Bradley steps up for Celtics in 108-97 Game 5 win over Bulls


BOSTON – It was the little fella from Tacoma, Wash. getting it done for the Boston Celtics.
And no, I’m not talking about Isaiah Thomas this time.
It was the other half of the Celtics’ Tacoma tandem in the backcourt, Avery Bradley, who played the role of difference-maker all night long in Boston’s 108-97 Game 5 win over the Chicago.
Boston now leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, with a chance to move on to the next round of the playoffs with a Game 6 win at Chicago on Friday.
Bradley finished with a playoff career-high 24 points to go with six rebounds. Boston also got a strong game from Isaiah Thomas (24 points) and Al Horford (21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds).
Meanwhile, Chicago was led by Dwyane Wade who had a near triple-double of 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Jimmy Butler and Robin Lopez each had 14 points.
After three lead changes in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, Thomas’ short runner in the lane gave Boston an 96-89 lead with 5:40 to play, their largest of the game at that point.
That game-high milestone didn’t last long, with Horford making it a 98-89 game just 25 seconds later.
Boston’s crowd was into the game because of the team’s strong run that was fueled even more so by Celtics legend Kevin Garnett delivering a message on the Jumbotron to the fired-up Celtics faithful who were so loud that no one had any idea what the hell Garnett said.
Frustrated by the game’s momentum clearly in Boston’s favor, Wade was called for a technical foul on a play in which Thomas was fouled driving to the basket.
Just like that, Boston was on a 23-6 run following a pair of free throws by Horford that put Boston ahead 104-89.
Chicago was able to chip away at Boston’s lead, but never made up enough ground to where Boston’s down-the-stretch control was ever seriously threatened.
Boston’s ability to pull away in the fourth quarter looked nothing like what we saw through the first three quarters of play.
The third quarter looked like a carbon copy of the first half as they continued to exchange leads with neither team putting together the kind of run to put some distance between the two teams.
Knowing how pivotal Game 5 is in this series, it wasn’t all that surprising that both teams played with a heightened sense of urgency most of the game.
Not surprisingly, the third quarter margin was decided on the final shot of the quarter, a 3-pointer by Butler that gave the Bulls an 81-79 lead going into the fourth quarter.
After a back and forth first half with six ties and six lead changes, the Celtics went into the half clinging to a slim 52-50 lead.
Boston spent most of the first quarter playing catch-up to the Bulls who opened with a 12-4 run.
After missing several open to lightly contested shots to start the quarter, Boston soon got going behind Bradley whose nine first-quarter points allowed Boston to close the first with an 11-2 run and lead 23-20.
Chicago’s Bobby Portis tied the game with a 3-pointer, only for Boston to score four straight which included a breakaway dunk by Terry Rozier that led to the Bulls calling a time-out.
But Chicago, scrappy as ever, continued to stay within striking distance unlike Games 3 and 4 when they fell behind by 20 points in the first half of both games.
However, the Celtics looked on the verge of finishing the second quarter playing well.
After Chicago’s Paul Zipser made it a 40-37 game in favor of the Bulls, Boston went on an 8-2 run to lead 45-42.
But a Bulls time-out was just what Chicago needed as they got back-to-back scores by Butler to regain the lead, 46-45.
A 3-pointer by Thomas with less than a minute to play, his lone basket of the first half, would be the final made basket by the Celtics in the first half which was good enough to give them a slim two-point lead.

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