Bulls have too much star power as they take Game 1 from Celtics
BOSTON — Bobby Portis was unexpectedly great.
The second-year big man scored 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting off the bench and grabbed nine rebounds.
Robin Lopez was physical, as expected.
The veteran big man had 11 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end.
But in a star league at a star time of the season, that’s where the Bulls really had an advantage against the Boston Celtics. And if the Bulls’ 106-102 victory Sunday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series shocked some people, well, it didn’t shock them.
Thanks to 30 points and nine rebounds from Jimmy Butler and a combined 23 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists from Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, the eighth-seeded Bulls took down the top-seeded Celtics and came away feeling like there was more where that came from.
‘‘I mean, for the most part,’’ Wade said when he was asked if there was a certain comfort the Bulls have in knowing they have more stars than the Celtics do. ‘‘Obviously, you have some teams that have won that said you don’t need it, as well. But it’s comforting. It’s comforting for the coaches. It’s comforting for when you’re playing young guys. It’s comforting for them when they know you have guys that you can go to that are going to make the right decision, that are going to get fouls late in games and make the free throws, make big shots. So it’s very comforting when you have that.
‘‘And we’re blessed to have that guy over there Butler] that can do it. And when they call my number, I try to do it, as well. So I think that’s comforting for our team.’’
It’s not to say the Bulls were only a three-man show. They leaned on Butler in crunch time but looked like a team with multiple options. For Celtics, it was more like Isaiah Thomas or bust.
‘‘We were so locked in all week,’’ Butler said. ‘‘We knew their stuff, just like they knew ours, but we executed extremely well. We haven’t done that most of the season, but this was the right time to do it.’’
Especially with the emotional storm they were facing.
Thomas was playing with a heavy heart, and there was some doubt whether he even would play after his younger sister, Chyna, was killed in a one-car crash Saturday morning in Washington.
But play he did, scoring 33 points. In the final five minutes, however, he only scored once when Butler was guarding him and didn’t get switched off.
Big-name players come up big when it counts. That’s why the Bulls sounded and acted confident leading up to the game, despite all the ups and downs of their regular season. Their roster is almost better-suited for postseason play.
‘‘If you’re going to beat [the Celtics], you’re going to earn it,’’ Wade said. ‘‘And I definitely felt like we earned this win.’’
As for the Celtics, they will have to prepare for Game 2, as well as with the emotions Thomas still will be dealing with.
‘‘It’s a difficult time for Isaiah and his family and for us, as well,’’ Celtics big man Al Horford said. ‘‘We wanted to come out and be able to win this game, but there are bigger things than just basketball.’’
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