By Christopher Cohen, Sports Editor
The Eastern Conference’s top seeded Boston Celtics have evened off their first round playoff matchup with the Chicago Bulls following Sunday’s 104-95 victory.
This win comes on the heels of Boston’s victory over Chicago in game three after the Bulls bested the Celtics on their home court for the first two games of the playoffs.
Boston and Chicago have only walked away victorious on the oppositions city as neither team has managed to succeed on their home court. With the series tied 2-2 the playoffs return to Boston for games five and seven should these teams require the total schedule.
The eighth seeded Bulls led off the series winning 106-102 after observing one of the finest performances in NBA playoff history. The day following the unexpected passing of his younger sister in a single automobile accident, Boston Celtics all-star Isaiah Thomas took to the floor to do what he does best for his family and fans.
Despite the troubling loss off the court, Isaiah took to the hardwood to represent not only on the memory of one of his original fans, but to bear the responsibilities of the leader his family framed him to be.
Thomas did not disappoint a soul in game one as he led the game with 33 points scored, including completing ten of twelve free-throws from behind the line. Thomas hit three of his seven three-point attempts, and contributed six assists to the Celtics offense.
Al Horford showed Boston why they brought him in for the next three seasons after this postseason run. Horford blended well into Thomas’s motions to contribute his own 19 points, 7 rebounds, and a team-high 8 assists.
Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart each received 31 minutes of action on the court. Crowder contributed nine points and eight rebounds, while Smart snared nine points and six assists. Each rising star swiped a steal as they moved between defending Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade, and Rajon Rondo.
Boston’s recent third overall selection Jaylen Brown made his NBA Playoff debut. Due to the intensity of the opening round matchup, the rookie was limited to just eleven minutes.
Brown made the most of his time, sinking both of his shots including a three pointer, leaving the floor with five points and a rebound. Unfortunately, Brown finished minus nine on the defense due in large part to the ferocity of Jimmy Butler.
Butler dominated the Bulls offense as he has done for the past several seasons. Commanding Chicago with thirty points, Butler would stuff the stat sheet with nine rebounds, three assists, and a steal and block each to seal the opening victory.
Butler received aid from three fellow starters who scored in the double digits: Lopez (14), Rondo (12), and Wade (11). Despite the stars adorning the starting lineup, the games x-factor and player of the game turned out to be Bobby Portis; the second year big-man out of Arkansas finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 29 minutes off the bench.
Butler and the Bulls followed up by bashing the Celtics 111-97 behind 22 points each from Butler and Dwayne Wade. All five of the Bulls’ starters finished scoring in the double-digits, and Rajon Rondo dished fourteen of Chicago’s twenty-eight assists.
The Celtics would take advantage of an absent and injured Rajon Rondo for a game three victory in Chicago’s United Center.
While the Bulls stars struggled to score, four of five Boston starters scored fifteen points of more; and the second year man out of Louisville, Terry Rozier, scored eleven points by converting three of five shots from behind the arch.
Isaiah Thomas finished the game with sixteen points and led all contributors with nine assists for the Celtics offense. Avery Bradley also took advantage of Rondo’s offensive and defensive absence to toss seven assists of his own.
Thomas and the Celtics would return to the United Center to again shut down a Rondo-less Chicago squad that would once more allow one hundred plus points in the postseason. Thomas would match Butler’s thirty-three points as the Celtics would walk away with the 104-95 victory. Thomas would also lead the Celtics with seven assists.
Al Horford recorded the only double-double with fifteen points and twelve rebounds. Horford’s stat sheet would be completed by his four assists, block, and steal against the multi-talented Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Bobby Portis.
The Celtics’ Gerald Green flew from the falling South Beach scene to show Boston some of what he used to provide for the team back in his younger years. Green finished with a playoff career high 18 points and seven rebounds, including a merciless jam off a self-shot offensive rebound.
Kelly Olynyk was the deciding factor in Boston’s game four victory. Olynyk played sixteen minutes off the bench, finishing with ten points off four of four shooting from the floor, including burying his only three-point attempt.
As the Celtics even off the series by taking two games on the road they’ll definitely need to revitalize their game strategy. Boston has been outrebounded in every game against the Bulls this postseason; and each victory has derived due largely to more three-point attempts converted (and attempted), as well as the absence of Rajon Rondo.
As the Celtics bring the Bulls back to Boston, will the finally feel victory on their home court as the East’s top seed?