With Rajon Rondo sidelined, