smart turned and lightly shoved Butler in the chest. 

A double-technical was called and the Bulls seemed a bit more energized. The Celtics built the lead to 20 again at 45-25 before going on a 15-6 spurt. Like Game 3, the Bulls closed the first half with some momentum but Jae Crowder’s three with 55 seconds left put the lead back to 55-42. 

Another key to the Celtics building a 20-point advantage was the play of the Kelly Olynyk. With Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford on the bench, it was Olynyk who provided tight defense on Dwyane Wade and drilled a wide open three on the other end as the Celtics maintained a comfortable lead. 

Avery Bradley picked up his third foul with just under six minutes left in the second quarter when it appeared Butler enhanced a swim move by Bradley in the Bulls front court.

Looking for a spark and clearly dissatisfied with Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams in their attempt to fill in for the injured Rajon Rondo, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg turned to Canaan to start the third quarter with Wade, Butler, Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Gerald Green
Big blowout win in Game 3 shows there’s life in Celtics after all 04.21.17 at 9:22 pm ET
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Apr 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over defender Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots over defender Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

There is life in the Celtics after all. 

Thanks to a red-hot Jae Crowder early, an energized Isaiah Thomas in the third quarter and brilliant 3-point shooting, the Celtics managed to turn the tables and rout the Bulls, 104-87, Friday night in a must-have Game 3 at Chicago’s United Center.

The Bulls still lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Sunday night in Chicago before the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 Wednesday in Boston. 

The Celtics connected on an amazing 17-of-37 shots from 3-point range (.459) as eight different Celtics hit at least one shot from long range. Al Horford led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds while Crowder and Thomas each had 16. 

Avery Bradley chipped in 15 points and great defense for most of the night on Jimmy Butler, who missed nine of his first 10 shots. 

“Avery had a great game tonight,” Brad Stevens said after his first-ever road playoff win in six tries. “I couldn’t take him out of the game. He played the first 18 mins of the second half.”

The Celtics absolutely needed to take advantage of the fractured right thumb that will likely sideline Rajon Rondo for the rest of the series. And early on, they did. With Rondo out wearing a split on his right arm and a unique short-sleeve burgundy suit with white sneakers on the bench, the Celtics clearly looked more energized to start the game – and definitely more confident. 

“I thought our poise was 10-times better tonight,” Stevens said. 

The Celtics did the bulk of their damage from 3-point range. They converted five of their first seven tries from deep and finished the first 12 minutes making 7-of-11 from deep. 

Horford was a monster on both sides of the floor. He had two steals, a block and converted both shots from beyond the arc. 

Gerald Green, in the lineup at the ‘4’ position for Amir Johnson, moved Horford to the center position and provided some early spark with drives to the paint. 

The Celtics jumped out to a 14-4 lead with an 11-0 run. Then, after the Bulls responded with six straight, the Celtics went on a 13-0 run sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from the red-hot Jae Crowder. The Celtics led 33-15 after one. 

The lead ballooned to 37-17 in the opening minute of the second quarter as Jimmy Butler was on the bench. But the Bulls’ bench got hot and responded with an 11-0 run that energized the late-arriving Bulls crowd at the United Center. 

(For the full box score and details, click here). 

In desperate need of better play from Avery Bradley, the Celtics got it in the first half. The guard connected on his first four shots, including three threes, scoring 11 points as the Celtics stabilized things midway through the second with a 42-32 lead. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Gerald Green to start in Game 3 04.21.17 at 7:01 pm ET
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Gerald Green

Gerald Green

After a poor start to the series, very few expected Amir Johnson to be in Brad Stevens’ starting lineup for Game 3 against the Bulls but this is certainly a surprise to say the least.

Gerald Green will get the nod against the Bulls, he will replace Amir Johnson and join Al Horford and Jae Crowder in the front court with the usual back court duo of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.

Green, who hasn’t seen the floor since Game 1 when he clocked in 5:34, will look to give the Celtics a boost offensively while causing mismatch problems for Chicago’s big men. Green is not only a threat from outside, but also has the athleticism to blow past his defender off the dribble.

Celtics can certainly use that athleticism on the defensive end, along his rebounding capabilities. However, if the Bulls get off to a quick start, expect Stevens to turn to the bench for relief. Green will have a short leash in terms of playing time but will certainly provide much needed energy for the Celtics.

Nonetheless, Brad Stevens’ move is still a surprising one, given the fact that Green played only 47 games throughout the regular season, including only seven with the rest of Boston’s starting five.

He averaged 5.6 points, while shooting 40.9 percent from the floor along with 1.8 rebounds in 11.4 minutes throughout the regular season.

Tom Brady officially is behind Celtics: ‘It’s how you come back’ 04.21.17 at 1:27 pm ET
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Tom Brady is on board with the Celtics.

