Tag Archives: Isaiah Thomas

Note-A-Bulls: Isaiah Thomas leads Celtics to 104-95 win at the UC to even series

I feel sorry for any Bulls fans that thought a 2-0 lead coming back to the United Center meant anything. For the fourth time in as many games this series, the road team has come away with a victory. Tonight’s final score: Boston 104, Chicago 95. With the shocking loss of Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna prior to Game 1, the Celtics were dealt a difficult blow, and the Bulls were gifted a head start in the series race, as the Boston squad struggled to figure out how to cope with their team’s leader suffering mentally and emotionally. But the two days off heading to Chicago did wonders for the Celtics, and now, the discrepancy between these two teams both in talent and cohesion is starting to show: the Celtics won two convincing games in Chicago to even up the series and regain home court advantage.

  • Jimmy Butler is trying to do it all on his own — God knows he’s not getting any help. Check it out: 45 minutes (out of 48!), 33 points, 19-23 from the charity stripe, five rebounds, nine assists, and a steal. He couldn’t find his shot from three point range tonight, missing all three of his attempts, and the Bulls could’ve used it. Butler kept the Bulls in the game, but the Celtics were just too much.
  • I never thought I’d say this, but the Bulls miss Rajon Rondo. He’s been super sub-par, bordering on terrible the entire year, but in the first two games of the series he was a rockstar. It’s like a switch flipped in his head and he decided he wasn’t allowed or supposed to be awful anymore. But Rondo has been sidelined for two games (inj, hand), and the Bulls are suffering for it. They’ve been playing their best (worst?) version of YMCA hero-ball trying to figure out who’s going to take the 1-on-1 matchup this time down the court.
  • Speaking of Wade (^^ duh), he was worse than a non-factor tonight; he was a hindrance. He had a whopping 37 minutes of court time, but only had 11 points off 12 shots, and six rebounds to show for it. Honestly, sometimes I forget he’s out there. There was a time when a Wade breakaway was not only a bucket-certainty, but just a matter of how high up the SC Top 10 it was going to climb. Tonight, no such luck. One noteworthy fast break resulted in a Wade missed layup and Boston coming back the other way with numbers.
  • Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan each put up 13 points. Canaan hit three shots from beyond the arc and finished with +11 in 34 minutes, getting more usage with Rondo out. Worth noting: Rondo was fined by the NBA for attempting to trip Jae Crowder in Game 3 (smh).
  • For the second time in two games, the Bulls dug an early 20 point deficit, erased it by storming back to get into the game, only to fall by double digits in the end. It was sparked when the Celtics led 41-21 early in the second quarter: Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and took it down for a layup. In a weird series of events, Smart faked throwing the ball at Butler, the two got up close and personal, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to catch fire. Sometimes it takes something strange to change the momentum. It’s unsurprising, though: the NBA is a game of runs, and when you get down a bunch, it’s expected that the team with the deficit will make it interesting. The Bulls did just that, but could never get over the hump and take any meaningful lead. Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics found ways to close the door on any hope pretty quickly.
  • A note about Isaiah Thomas: he’s back doing what he does best: attacking, driving, dishing, leading, and playmaking. In Game 4, he dominated the stats sheet: in 35 minutes, Thomas drained 10 buckets off 21 shots, added 12 free throws for 33 points, seven assists, and a steal to boot. He had a massive +17 during his time on the floor, by far the best mark of anyone on either team. He says he’s not really in the game, so if that’s true, his teammates are helping him do a phenomenal job playing pretend. He and Celtics share the ball beautifully and get great looks. The Bulls should take note.
  • Up Next: Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday. The team that wins Game 5 when the series is knotted at 2-2 goes on to win the series over 80% of the time. Game on.
Advertisements

Note-A-Bulls: Rondo shines as Bulls take commanding 2-0 series lead over Celtics

After a surprising game one victory, the Chicago Bulls looked to earn a commanding 2-0 lead on the No.1 seed Boston Celtics. It’s safe to say that stealing one game in Boston is already a huge positive for the Bulls, but with a chance to put a chokehold on a potential NBA Finals team, the Bulls had a great opportunity to make even more noise than they did in Game 1.

