Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bulls 111 - Celtics 97: C's in serious trouble after dropping first two in Boston [CHI leads series, 2-0]

The Celtics are in trouble.

With old friend Rajon Rondo turning back the clock and falling a rebound shy of a triple-double, and the 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 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-of-15 shooting en route to 20 points. Thomas, the second best free-throw shooter in the league during the regular season, went an uncharacteristic 7-for-13 from the line, not that it mattered.

Jae Crowder scored 16 points on 6-of-11 attempts, Marcus Smart (13 points, 8 rebounds) and Kelly Olynyk (11 points) combined for 24 points of the bench and Avery Bradley had an off-night, knocking in 5-of-15 and finished with 12.

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 but 11 points (86-75) but were far from grabbing any offensive momentum. When Kelly Olynyk drained a 3-pointer to pull the Celtics to 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.

Game Notes: 

Led by Rondo's plus-24 game rating, every member of Chicago's starting lineup finished with at least a plus-17 rating, including Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler -- they were both a plus-22. The trio carried the workload on both ends of the floor -- combining for 55 points, 24 assists (of Chicago's 28) and 9 steals.

Josue Pavon

Photo used is courtesy of Getty Images

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