In a game of wild swings, the Bulls managed to dig out of a big early hole but ultimately saw the Celtics take the edge back to defeat Chicago 104-95, tying up the series after 4 games.
The Celtics started the game in a similar fashion to the prior one (and even in the games in Boston) with a hot start from three. But these were pretty much all wide open looks. Gerald Green started his second straight game in Brad Stephens’s small-ball adjustment lineup, continuing the strategy of spreading out and going at Robin Lopez to try and get him pulled from the game.
It definitely worked early.
Between a complete inability to stay in front of Isaiah Thomas, and poor/lazy rotations after that initial breakdown, the Celtics offense catapulted them to a 20-point lead in the first half. Green was fairly brilliant in the first two periods, hitting four of his seven threes to get to 16 points at halftime.
Meanwhile, the Bulls offense was essentially just watching Jimmy Butler run into people. He had 14 FTAs in the first half alone, after not getting to the line at all in the prior game.
With Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams taking turns in the roasting pan, Fred Hoiberg made the ‘adjustment’ to go to...Isaiah Canaan? Thing was, it kind of both made sense (I would’ve stuck with Grant, but no doubting he was awful) and turned out to be somewhat effective. Canaan wasn’t actually good but was providing at least some kind of initial pressure in the game.
Between that, and the Celtics starting to just miss their wide open threes, the gap lessened in the back half of the 2nd quarter to get to an 11-point deficit at halftime. The Bulls momentum continued in the initial stretch of the 3rd quarter, with the Celtics and Thomas especially being extremely careless with the ball. Canaan was winning the battle of the Isaiah’s!
The Bulls actually took the lead in the 3rd quarter shortly after this.
Then, it was the Isaiah Thomas show. He scored or assisted on several possessions, inflicting a lot of the damage on MCW but then even getting past the Thomas-stopper Canaan.
The deficit was back over double-digits. The Bulls kept it from becoming a blowout, mostly through Jimmy Butler’s indefatigable brilliance (he played the entire second half) and then attacking Thomas on the defensive end. But there wasn’t enough help from the rest of the Bulls. Dwyane Wade in particular was not providing enough support, as he finished 5-12 from the field. This blown layup was a big swing:
Robin Lopez also had his 2nd straight game of lessened production after looking unstoppable in Boston. The Bulls did enjoy an offensive rebounding edge at over 27%, but that’s not near the levels they were in the first two games, and the Celtics have been going smaller more and more often without it coming back to hurt them.
The Bulls were also cold from three, finishing 5/25 from there. Canaan had 3 of them to finish tied with Mirotic as the highest scoring non-Butler with a whopping 13 points. Butler meanwhile in his 46 minutes of action had 33 points on 7-16 shooting and 19-23 from the free throw line. So he individually put his bad game three behind him, but the team did not follow suit behind him.
Game Five is Wednesday in Boston.