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This was no normal game.


Even by playoff standards, the events of the previous day surrounding Isaiah Thomas' sister permeated the atmosphere of the game from the moment the players took the floor behind Thomas, the crowd roaring deafeningly. Even the first bucket, a jumper from the top of the paint by Jimmy Butler, seemed uninspired and half-hearted. The crowd cheered Thomas' first foul shots like he just sank a dagger. Amir flattening Rajon Rondo practically had the TD Garden ready to string their former hero up. Fouling Isaiah a few moments later from behind the foul line, Rajon nearly set up a four-point play. A pair of turnovers by the Chicago Bulls ending in a Thomas trey nearly sent the arena into orbit.


The Boston Celtics forced turnover after turnover with the defense we thought we'd be getting in November. Thomas couldn't miss. Jae Crowder got boards. Amir Johnson was aggressive on defense. And yet somehow Jimmy Butler and Rondo kept the Bulls close. Foul trouble could have helped Boston, too, with Rondo sitting early, but Amir and Jae ended up in foul trouble of their own, and Tyler Zeller's long twos were not exactly the boost the Cs needed to pull away. Still, Boston finished the first quarter up five behind Isaiah's four-of seven, 13-point start to a night most of us assumed he'd be in streetclothes for.


The second unit handed the lead right back to the Bulls early in the second, with Marcus Smart hoisting his trademark ill-advised shots and Jaylen Brown missing his assignment. Thomas came back at about the eight minute mark, and took less than a minute and a half of game time for he and Avery Bradley to tie the game up. A pair of quick buckets by Paul Zipser and Bobby Portis and an apparent limp by Bradley put a bit of a scare into the crowd, but a Brown layup after a Brad Stevens ATO, some scoring from the frontcourt and a smooth moving Avery got the crowd back on its feet. Dwayne Wade getting blocked on an open dunk attempt made it go wild. Still, sloppy passes and bad shooting would have had the Celts down 5 at the half if not for an Al Horford buzzer-beater from beyond the arc, putting the Bulls up 48-46 at the midpoint.


The third quarter opened with a glacial Johnson trey (unsurprisingly) not falling, but Bradley stole the lead back just ahead of the ten minute mark with a three, putting Boston up 51-50. Amir scoring an and-one dunk was a bright spot in a stretch of sloppy play that saw the Bulls retake the lead 58-56, with the Celts getting out-hustled for loose balls and rebounds in a way that looked all too familiar. A pair of Crowder layups gave Boston back the lead at about the 5:30 mark, followed by back-to-back and-one jumpers by Thomas to give the Celts their first multiple- possession lead of the half.


The Bulls battled back, and seemed poised to take the lead until Smart took a charge by Butler, then buried a trey with a hand in his face. Butler single-handedly pushed the Bulls back to a tie at 74-up to end the third quarter despite Smart's mini-explosion. A Zipser bucket gave Chicago a quick lead, then Portis and Smart would trade threes, with the Bulls barely hanging onto their lead with Portis and Olynyk doing the same. A Butler trey gave the Bulls a four-point lead with 6:30 left, but pressure defense forced a jump ball leading to a thunderous Horford dunk. A scary foul by Rondo on Thomas stopped play for a second, but it seemed to be just a cut, with Thomas taking the lead from the line.


A trey from Jerian Grant after a bucket by Butler saw the Bulls steal the lead yet again, 92-88, which Butler extended to seven after being fouled by Bradley beyond the arc. Isaiah carried Boston for a stretch, scoring the next four, only to see Wade answer back. A turnover put Robin Lopez at the line, pushing the Chicago lead to seven with under two minutes to play, and yet another Portis jumper pushed the lead to nine with 1:35 left. A Horford layup cut the lead to seven with a minute to go, and a Crowder three got it back down to six. Another by Thomas got it to four with 13 second remaining. A Chicago turnover gave the team a sliver of hope, and Thomas pulled Boston to within two with seven seconds on the clock. Using too much time to foul and a pair of clutch free throws by Butler gave the game away, with the Bulls winning 106-102.

The Celtics next face the Bulls at home Tuesday night, at 8PM EST.

For more stories about the Bulls on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.




Photo via Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 4/16/2017 09:51:00 PM Edit
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