With the team trailing 0-2, Brady offered his support on Friday with a social media post that read: It’s how you come back… Good luck tonight. We all have your back! #YourTurn

 

It’s how you come back… Good luck tonight. We all have your back! #YourTurn

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Whoa: Bulls announce guard Rajon Rondo has a broken thumb and is out indefinitely 04.21.17 at 11:18 am ET
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Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo

The Celtics’ task just got a lot easier.

The Chicago Bulls announced on their website that guard Rajon Rondo suffered a broken thumb in Game 2 and will be out indefinitely. Surgery is not required.

What this means for the Celtics is huge. With Rondo turning back the clock to his Celtics days, the C’s had no answer for the creative point guard, who torched the smaller Isaiah Thomas in Games 1 and 2.

He was at his best in Game 2, falling one rebound shy of a triple-double and controlling the action at both ends of the floor with 11 points, nine rebounds, 14 assists, and five steals.

When Rondo was hurt late in the season, Jerian Grant stepped in as his replacement, with Michael Carter-Williams the backup. The two have combined for just 31 minutes (4 for Williams) and eight points through two games.

With the Celtics trailing 2-0, the Rondo news gives them a clear path to winning two straight games in Chicago and returning to Boston with the series tied. Unlike the last two postseasons, the C’s are playing at full health.

Click here for a further examination of what the Celtics need to do to turn this series around.

 

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, NBA playoffs, Rajon Rondo
Marcus Smart flipped off a fan during Celtics Game 2 blowout loss 04.19.17 at 7:59 am ET
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Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics unraveled in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 loss to the Bulls Tuesday, and Marcus Smart took out some of his apparent frustration towards a fan at the T.D. Garden. 

After clanking a three-pointer, Smart flipped his middle finger towards a person in the crowd as he was jogging back on defense. He also put one of his fingers to his lips, purportedly telling the fan to be quiet. 

Earlier in the period, Isaiah Thomas reamed out Smart on the court. The third-year guard finished 6-of-11 from the field with 13 points and eight rebounds in the Celtics’ 111-97 defeat

Faced with a 2-0 series deficit, the Celtics are on the verge of getting ousted in the first-round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Head coach Brad Stevens is now 2-10 in the playoffs. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart,
Why the 0-2 problems (and solutions) start with the players, not Brad Stevens 04.19.17 at 2:52 am ET
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Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), center Al Horford (42), guard Avery Bradley (0) and forward Jae Crowder (99) walk off the court after their 106-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), center Al Horford (42), guard Avery Bradley (0) and forward Jae Crowder (99) need to regroup in a hurry. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports).

The problem with these Celtics through two games is they haven’t met the challenge of the more experienced Chicago Bulls. This is not the job of Brad Stevens. 

Stevens can only do so much. True, he fell to 2-10 in his three playoff seasons in Boston, including 2-5 at home. No coach in NBA history has a worst record after at least 10 playoff games. Don Chaney and Bob Weiss were 2-9. Monty Williams stands 2-8. But Stevens can only pull so many players from a bench that consists of rookie and second-year players in Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. His bigs behind Amir Johnson are Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. Marcus Smart has been spotty at best and Jonas Jerebko has been non-existent. 

Al Horford has underachieved in the first two games and doesn’t play like a pure post player even though Stevens admitted that, due to matchups, the Celtics have no choice but to put Horford at the ‘4’ and hope he can defend the low post. 

Jae Crowder continues to struggle and Isaiah Thomas seems – very understandably so – carrying the weight of the entire team on his shoulders, while his mind is clearly burdened with the loss of his 22-year-old sister last weekend in a tragic car accident 3,000 miles away. 

What exactly is Stevens supposed to say or do with all of that? 

“We have to get ready to play great on Friday,” Stevens said after the 111-97 loss to the Bulls.in Game 2 Tuesday night. “That’s what our focus has to be; we don’t have any other choice. And that’s what we said in the locker room, and that’s it.  We’ll dissect the film, we’ll go through it, we’ll figure out what we didn’t do well and there’ll be quite a lot, and go from there. But the (Paul) Zipsers, (Nikola) Mirotic, (Bobby) Portis – those guys have had huge impacts on the first two games of this series.

“I mean, I expect it from Wade, right? I mean, I think we all do.  Last year I think he hit less than 10 threes during the regular season and then more than that in the first round of the playoffs.  Like, this is who he is. And it’s who Rondo’s been throughout his career. I mean, the level that he’s playing at is terrific. And then Butler’s Butler. So, but those other guys are really impacting the series in a big way.”

Stevens coached this team to 53 wins in the regular season. He’s clearly one of the brightest minds in the game. But at some point, the players like Jae Crowder and Al Horford have to pick it up.

“Its self-explanatory. Down 0-2 going into their place we just have to take it one game at a time,” Crowder said after his 16-point minus-12 effort Tuesday. “They came in and took, and we have to do the same. Take it one game at a time and try to get a game three. It’s not ideal for us. Definitely don’t put yourself in a 0-2 hole having home court advantage. But it’s not the end of the world for us. We have the unit to go to Chicago and take care of business.”

Horford had seven points but was a minus-19. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Chicago Bulls
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