There is life in the Celtics after all. 

Thanks to a red-hot Jae Crowder early, an energized Isaiah Thomas in the third quarter and brilliant 3-point shooting, the Celtics managed to turn the tables and rout the Bulls, 104-87, Friday night in a must-have Game 3 at Chicago’s United Center.

Apr 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over defender Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots over defender Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

There is life in the Celtics after all. 

Thanks to a red-hot Jae Crowder early, an energized Isaiah Thomas in the third quarter and brilliant 3-point shooting, the Celtics managed to turn the tables and rout the Bulls, 104-87, Friday night in a must-have Game 3 at Chicago’s United Center.

The Bulls still lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Sunday night in Chicago before the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 Wednesday in Boston. 

The Celtics connected on an amazing 17-of-37 shots from 3-point range (.459) as eight different Celtics hit at least one shot from long range. Al Horford led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds while Crowder and Thomas each had 16. 

The Celtics absolutely needed to take advantage of the fractured right thumb that will likely sideline Rajon Rondo for the rest of the series. And early on, they did. With Rondo out wearing a split on his right arm and a unique short-sleeve burgundy suit with white sneakers on the bench, the Celtics clearly looked more energized to start the game – and definitely more confident. 

The Celtics did the bulk of their damage from 3-point range. They converted five of their first seven tries from deep and finished the first 12 minutes making 7-of-11 from deep. 

Horford was a monster on both sides of the floor. He had two steals, a block and converted both shots from beyond the arc. 

Gerald Green, in the lineup at the ‘4’ position for Amir Johnson, moved Horford to the center position and provided some early spark with drives to the paint. 

The Celtics jumped out to a 14-4 lead with an 11-0 run. Then, after the Bulls responded with six straight, the Celtics went on a 13-0 run sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from the red-hot Jae Crowder. The Celtics led 33-15 after one. 

The lead ballooned to 37-17 in the opening minute of the second quarter as Jimmy Butler was on the bench. But the Bulls’ bench got hot and responded with an 11-0 run that energized the late-arriving Bulls crowd at the United Center. 

(For the full box score and details, click here). 

In desperate need of better play from Avery Bradley, the Celtics got it in the first half. The guard connected on his first four shots, including three threes, scoring 11 points as the Celtics stabilized things midway through the second with a 42-32 lead. 

With the three pointers not falling in the second quarter, the Celtics became too dependent on the perimeter game and couldn’t find any second chance points. The Celtics scored just nine points in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter as the Bulls cut the lead down to six. Adding to the misery was the news that Green rolled his left ankle midway through the quarter. It was not considered serious and he had it taped to ready him for a return in the second half. 

Nikola Mirotic’s left baseline three cut the lead to three, 44-41, with 28 seconds left in the half. The Celtics were held to just 11 points in the second quarter and gave up a 24-7 Bulls run to end the half and led 44-41 at the break. 

Trailing 44-43 early in the third quarter, the Bulls had a chance to take their first lead since 4-3 but Jimmy Butler missed a turnaround 12-footer. The Celtics responded with the next eight points to build a 52-43 lead, thanks to a pair of threes from Isaiah Thomas. Butler started the game ice cold, missing nine of his first ten shots. 

Thomas was magical in the third quarter, with hesitation dribble drives, 3-point shooting and perfect pick-and-roll passes to Horford. The Celtics built their lead back to 14, 64-50. Thomas was even a great cheerleader, giving Terry Rozier and swat on the leg from the bench after his made three made it 69-54 with three minutes left in the third. 

Thanks to the rediscovered offense, the Celtics outscored the Bulls, 32-22, in the third and took a 76-63 lead to the fourth quarter.

Avery Bradley’s three with 7:28 left in the fourth put the Celtics ahead, 88-69. Rozier added a three with six minutes left to extend the lead to 91-73. The Bulls emptied their bench with four minutes left, waving the white flag and shifting their focus to Game 4 Sunday night in Chicago. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Gerald Green

Gerald Green

After a poor start to the series, very few expected Amir Johnson to be in Brad Stevens’ starting lineup for Game 3 against the Bulls but this is certainly a surprise to say the least.

Gerald Green will get the nod against the Bulls, he will replace Amir Johnson and join Al Horford and Jae Crowder in the front court with the usual back court duo of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.

Green, who hasn’t seen the floor since Game 1 when he clocked in 5:34, will look to give the Celtics a boost offensively while causing mismatch problems for Chicago’s big men. Green is not only a threat from outside, but also has the athleticism to blow past his defender off the dribble.

Celtics can certainly use that athleticism on the defensive end, along his rebounding capabilities. However, if the Bulls get off to a quick start, expect Stevens to turn to the bench for relief. Green will have a short leash in terms of playing time but will certainly provide much needed energy for the Celtics.

Nonetheless, Brad Stevens’ move is still a surprising one, given the fact that Green played only 47 games throughout the regular season, including only seven with the rest of Boston’s starting five.

He averaged 5.6 points, while shooting 40.9 percent from the floor along with 1.8 rebounds in 11.4 minutes throughout the regular season.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Tom Brady is on board with the Celtics.

With the team trailing 0-2, Brady offered his support on Friday with a social media post that read: It’s how you come back… Good luck tonight. We all have your back! #YourTurn

 

It’s how you come back… Good luck tonight. We all have your back! #YourTurn

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics’ task just got a lot easier.

The Chicago Bulls announced on their website that guard Rajon Rondo suffered a broken thumb in Game 2 and will be out indefinitely. Surgery is not required.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo

The Celtics’ task just got a lot easier.

