The Chicago Bulls hardly were kind to the Celtics on Sunday night, dealing Boston a 106-102 loss at TD Garden to steal home-court advantage in the best-of-seven NBA playoff series.
But Sunday was about much more than basketball, and the Bulls knew it.
Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, grieving from the shocking death of his 22-year-old sister, Chyna, delivered a remarkable, emotion-filled performance, scoring a game-high 33 points despite playing with a visibly heavy heart.
Thomas’ teammates and TD Garden fans did their best to pick up their star player throughout the night, and even the Bulls expressed their sympathy for the All-Star point guard after their playoff win.
“Our focus obviously is on the game and our game plan,” Bulls veteran Dwyane Wade told reporters after the game, via the Boston Herald. “But this is a brotherhood in the NBA, and our hearts do go out to him. I don’t understand what he’s going through at all; just understand that all of our hearts do go out to him and his family.”
Bulls star Jimmy Butler, who befriended Thomas at this year’s All-Star Game, left Sunday’s game impressed by Thomas’ ability to perform at the highest level despite an unthinkable tragedy.
“It just shows the type of player and type of man, (the) type of person he is to go out and battle through what he was going through for his organization and his team,” Butler said.
Ex-Celtics guard Rajon Rondo left Thomas with an uplifting message.
“I sent my condolences to him (Saturday) and told him I was praying for him and his family,” Rondo said. “But he’s a tough guy, and I know he’s going to be OK.”
The Celtics and Bulls will take the floor in Boston on Tuesday night for Game 2.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images