After finally breaking through in their dominating win on Friday, the Celtics felt confident that they could win Game Four and get back to Boston tied at 2-2 for a pivotal Game Five. They did exactly what they thought they could, riding the back of their diminutive point guard, Isaiah Thomas, who had 33 points, seven assists, and took over at the end of the 3rd quarter when the Celtics blew a 20-point lead. Thomas got the Celtics to settle down, which was huge after blowing the big lead they built, and he took control when the Celtics need someone to do just that.
The game had a similar start as Game Three, with the Celtics jumping out and dominating the first quarter, imposing their will on both ends of the floor and showing very good energy chasing rebounds and 50-50 balls. Boston got a jump start from forward Gerald Green, who was inserted into the starting lineup in Game Three. Green was huge for Boston, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the first quarter, and he also contributed five first quarter rebounds. Green gives Boston the second scoring option that they have desperately needed not only this series, but all year. His consistency is never a guarantee, but they know he is hot right now so they might as well ride it out.
After jumping out to a 30-18 after one quarter, things started to settle down for the Bulls. They were still struggling to stop Green, who scored eight more points in the second quarter, but they were also able to score against the Celtics defense, something they weren't able to do in the first. Isaiah Thomas contributed six points in the second quarter after scoring 10 in the first quarter, so at this point offensively it was the Thomas and Green show, who combined for 32 of the Celtics 57 first half points. Jimmy Butler had a strong second quarter, scoring just six points but contributing four assists to wide open shooters that he found when he realized he was being doubled. Nikola Mirotic started to catch fire due to the strong passing from Butler, and he buried two wide open three's along with another jumper as he put eight of his own points on the board. Chicago won the second quarter, 28-27, and the main reason they were able to have success is the Celtics doubling and the Bulls taking advantage of it. Boston was up 57-46 at the half, and although Chicago won the second quarter and made up nine points (Boston was up, 47-27 with seven minutes left in the 2nd), the Celtics still seemed in control of the game.
The third quarter was all Bulls; Chicago went on a 18-6 run to take a two-point lead with 4:35 to go in the quarter, and that is when Isaiah Thomas took control. Thomas scored 10 points in the final 4:20 of the quarter, helping the Celtics regain a nine point lead at the end of the fourth that was a backbreaker for the Bulls. They used all the energy they had to make their run, and they thought they were taking control, but Thomas refused to let that happen, and he took over with what seemed like relative ease. Al Horford was also big at the end of the third, coming up with rebounds that he typically doesn't get. Jimmy Butler (nine points, four assists) and Robin Lopez (eight points, three rebounds) were the best players on the floor for the Bulls, but there is only so much two guys can accomplish when the rest of the team isn't productive.
The fourth quarter didn't have as much drama as the third as the Celtics simply imposed their will, refusing to let the Bulls get within five points, and making all the plays needed to win on the road in the playoffs. Thomas, Horford, and Marcus Smart were simply awesome in the fourth, combining for 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis did all they could to keep the Bulls in the game, but this team simply isn't the same without PLAYOFF Rajon Rondo (regular season-Rondo is a different person), and it isn't going to get better because the Bulls have no depth behind Rondo at the point. Unless the Bulls have some plan to use Wade at the point and go big, they won't win, and that plan may not work either. The bottom line is this- Boston has taken back control of this series, and it has everything to do with the Rondo-less Bulls having nobody to cover Thomas and nobody to facilitate their offense.
The moment the Rondo news was announced, we here at Parquet Pundit immediately said the Celtics would win four straight. We aren't backing off that prediction.
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