CHICAGO – For most of the first half, Brad Stevens’ bold lineup change to start Gerald Green instead of Amir Johnson, worked about as well as the Celtics could have imagined.
But the second quarter was all Chicago, as they nearly wiped out Boston’s huge lead before the half which ended with the Celtics leading 44-41.
Boston led by as many as 20 points early in the second quarter, doing so behind some red-hot shooting.
But they soon went ice cold from the field, giving the Bulls multiple opportunities to chip away at their lead.
And leading the charge for the Bulls was Dwyane Wade who had eight of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter, in addition to dishing out three assists in the second.
Making the Chicago even more disappointing for the Celtics was that the Bulls were playing without Rajon Rondo who suffered a right thumb fracture in Game 2 and is unlikely to play again in this series.
Early on, Rondo’s absence was quite obvious.
Chicago had no flow at either end of the floor, giving up easy looks to Boston while showing an inability to score against a Celtics defense that they have lit up for long stretches in Games 1 and 2.
The Bulls scored 11 straight in the second quarter before a dunk by Al Horford snapped the cold spell which put the Celtics ahead 39-28.
But Chicago continued to charge forward, and had a chance to tie the game at the end of the second quarter but Jimmy Butler’s last-second heave just grazed the rim as time expired.
For most of the first half, Chicago’s best offensive play was getting the ball in Wade’s hands and letting him go at it. He led all scorers with 14 points in the first half on 5-for-10 shooting along with three assists.
He was among the many Celtics who consistently missed open shots in Games 1 and 2. That was not the case in Game 3 as Bradley scored 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
His scoring in the first quarter really set the tone for the Celtics offensively. He had 10 points, all of which came in the first quarter.
He was the latest Chicago reserve to give Boston fits with his scoring. At the half, he had eight points.
He did a much better job of keeping Robin Lopez from inflicting too much damage on the Celtics, while finding a way to get himself going a bit, too. He had eight points and three rebounds which included 2-for-3 from 3-point range.
Arguably the best player in this series, Butler was a non-factor throughout the first half. After two quarters of play, Butler had two points and four rebounds while missing seven of his eight shot attempts from the field.