Boston began the game on a 7-0 run, with star point guard Isaiah Thomas scoring five of the team’s first seven points. However, that was the best part of the quarter for Boston. After former Celtic Rajon Rondo hit a short jumper to give the Bulls an 11-10 lead, Chicago got hot. The Bulls went on a 14-5 run throughout the middle of the first quarter. However, despite the extremely promising start, these are the 2016-17 Chicago Bulls. In the last two minutes of the quarter, the Celtics cut the Bulls lead to five, with the box score reading 31-26 in favor of the Bulls.

Boston’s hot end to the second quarter continued early on in the second quarter. After Jae Crowder made a layup from Marcus Smart, Boston tied the game at 36. However, the Bulls did not let Boston’s large run that stretched across the end of the first and early into the second break their spirit. They were able to push their lead back to ten, after Boston missed seven consecutive shots. Robin Lopez (Yes, Robin Lopez) continued to take advantage of Boston’s poor rebounding. It was assumed that Lopez would have a decent series, but no one saw what he is doing. At the 4:50 mark in the second, Lopez had eight points and four rebounds, shooting 80 percent from the floor. The great play didn’t stop there. Boston took at timeout at the 4:50 mark. However, right after the timeout, the Bulls pushed their lead to eleven off a great breakout pass by Rajon Rondo. Boston finally registered a field goal for the first time in five minutes after Crowder hit a three to cut the lead back to eight. The Bulls held strong as the half closed out, keeping their lead at eight. Rondo (Yes, Rondo) was leading the way for the Bulls. He finished the half with a vintage Rondo stat line, with eight points, nine assists and seven rebounds. On plays where Rondo could help the Bulls create a shot, they shot 59 percent from the floor. On plays where he wasn’t involved, they only shot 38 percent. The Bulls did a great job in the first half taking care of the basketball, as they only had four turnovers.

The third quarter started out promising for Boston, but the Bulls continued to keep their foot on the gas. The Boston crowd was doing everything and anything to push their beloved Celtics to break out and get a lead. Al Horford, who only had three points in the first half, began the scoring with a strong dunk to try and get that crowd up. However, you could just see we were in for a fist fight. Lopez had all six of the Bulls points to start the quarter, keeping their lead at one at the 8:10 mark. The good play continued for the Bulls, as once Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade returned to the floor, they went on a 15-6 run to put their lead back to ten. That run would continue, as after a Boston timeout at the 4:56 mark, the Bulls scored nine unanswered before Boston finally found a basket to cut the Bulls lead to twelve. As the minutes shrunk, the Bulls continued to stand tall. Michael Carter-Williams made a surprise appearance into the game, after Jerian Grant looked lost on an offensive possession. Jimmy Butler was barking at Grant for a good five seconds. After three, the Bulls led 86-75. Boston, with twelve minutes to go, needed a push early in the fourth if the Bulls weren’t going to steal Game 2.

The fourth quarter started how you’d expect it would, the Bulls started out OK. Again, Boston was searching for everything and anything to get their crowd loud and make a push to get the lead. Kelly Olynyk sunk a three at the 10:04 mark, cutting the Bulls lead to nine. Fred Hoiberg made a smart decision, by taking a timeout immediately after the three. The last thing the Bulls needed was to let the Boston crowd back into this game. As the minutes shrunk, the intensity of the game certainly increased. You could see Boston fighting on every possession, but not getting the result they wanted. The Bulls continued to keep their foot on the gas and stand tall. At the 6:01 mark, the Bulls earned their largest lead of the night of 16, after Rondo registered his 14th assist of the game on an alley-oop to Cristiano Felicio. After that play, the Boston faithful finally seemed to go quiet. As a result, the Bulls were able to slow the game down, and wind down the clock. Eventually, that clock hit 0:00, and the Bullsß earned a 2-0 lead on the Celtics. Wade finished the game as the leading scorer, with 22 points. However, it was Rondo and Lopez that anchored this win. Rondo finished one assist shy of a triple-double, and Lopez finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, shooting an astounding 73 percent from the floor.

