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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
Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo says he won’t play in Game 5 vs. Celtics 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
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
Bulls 111, Celtics 97: C’s in serious, serious trouble after dropping first two in Boston 04.18.17 at 10:43 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics will need to pick themselves up in Chicago. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics will need to pick themselves up in Chicago. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are in trouble.

With old friend Rajon Rondo turning back the clock and falling a rebound shy of a triple-double, and his Bulls teammates playing free and easy, Chicago romped to a 111-97 victory in Boston to open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first round series.

Led by Jimmy Butler (22 points) and Dwyane Wade (22 points), the Bulls buried the Celtics in the second half — demolishing any hopes of a close game midway through the fourth quarter. Chicago’s leading scorers combined for 29 of the Bulls’ 57 second-half points and got it done on both ends of the floor, with help from Rondo (11 points, 9 rebounds, 14 assists, 5 steals), who was everywhere.

Offensively, the Bulls fired on all cylinders, shooting 51.1 percent.

The Celtics leaped out to a quick 7-0 lead before the Bulls responded with a 9-2 run and went on from there. Chicago led mostly throughout the first half before Robin Lopez — who scored 10 first-half points — caught fire in the third quarter en route to 18 points and eight rebounds.

Meanwhile, it felt like the Celtics couldn’t get any offense from anyone not named Isaiah Thomas, who was harassed into 6-for-15 shooting en route to 20 points. Thomas, the second best free throw shooter in the league during the season, went an uncharacteristic 7-for-13 from the line, not that it mattered.

Thomas plans to leave the team on Wednesday and return to his native Washington for the funeral of his sister, Chyna, who died in a single-car crash on Saturday. His teammates have been given the option of joining him. The series resumes with Game 3 in Chicago on Friday.

Through three quarters, the Celtics only trailed by 11 points (86-75) but were far from grabbing any offensive momentum. When Kelly Olynyk drained a 3-pointer to pull the Celtics within nine points with under 10 minutes left, it felt like an opportunity for the C’s to capitalize, but instead the Bulls went on a 13-6 run keyed by the three-time champion Wade.

As the Celtics left the floor to boos, it was clear what lay ahead — they’ll need to win four of the next five to avoid their third straight first-round ouster.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA playoffs
Bulls 106, Celtics 102: Isaiah Thomas’s emotional effort not enough as Celtics lose playoff opener 04.16.17 at 9:16 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas of the Celtics ties his shoes, with messages dedicated to his late sister, Chyna Thomas, who was killed in a car accident on Saturday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas of the Celtics ties his shoes, with messages dedicated to his late sister, Chyna Thomas, who was killed in a car accident on Saturday. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas wasn’t even a definite to play when Celtics coach Brad Stevens addressed reporters an hour before Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Bulls.

“I think his intention is to play,” Stevens said.

By warmups, it was clear that Thomas would take the floor for the most emotional night of his life. The question was if his teammates would join him.

They didn’t.

With the Bulls dominating the boards and the Celtics struggling to find scoring options beyond Thomas and center Al Horford, the Bulls claimed Game 1 of their first-round playoff series with a convincing 106-102 victory.

Thomas played with a heavy heart following the death of his 22-year-old sister Chyna in a single-car crash early Saturday morning in Washington state, but he still managed 33 points, five rebounds, and six assists.

During pregame introductions, he was the last player announced to a deafening roar. Instead of his usual buoyant energy, he slowly walked to the huddle with teammates, who surrounded him in what amount to a group hug.

Thomas came out of the gate on fire, scoring 13 in the first quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers that helped the Celtics open a six-point lead.

But the Bulls showed up to win, and they took it to the Celtics by exploiting their biggest weakness and dominating the one facet of the game Thomas couldn’t control — the boards.

Chicago outrebounded the Celtics 32-20 in the first half and 53-36 overall. Among their tally were 20 offensive rebounds, which provided countless second-chance opportunities.

The Bulls led 48-46 at halftime after Al Horford’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The squads were tied at 74 entering the fourth, but Bulls star Jimmy Butler took over, and too many Celtics possessions ended with Marcus Smart misfiring on 3-pointers.

Thomas did his part with 13 points in the frame, but Butler was a beast on both ends, scoring 15 points, including the clinching free throws, and helping swallow up the Celtics on the perimeter and force someone other than Thomas to beat them. Virtually no one stepped forward.

Horford (19 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) did his part, but the only other Celtic in double figures was Avery Bradley (14).

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA playoffs
Celtics halftime report: Isaiah Thomas amazes in horrible circumstances, but C’s can’t rebound, trail Bulls at 7:52 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) gets a hug from guard Avery Bradley (0) after hitting a shot against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) gets a hug from guard Avery Bradley (0) after hitting a shot against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Just a quick halftime update, with the Celtics trailing the Bulls 48-46 at halftime of Game 1 of their playoff series.

All eyes were on star guard Isaiah Thomas during warmups and introductions. Playing through grief after his younger sister, Chyna, was killed in a one-car crash on Saturday morning in Washington, Thomas came out on fire, scoring 13 points in the first quarter and 15 in the first half.

Unfortunately, his teammates haven’t picked up their end of the bargain, particularly on the boards, where they’ve been outrebounded 32-20 while allowing 16 offensive rebounds.

Al Horford nailed a 3-pointer at the first half buzzer to pull the Celtics within two.

The play of the second unit has been particularly galling, with Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk a combined 1-for-8.

Robin Lopez leads the eighth-seeded Bulls with 12 points and eight rebounds, including seven offensive.

The Celtics will need to clamp down on the second-chance opportunities or they’ll have surrendered homecourt advantage. Jae Crowder played only 10 minutes in the half because he has three fouls, and he should help provide some toughness on Bulls star Jimmy Butler in the second half.

But as with the start of the game, all eyes will be on Thomas, who is 5-for-10 from the floor, including 2-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Chyna, Isaiah Thomas
Rajon Rondo, still making friends in Chicago, unloads on Bulls veterans, pines for Boston days in Instagram post 01.26.17 at 6:44 pm ET
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My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.

A photo posted by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on

Do you miss Rajon Rondo? I’m not gonna lie — I miss Rajon Rondo.

It sure sounds like he misses Boston.

A brilliant meteor with the Celtics, he has since worn out his welcome in Dallas and now Chicago, where he was suspended for a game in December for conduct detrimental to the team.

On Thursday, he took aim at teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, who had blasted the Bulls a night earlier following a fourth-quarter collapse against Atlanta. Wade and Butler criticized teammates for not caring, and those words did not sit well with Rondo, who took to his Instagram account and obliterated them for not setting the example that he learned in Boston from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (Rondo, it should be noted, scored 3 points in 9 minutes against the Hawks).

Beside a picture of himself in Celtics green with that duo, Rondo unloaded on Wade and Butler:

“My vets would never go to the media,” he wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

There’s only one word for that, and it’s, “Wow.” Not sure if Rondo is shooting his way out of town again, but given his acrimonious history with Wade when they were part of the Celtics-Heat rivalry, it looks like old grudges die hard.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler
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