Gerald Green dunks the ball as Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) looks on during the first quarter in Friday’s Game 6 at United Center. (David Banks/USA Today Sports)
Goodbye, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Hello, John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The team that battled for and earned the No. 1 seed in the East in the final two weeks proved they can put away an inferior (and injured) team as the top seed Celtics blew past the Chicago Bulls, 105-83, at the United Center.
As has been the case in the four wins, the Celtics were sizzling from beyond the arc, hitting 16-of-38 on Friday. They finished the series with 86 3-pointers in the six games. The 86 triples is a new NBA playoff record.
Since losing Rajon Rondo to a broken right thumb (suffered in the second half of Game 2), the Bulls didn’t win a single game, as the Celtics captured the first postseason victory of the Brad Stevens era, 4 games to 2. The Celtics became the third team in NBA history (in 24 chances) to capture a series after losing the first two games at home, joining the 1969 Lakers and the 1994 Rockets.
The 1969 NBA finals was also the last time the Celtics won a best-of-7 series after losing the opening two games when they beat the Lakers in seven games.
As a result, the Celtics get a fascinating Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Washington Wizards, their newfound rival starting Sunday at TD Garden. The Wizards beat the Hawks, 115-99, Friday in Game 6 in Atlanta to also capture their series in six games. Game 2 will also be at TD Garden on Tuesday before shifting to Washington for Games 3 and 4.
Tickets went on sale at www.celtics.com for the series 30 minutes after Boston’s blowout win in Chicago.
The two teams had a rivalry that was fueled by a war of words between John Wall and Isaiah Thomas. Bradley Beal and Wall combined for 73 points in their Game 6 win Friday in Atlanta.
The teams split their four meetings this season, with each team winning twice on its home court. That could be significant as the No. 1 seed Celtics will hold the home court advantage in the best-of-7 series.
The Celtics came out looking bound and determined to avoid a Game 7 back in Boston Sunday at TD Garden. Boston hit three 3-pointers to start the game. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Gerald Green all hit triples as the Celtics raced out to a 9-2 lead.
(For a full boxscore, click here.)
They connected on six of their first 11 attempts from 3-point range and showed significantly more energy and desire to be on the court than the hometown Bulls.
The Celtics were setting screens all over and getting wide open looks on the perimeter and easy cuts to the basket. The Bulls looked utterly lost on the offensive end, not moving off the ball and settling for contested jumpers.
Marcus Smart raced from mid-court for an emphatic block from behind on Isaiah Canaan early in second quarter. Contrast that with Bobby Portis, who was trapped in the corner in front of the Celtics’ bench as Bulls teammates stood around on the weak side and offered no help to the ball. A frustrated Portis finally just gave up and took an offensive foul.
That sequence spoke volumes about the mindset of the two teams in the opening half.
Adding to Chicago’s misery was the sight of Jimmy Butler, already nursing a sore knee, getting his back stretched out on the Bulls sideline.
The Celtics built a 17-point lead thanks to a 12-0 spurt in the second quarter. The Bulls did make a couple of runs, including a 12-3 spurt that cut Boston’s lead to 45-37. Ball movement was excellent in the first half as the Celtics had 16 assists on 19 field goals, capturing a 54-41 lead at the half.
After missing his first five 3-pointers of the first half, Isaiah Thomas drilled his first three of the second half, converted a layup and Gerald Green added a triple as the lead ballooned to 21, 64-43, with 9:18 left in the third. A Bradley three grew the lead to 22, 69-47, with seven minutes left in the third. Crowder hit on a pair of threes, including one with just over three minutes left in the third as the Celtics led by an even 30, 84-54. It was the largest Game 6 lead in franchise history. The Celtics outscored the lifeless Bulls, 34-18, in the third to take an 88-59 lead to the final quarter of the series.
The Bulls waved the white flag late in the third quarter as they emptied their bench.
Isaiah Thomas will attend the funeral for his sister Chyna on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. It’s been an emotional two weeks since Thomas received news of her death in a one-car accident from Avery Bradley after practice on April 15. Bradley, also a native of Tacoma, is expected to make the trip west to join his teammate, along with several Celtics teammates.
Brad Stevens had indicated before Game 2 in Boston that he was hopeful that his team could join Thomas to offer support between Games 2 and 3 last week but wasn’t sure until plans were finalized. The funeral was delayed a week and finally, Thomas will lay his 22-year-old sister to rest on Saturday.