What a bizarre first week of the playoffs for the City of Chicago. I don’t know what’s happened, but somehow this is working. The Celtics are one of the weaker No.1 seeds you’ll see, but nobody saw this. Nobody saw Rajon Rondo dancing with triple-double numbers, or Robin Lopez averaging a double-double. However, these things have happened, and your Chicago Bulls lead 2-0 in a series that nobody thought they had a chance in. The Bulls can’t take their foot off the gas heading into Game 3, as Boston is going to do everything to steal one back at the United Center and make this a series. However, one thing is for sure. The UC is going to be a “sea of red” on Friday night.

Up Next: The Bulls return to the UC Friday night vs. the Celtics where there is sure to be a raucous crowd for this now-surging team.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls shock Boston in Game One 106-102 to steal home-court from East’s #1 seed

One win down. Three to go. In what shall henceforth be referred to as the Bobby Portis Game, the Chicago Bulls stunned the #1 seed Boston Celtics by a score of 106-102 in the TD Garden to take a 1-0 series edge in this best of 7 first round clash.

Bobby Portis had far and away his best game as a Bull, scoring 19 on 8/10 shooting and 3/4 from deep while grabbing nine boards, the Arkansas product kept the Bulls in this game when it looked like Boston may take hold of the game. Ending the game with a +/- of +12, Portis’ confidence shown through at a critical time in this game when Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade were unable to find their shot.

In a back and forth affair throughout, this was by no means the prettiest playoff basketball on display thus far. There were turnovers, 35 total, poor shooting, neither team shot above 43 percent, and just overall sloppiness in this contest. But that didn’t mean this one was without intensity.

After tragically losing his sister Chyna in a car accident on Saturday, Isaiah Thomas somehow managed to suit up in Game 1 for the Celtics and did not disappoint. Thomas ended the game with 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds on 10/18 shooting in an inspirational effort by the diminutive guard. Thomas was able to get in the lane at will against this Bulls squad until Butler switched on to him in the last half of the 4th quarter. From that point on, Thomas found it much tougher treading as the Celtic offense struggled down the stretch with their best player being locked down by the Bull’s superstar.

In a first half where both teams probably felt fortunate to be in the game, the Bulls went into the locker room with a slim advantage 48-46. The Bulls were shooting a measly 2/14 from beyond the arc and only 38 percent overall. Meanwhile, the Celtics had turned the ball over 11 times before the break and had surrendered a whopping 16 offensive boards already. While both teams were feeling fortunate to be in the game, they also both were probably shaking their head at the inability to create a double-digit lead due to the other teams poor play.

In the second half, the difference came down to bench productivity and one team having Jimmy Butler. Both those landed in favor of the Bulls, as on top of Portis, Jerian Grant and Cristiano Felicio each contributed positive minutes with Grant hitting a huge three late in the last frame.

After that, Jimmy Butler did what he does best, try to single handedly close out games for this inconsistent Bulls squad. Fortunately, he was able to do so. Scoring 23 of his 30 points after halftime, Butler stepped up when his team needed him most, knocking down some clutch contested treys while the game hung in the balance. His defense down the stretch on IT also proved critical in shutting down the Celtics the last five minutes.

While Sunday night was a rare bright spot for this organization over the past few years, it wasn’t without its reminders of why the Bulls secured the East’s 8th and final playoff seed. Nikola Mirotic was downright horrific in Game One. In 19 minutes, the forward scored just four points on a dreadful 1/9 from the field including 0/5 from three. His defense also showed little to be desired as his mere presence on the court put the Bulls at a disadvantage on both ends. The Bulls will need Mirotic to step up his game if they want to take three more in this series to pull the upset.

Additionally, while the Bulls somewhat solved their woes in the 4th quarter, they still struggled to close out the game. Thanks to a couple unforced turnovers by the Bulls, the Celtics received ample opportunities to come back in the final minute of play. If they hit one of their open threes in that final minute, we could easily be talking about another 4th quarter meltdown for Los Bulls. Fortunately that was not the case, but again, they need to tighten this thing up if they really are going to push the Celtics in this series.

As for the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas was great. His effort was nothing short of herculean given what he went through over the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, there were times when he seemed to be on an island out there getting no help from his teammates. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley need to perform better than their 9/25 combined shooting night to take some of the pressure off of IT. Thomas ended the night with a +/- of +12 in 38 minutes of play. The Celtics can’t be that bad in the 10 minutes per game Thomas is on the bench, and with the bench combining for only 22 points, that was not the case on Sunday night.

Up Next: The Bulls will look to take a commanding 2-0 lead back to the UC on Tuesday night in TD Garden where the Celtics will be out for revenge.

Note-A-Bulls: Boston hands the helpless Bulls their fifth straight loss 100-80

I’m not sure how many doom and gloom articles have been written about the Bulls this year, but there’s about to be one more added to the list. In what can only be described as an absolute thumping, the Bulls (31-35) lost to the Celtics (42-25) on Sunday afternoon 100-80 in a game that somehow wasn’t as close as the score indicated. There are numerous stats that illustrate the Bulls ineptitude in this contest but I think one stands above the rest. With under 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, the Bulls had amassed a grand total of three field goals and had managed to turn the ball over six times. Their turnover to field goal ratio was an astounding 2:1 with under 10 minutes to go in the first half.

This one started bad and stayed ugly as the Bulls managed to score a measly 26 points in the entire first half. That was “good enough” for lowest mark of any NBA team at the half this season and only three more than the Bulls franchise low of 23 in a half.

There were several issues with the offense, especially in the first half. The most glaringly obvious were the spacing issues. There were times in the first half when there would be four of the five Bulls on the court on the same side of it. Or four Bulls clogging the lane at the same time. These issues are pretty predictable for anyone who looks at the Bulls roster and fails to see a premier outside threat. But there were some possessions that were just downright laughable, even for this space challenged squad.

Of course, there were other offensive issues as well. Turnovers remained an issue for this squad, and general shot-making was a challenge to say the least. The Bulls actually managed to find some open looks despite their spacing problems only to clank the majority of their opportunities. The Bulls finished the first half 11/43 from the field, 25 percent. It’s hard to stay in any game shooting at that clip, especially against a quality team on the road.

Dwyane Wade had one of the more memorable quotes of the day in a post-game interview where he was asked about minutes for potentially ill-prepared players on the roster. His response: “I wish upper management could be answering these questions. Because I’m tired of answering them” (via KC Johnson). Wade’s candidness about the front office is rather refreshing in the midst of a five game losing streak. I’m sure Bulls fans would like a similar explanation as far as what exactly Gar Forman and John Paxson are planning in terms of the future of this roster.

Wade however, didn’t exactly back up his post-game talk on the court. The Marquette product finished the game with just 8 points in 26 minutes while accumulating a career-worst +/- rating of -37. That’s a hard number to reach being on the floor for just over a half of basketball. Wade wasn’t particularly bad (minus a defensive gaffe in the first), but if you’re not part of the solution than you’re part of the problem. So he gets a black mark for that reason alone.

Elsewhere, Cameron Payne, the Bulls newest addition, continued his struggles. Having been given the backup point guard duties and seeing an increase in playing time, Payne showed he still has a long way to go before having an impact in this league. Payne scored 7 points and added 3 assists in 20 minutes on 3/7 shooting. However, he also managed to turn the ball over a concerning 5 times and generally showed little grasp of the flow of the offense. Things weren’t much better on the defensive side of things as Payne was constantly being taken off the dribble leading to easy baskets in the paint for the Celtics.

It’s hard to give an MVP to anyone for their performance yesterday, but Robin Lopez would have been the most deserving. The starting center scored 13 points on 5/6 shooting and displayed his normal hustle to grab boards even when things were getting out of hand. Say what you will about his skill, Lopez always goes 100% and never takes a play off.

For Boston, Isaiah Thomas did his thing, going for 22 points on an efficient 9/14 shooting. Al Horford also had himself a nice game scoring 12 while grabbing 7 boards and handing out 6 assists. The Celtics will need Horford to have  well-rounded game if they are going to pull the upset of the Cavs in the playoffs this year. Boston needs that balance on the roster as they can’t solely rely on Thomas to do it all come playoff time.

Next Up: The Bulls travel to Charlotte tomorrow to take on the Hornets in an attempt to halt their five game skid.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls end the first half on a high note with gritty win over the Celtics

17. That’s how many Thursday night home games the Bulls have won in a row on TNT. That’s incredible. Is that an obscure stat? Perhaps. Is it an explainable fact? Absolutely not. What makes this streak even more incredible is almost every game in that stretch has come against a very good basketball team. You don’t play the Jazz on TNT, you play the likes of the Celtics, the Cavs, the Raptors. Like I said it defies explanation, which is also a phrase that could be uttered to describe the ending of the Bulls (28-29) 104-103 win over the Celtics (37-20) last night.

With one minute and twenty seconds left in the fourth quarter, Doug McDermott had just hit his second consecutive free throw to pull the Bulls within one at a score of 103-102. Over the next three combined possessions that included two consecutive Bulls offensive rebounds, both teams could not add to their tally. So with eight seconds remaining and Bulls trailing by one, it came down to Jimmy to decide things.

Butler took his time setting up his move insuring his shot would be the last. From the right wing Jimmy awkwardly pulled up for a game-winning attempt while falling off-balance, the shot did not go. But after a dejected Bulls began heading toward their bench, they had realized a somewhat questionable foul had been called. Objectively, Marcus Smart played some pretty great D and may have grazed Jimmy’s elbow on the shot, but that’s not a call you make in that circumstance. As he has done so many times this year, Jimmy came through to knock down the ensuing two free throws to take a one point advantage. A last ditched effort from Al Hereford careened off the rim and the Bulls were heading into the All-Star break on a winning streak after back-to-back impressive wins over the Raptors and Celtics and within a game of the six-seed in the East.

My unsung hero of the night goes to the oft-maligned Bobby Portis. The reserve forward had a career high 19 points to go with eight rebounds on 8/13 shooting from the floor. 13 of those points came in the first-half when the Celtics were threatening to run away with this one as they shot 53 percent in the half. Portis was hitting jump shots from all over, including one from deep, and displayed the type of hustle the Bulls had dreamed about when they drafted the 2nd year pro number 20 overall in the 2015 draft. Portis still struggled a bit on the defensive end and turned the ball over twice from traveling, but the Arkansas grad showed something the Bulls hadn’t seen out of him in a long time, potential.

Another reason the Bulls won this game was due to their dominance on the glass. The Bulls out-rebounded the Celts 51-31 on the game including a staggering 15-4 edge on the offensive boards. This allowed the Bulls to win thanks to shooting noticeably worse than the Celtics thanks to the 13 extra shots they attempted compared to their opponents. This also resulted in a decided edge in second chance points, 22-4 in the Bulls favor.

Not everything went right for the Bulls, as they continued to stink up the joint from behind the arc. They shot 6/25 on the night (24 percent), lowering their league worse average from 31.8 percent. The lack of spacing in the Bulls offense often creates a log jam in the paint which makes it much more difficult to drive with any sort of efficiency. Doug has been hit or miss, while Niko got a DNP coach’s decision leaving the Bulls ammo-less. The Bulls will never be the Warriors in terms of shooting, but you have to at least make your opponent respect your shooting ability to free up space.

Isaiah Thomas continued his recent hot-stretch going for 29 points on 8/18 shooting while going an impressive 9/9 from the charity stripe and dishing out seven assists. The diminutive guard didn’t have his usual 4th quarter heroics, often forcing up shots in the final frame, but his ability to manipulate his body to get shots off in the lane against bigger defenders is extraordinary. Thomas is a worthy all-star, and I hope he doesn’t get overlooked (no pun intended) for his stature as his game speaks volumes.

Up Next: The Bulls get a reprieve for awhile as Jimmy Butler heads to New Orleans for the All-Star game this Sunday in the annual East vs. West clash.