CHICAGO – Only 24 minutes of actual basketball time stand between the Boston Celtics moving on to the Conference semi-finals after a strong start which set the tone for the Celtics’ 54-41 halftime lead over the Chicago Bulls in their Game 6 elimination matchup.
A victory tonight will move Boston on to the second round of the playoffs for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and the franchise’s first trip since 2012.
And while it wasn’t an absolute must-win game for the Celtics, they certainly played with a heightened sense of urgency.
Indeed, Boston showed no signs of taking the Bulls for granted as they opened the game with a 9-4 spurt.
Minutes later, the Celtics went on an 8-2 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 21-11, following back-to-back dunks by Gerald Green and Al Horford, respectively.
Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, who is dealing with some knee soreness that impacted his play in Game 5, didn’t have the usual bounce to his game but was still an effective scorer nonetheless with 10 points in the first quarter.
Despite Butler’s strong start, the Celtics countered with a balanced scoring attack led by the hero of Game 5, Avery Bradley, who was key to Boston leading 30-23 after the first quarter.
The Celtics’ second unit picked up where the starters left off by scoring eight of the first 10 points of quarter to lead 38-25.
Boston’s second unit helped push the Celtics’ lead to as many as 17 points before the Bulls began to chip away at it.
A lay-up by Chicago’s Paul Zipser capped off an 8-0 run by the Bulls that cut Boston’s lead to 42-33 with 5:50 to play in the first half.
Boston continued to play with in the double-digit neighborhood before closing the quarter by scoring nine of the last 13 points to lead by 13 at the half.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Game 6 between Boston and Chicago.
Major props to Butler who was extremely productive despite being a little more dinged up than most players this time of year because of sore knees. He led all scorers at the half with 17 points.
He continues to show that he’s more than just a guard who can get buckets; but one who can get his teammates good shots as well. He only scored seven points in the first half, but dished out an impressive five assists.
The 6-foot-2 Bradley continued his strong play at both ends of the floor. In addition to playing good defense against Jimmy Butler, Bradley also had 10 points.
It was a solid but far from spectacular first half for Lopez who tallied eight points to go with four rebounds.
The Bulls continue to have no answer for Green who tallied 10 first-half points on 4-for-6 shooting.
A near triple-double in Game 5 must have taken more out of Wade than we thought. He was absolutely abysmal in the first half, struggling defensively in addition to missing six of his seven shot attempts with just two points at the half and a plus/minus of -18. Ouch!