So long, 2-0 deficit.
The Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 at the United Center on Sunday in Game 4 of the teams' first-round playoff series. After dropping the first two at home, the No. 1 seed Celtics tied the series at two games apiece with two straight wins in Chicago.
Isaiah Thomas led the way with 33 points and rescued his team after it allowed Chicago to overcome a 20-point deficit and take the lead in the third quarter.
|Celtics' Sunday Leaders|
|Gerald Green||18||7||0||7-of-13 (4-of-9 threes)|
Jimmy Butler spearheaded Chicago's effort with 33 points (19-of-23 free throws), nine assists and five rebounds, but he was the only Bull to score more than 13.
Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green Rescue Celtics
Boston dominated the first half and appeared well in control when it built its 20-point advantage, but Chicago came roaring back in front of a raucous crowd.
Some road teams would have wilted under the pressure, but Thomas became more aggressive and consistently sliced through the defense. Two straight baskets gave Boston the lead for good, and his penetration helped open up teammates in crunch time.
Jay King of MassLive.com described the point guard's impact:
Thomas played the role of second-half savior, but the Celtics wouldn't have been in the same position without Gerald Green's first half. The role player poured in 16 points and drilled four threes in the opening 24 minutes, inspiring a reaction from Matt Moore of CBS Sports:
He also showed off his vertical:
If the Celtics eliminate the Bulls and face more challenging competition, they will need secondary scorers to support Thomas. Green proved he can fill that role.
Isaiah Canaan Can't End Chicago's Point Guard Concerns
Rajon Rondo is out indefinitely with a thumb fracture, which has proved insurmountable for Chicago thus far. The Bulls won the first two games in Boston by a combined 18 points with Rondo in the lineup but lost Game 3 by 17 and Game 4 Sunday without him.
They turned to Isaiah Canaan after Jerian Grant looked lost, and the Murray State product handled his own despite last playing double-digit minutes on Feb. 12. He finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals and provided outside shooting to soften Boston's defense.
Sean Highkin of The Athletic had fun with Canaan's third-quarter burst during Chicago's comeback:
Still, Grant and Michael Carter-Williams were overmatched from the start, which is one reason the Celtics set the early tone. Carter-Williams in particular couldn't stay in front of Thomas with the game on the line.
Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated commented on Chicago's point guard situation:
The Bulls offense devolved into Butler isolations far too often without crisp passing from the point guards, and the result was an abysmal 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) mark from three-point range for the team as a whole. Dan Wolken of USA Today summarized things from Chicago's perspective when he tweeted, "It will be a minor miracle if Chicago wins this series without Rondo."
Celtics Shore Up Rebounding
Boston was 27th in the league in rebounds per game during the regular season and couldn't stop Robin Lopez in the middle in the first two games. The big man tallied 19 boards in those first two Chicago wins, but Boston held him to seven Sunday.
More importantly for the victors, they lost the overall battle on the glass by just three (44-41), which meant rebounding woes didn't overshadow Thomas' brilliance or Chicago's shooting concerns.
If the Celtics rebound like that again Wednesday in Game 5 back at home, they will have a golden opportunity to seize the series lead.