BOSTON — Dwyane Wade was working on a vintage performance, the type the fans at TD Garden had seen before in the playoffs from the former Miami Heat superstar, and the crowd was growing tense in a one-point Game 5. Then, Kevin Garnett came on the Jumbotron during a fourth-quarter timeout, pleading in a pre-recorded video for Celtics fans to “get this mother rocking,” and they obliged.
With the crowd roaring and KG’S former teammate Rajon Rondo watching injured on the Bulls bench, Boston’s new star pick-and-roll tandem — Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford — combined to score 19 of the C’s next 22 points in a dominant 7 1/2-minute stretch that pushed Boston’s lead to double digits and delivered a 108-97 victory in the pivotal game of their first-round series.
“It’s kind of been the story of our team, being able to fight through adversity,” said Avery Bradley, the only Celtics holdover from the Garnett days. “No matter what we go through, we’re able to overcome it, and I think it’s the group of guys, our coaching staff, we believe. We believe in one another.”
Thomas (24 points, five rebounds, four assists) and Horford (21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) each scored 11 points in Boston’s 29-point fourth quarter, anchoring a third straight win and giving the Celtics a 3-2 series edge on their way to Chicago for Friday’s Game 6. In a game that saw 18 lead changes and 13 ties, Horford’s steal and rim-rocking dunk just 94 seconds after KG’s plea gave Boston a six-point lead that seemed insurmountable with eight minutes left:
“We went to Chicago knowing that we were going to win those two games, not hoping,” added Bradley. “We knew that we were going to take two games and come here and take care of home. And now it’s our job to continue to play the same way and finish the series in Chicago.”
The Celtics spoiled Wade’s throwback 26-point, 11-rebound and eight-assist night, and Bradley locked down Bulls wing Jimmy Butler to the tune of 14 point on 15 shots. Chicago’s three-time All-Star finished scoreless on two attempts in the fourth quarter and did not make a free throw in the game.
Meanwhile, Bradley added a playoff career-high 24 points, fittingly giving the Celtics three 20-point scorers for the first since Garnett, Rondo and Paul Pierce did it against Wade’s Heat in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. It was that kind of retro night in Boston, and the series sure seems to be slipping away from Chicago like the floater Lopez threw over the backboard in the third quarter:
“We gave up 20-plus to three guys,” said Wade, “so [Bradley] hurt us offensively tonight more than anything. Defensively, he’s one of the better defenders in the league, but we can’t allow him to get 20-plus. It’s going to be hard to overcome that, especially being down a man, so we’ve got to do better.”
The Celtics only shot 43 percent from the field and 9-of-40 from 3-point range, but held the Bulls under 100 points for the third straight game, scoring 23 points off 16 Chicago turnovers. Boston also made all 23 of their free throws — including a pair of technicals as Wade and Lopez lost their cool down the stretch — and limited the Bulls to four second-chance points, resolving an issue that’s plagued the C’s all season and all series for at least one game.
On the game’s first possession, Thomas burned Rondo-replacement starting point guard Isaiah Canaan and drew a foul from Nikola Mirotic. It appeared the Celtics picked up where they left off in Game 4, with their dynamic point guard eviscerating Chicago’s defense. But Thomas got too comfortable, trying to draw a foul on a pair of errant 3-point attempts. Gerald Green similarly sent a couple heat-check 3’s wide. Soon enough, the C’s were 0-for-9 on 3-pointers, and Brad Stevens was turning to his reserves.
Meanwhile, the Bulls finally ran a series of screens to get Thomas matched up on either Butler or Wade, and then went to work — a tactic astute observers had urged Fred Hoiberg to try since the Game 3 loss. Wade scored seven quick points, and the Bulls jumped to a 12-4 advantage.
Boston’s offense had struggled mightily all season sans Thomas, but the Celtics got a big boost from the bench when their star took a seat at the end of the first quarter. Finally finding their stroke from distance, Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk sandwiched 3’s around a Bradley triple on three straight possessions to grab their first lead since Thomas’ opening drive.
Celtics guard Terry Rozier brought energy the Bulls weren’t prepared to match, but a Hoiberg timeout settled what was a streaky feeling-out process into a back-and-forth battle. Boston held a slim lead for all but 55 seconds of the second quarter, and the C’s took a one-possession lead into halftime, 52-50 — despite Thomas’ first field goal not coming until the final minute of the half.
Butler hadn’t been all that hot, either, scoring just eight points on nine shots through the first 24 minutes. The game’s leading scorers at the break were familiar two-guard foes Bradley and Wade, who had 17 and 11 points at the half, respectively. Both teams had to be feeling good about their chances down the stretch of a critical Game 5 if their All-Star could just catch fire.
Only the supporting casts kept stealing the show for much of the third quarter. Robin Lopez turned into über-RoLo again, scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and Wade added seven points to finish the frame just three assists shy of a vintage triple-double. Horford countered with eight points in the quarter, and Bradley — already working on a career-high — added seven.
“I love the way our guys competed — to come out on the road, to play really, really good basketball for the majority of the first three quarters,” said Hoiberg. “The start of the fourth, I thought we got off to a really good start, then obviously they took over the last 10 minutes. But I love the way our guys competed.”
Switching from white shoes and green headband to an all-black shoes and headband combo at the half did little to get Thomas going in the third, and Butler finally made his presence felt with a buzzer-beating 3 to cap the quarter and give Chicago an 81-79 advantage entering the fourth.
The two teams forged three ties in the first two minutes of the final quarter, before a running Thomas layup gave Boston an 86-85 lead with 9:40 left, forcing a Chicago timeout. That was accompanied by the Garnett video. The King in the Fourth and his court took over from there, and Boston never trailed again. Whether the same holds true for the series, we’ll just have to wait and find out Friday night.
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Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford ‘get this mother rocking’ to give the Celtics a 3-2 series lead – Yahoo Sports