The Chicago Bulls announced on their website that guard Rajon Rondo suffered a broken thumb in Game 2 and will be out indefinitely. Surgery is not required.

What this means for the Celtics is huge. With Rondo turning back the clock to his Celtics days, the C’s had no answer for the creative point guard, who torched the smaller Isaiah Thomas in Games 1 and 2.

He was at his best in Game 2, falling one rebound shy of a triple-double and controlling the action at both ends of the floor with 11 points, nine rebounds, 14 assists, and five steals.

When Rondo was hurt late in the season, Jerian Grant stepped in as his replacement, with Michael Carter-Williams the backup. The two have combined for just 31 minutes (4 for Williams) and eight points through two games.

With the Celtics trailing 2-0, the Rondo news gives them a clear path to winning two straight games in Chicago and returning to Boston with the series tied. Unlike the last two postseasons, the C’s are playing at full health.

 

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics are down, but not necessarily out, vs. the Bulls. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)Disclosure: I've been all over the map when it comes to Celtics-Bulls.



The Celtics unraveled in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 loss to the Bulls Tuesday, and Marcus Smart took out some of his apparent frustration towards a fan at the T.D. Garden. 

Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics unraveled in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 loss to the Bulls Tuesday, and Marcus Smart took out some of his apparent frustration towards a fan at the T.D. Garden. 

After clanking a three-pointer, Smart flipped his middle finger towards a person in the crowd as he was jogging back on defense. He also put one of his fingers to his lips, purportedly telling the fan to be quiet. 

Earlier in the period, Isaiah Thomas reamed out Smart on the court. The third-year guard finished 6-of-11 from the field with 13 points and eight rebounds in the Celtics 111-97 defeat

Faced with a 2-0 series deficit, the Celtics are on the verge of getting ousted in the first-round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Head coach Brad Stevens is now 2-10 in the playoffs. 

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), center Al Horford (42), guard Avery Bradley (0) and forward Jae Crowder (99) walk off the court after their 106-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), center Al Horford (42), guard Avery Bradley (0) and forward Jae Crowder (99) need to regroup in a hurry. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports).

The problem with these Celtics through two games is they haven’t met the challenge of the more experienced Chicago Bulls. This is not the job of Brad Stevens. 

Stevens can only do so much. True, he fell to 2-10 in his three playoff seasons in Boston, including 2-5 at home. No coach in NBA history has a worst record after at least 10 playoff games. Don Chaney and Bob Weiss were 2-9. Monty Williams stands 2-8. But Stevens can only pull so many players from a bench that consists of rookie and second-year players in Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. His bigs behind Amir Johnson are Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. Marcus Smart has been spotty at best and Jonas Jerebko has been non-existent. 

Al Horford has underachieved in the first two games and doesn’t play like a pure post player even though Stevens admitted that, due to matchups, the Celtics have no choice but to put Horford at the ‘4’ and hope he can defend the low post. 

Jae Crowder continues to struggle and Isaiah Thomas seems – very understandably so – carrying the weight of the entire team on his shoulders, while his mind is clearly burdened with the loss of his 22-year-old sister last weekend in a tragic car accident 3,000 miles away. 

What exactly is Stevens supposed to say or do with all of that? 

“We have to get ready to play great on Friday,” Stevens said after the 111-97 loss to the Bulls.in Game 2 Tuesday night. “That’s what our focus has to be; we don’t have any other choice. And that’s what we said in the locker room, and that’s it.  We’ll dissect the film, we’ll go through it, we’ll figure out what we didn’t do well and there’ll be quite a lot, and go from there. But the (Paul) Zipsers, (Nikola) Mirotic, (Bobby) Portis – those guys have had huge impacts on the first two games of this series.

“I mean, I expect it from Wade, right? I mean, I think we all do.  Last year I think he hit less than 10 threes during the regular season and then more than that in the first round of the playoffs.  Like, this is who he is. And it’s who Rondo’s been throughout his career. I mean, the level that he’s playing at is terrific. And then Butler’s Butler. So, but those other guys are really impacting the series in a big way.”

Stevens coached this team to 53 wins in the regular season. He’s clearly one of the brightest minds in the game. But at some point, the players like Jae Crowder and Al Horford have to pick it up.

“Its self-explanatory. Down 0-2 going into their place we just have to take it one game at a time,” Crowder said after his 16-point minus-12 effort Tuesday. “They came in and took, and we have to do the same. Take it one game at a time and try to get a game three. It’s not ideal for us. Definitely don’t put yourself in a 0-2 hole having home court advantage. But it’s not the end of the world for us. We have the unit to go to Chicago and take care of business.”

Horford had seven points but was a minus-19. 


“Jae said it best. I think that’s all we have. Game three is a must win for us,” Horford said. “I think we rushed a little bit at times on offense. We had some carless turnovers that aren’t typical of our team. It gave them some rhythm and it hurt us. As far as getting off to a slow start, I think the way I tried to play is off what the defense gives. For those who really understand the game, they were packing the paint making us find shooters. Tonight I wasn’t able to get into a rhythm offensively. As far as the defense goes I feel we played better at time… we still need to get better as a group.”

Stevens is not on the hot seat. He at a serious personnel matchup disadvantage in this series because Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are getting support from Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. 

“We’ve got a great group of guys in here,” Kelly Olynyk said. “We’ve done a lot of good things in here. We’re not down on each other.  We believe in each other 100 percent.  We believe in the coaching staff.  We have the ability to rattle some (wins) off and hopefully we can.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia