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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
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
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
Isaiah Thomas to travel to Seattle after Game 2, return for Game 3, Celtics may join him at 7:29 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas will be heading immediately to his hometown of Seattle after Tuesday’s Game 2 against the Bulls at TD Garden to attend the funeral service for his 22-year-old sister Chyna.

He may have company on the grueling cross-country trip to support him.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens indicated that the team would like to make the option of travel to Seattle available to all players who wish to make the trip on Wednesday, but added before Tuesday’s Game 2 that details have not been finalized by the organization.

The logistics of the trip are made somewhat more viable by the fact that there are two days off between Games 2 and 3, with the third game not taking place until Friday night at the United Center in Chicago.

Stevens indicated that the plan would be for Thomas to definitely travel to Seattle after the game and return to Chicago in time to play Game 3 Friday.

“He’s playing tonight. Still hard stuff,” Stevens said. “He’s going to go home tomorrow to Seattle and then he’ll rejoin us in Chicago. That’s the plan of attack right now.”

The possibility of the players and staff joining Thomas later after he arrives in Seattle Wednesday is still up in the air.

“From everything I’ve been told, there’s still aren’t any final plans on the services and everything else so once we get information on that, we’ll obviously have to make those decisions on our schedule and everything else,” Stevens added. “But we would hope to, for sure, at least make that available to everybody. Those plans have not been finalized. Isaiah’s just going back [by himself] to be with his family.

“Bottom line, it’s quiet. Everybody really feels for the guy. We’re together all the time. It’s a great group of guys. We realize that we have a job to do and we have to prepare to do our job as well as we can. But at the same time, there’s a strong relationship there.”

Thomas was emotional throughout Game 1, scoring 33 points in the loss and tearing up during the national anthem. Avery Bradley, who is also a native of Washington state, was spotting consoling him before Game 1.

Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Chyna Thomas
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
Brad Stevens on the status of Isaiah Thomas: ‘I think his intention is to play’ at 6:07 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Instead of talking X’s and O’s and his game plan for the Bulls in Game 1 of the playoffs, Celtics coach Brad Stevens spent time updating the media on the status of Isaiah Thomas. 

In the wake of the tragic passing of Thomas’ sister Chyna J. Thomas, Stevens couldn’t confirm if Thomas will play in the opening matchup of the Celtics’ seven-game series against the Bulls but did say Thomas’ initial intention is to take the floor.

“He went through our shootaround. He’s struggling,” Stevens said. “Obviously it’s tragic circumstances that he and his family are going through right now. Our thoughts are first and foremost with all of them. I think his intention is to play. We talked a little bit last night and then again today. As he goes through it and feels like he needs to not [play] then that’s whatever he wants. One of the things that I’ve learned having been through situations in the past is that there’s really no right or wrong answer — it’s whatever’s right for him. That’s what we’ve encouraged him. He’s really hurting. It’s a tough situation.”

Stevens said every member of the Celtics team has reached out to Thomas within the past 24 hours and spent time talking about Thomas’ character and what he means to the team. 

“Everybody reached out, it’s a close-knit team, he’s a big part of it” Stevens said. “Isaiah is a great teammate, Isaiah’s a great husband, he’s a great father. He is a great guy, great son and brother and I think ultimately we just all tried to do our part and let him know we’re thinking about him. Anything that we can all do to help; we do. We’re family and this particular situation with his family takes precedent over everything else going on and we’re here for him if he needs us.”

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