BOSTON — The Celtics haven’t been in many close games this season. That changed Wednesday night.
Boston found itself in a dogfight with the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden but showed resolve down the stretch, using a big fourth quarter to secure a 105-100 win in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
Isaiah Thomas paced the Celtics with 20 points despite being held scoreless in the first half. Boston put a remarkable eight players in double figures, with James Young and Jonas Jerebko (zero points combined) the only Celtics not to reach 10 or more points.
Jared Sullinger (10 points, 16 rebounds), recorded his seventh double-double of the season, while Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with a career-high 36 points.
The win, which improves Boston to 13-9, was the club’s second in six games decided by 10 points or less.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson
The Celtics stepped up when it mattered most Wednesday night.
With the teams tied at 75-75 after three quarters, Boston ripped off a 12-2 run to start the fourth, punctuated by David Lee’s turn-back-the-clock slam:
The Bulls rattled off a brief spurt of their own, at one point cutting the Celtics’ lead to five, but Thomas poured in eight points down the stretch to help the home team hang on for the win.
Jae Crowder brought it on both ends of the court right from the opening tipoff.
The Celtics swingman tallied three steals in the game’s first nine minutes, and his ferocious defense helped Boston heat up after a slow start offensively. Crowder also helped in that regard, knocking down a team-high nine points on 4 of 7 shooting in the first frame.
BIG ROLE REVERSAL
Boston’s guards usually pace the offense, but the exact opposite was true in the first half.
Thomas didn’t record a single bucket through the first two quarters, while Avery Bradley tallied just four points on brutal 2 of 10 shooting.
Yet the Celtics only trailed by three points at half thanks to the help of their bigs. Kelly Olynyk chipped in 12 points in 12 minutes, while Amir Johnson added 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting in the first half. The Celtics had outscored the Bulls 32-18 in the paint by halftime.
Bradley has emerged as one of the league’s best shooters, but he certainly didn’t look like one Wednesday night.
Bradley missed his first five shots in the first quarter before finally getting on the board with an easy layup. Things didn’t get much better for the 25-year-old guard, who finished with just 10 points on 5 of 15 shooting. He had connected on 46.2 percent of his field goals entering the night.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
This one’s easy. Evan Turner brought the TD Garden crowd to its feet in the second quarter with a monster 360 dunk.
A date with the league’s best. The Celtics will welcome Stephen Curry and the 23-0 Golden State Warriors to town Friday night with a chance to end their unbeaten streak. Tipoff at TD Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images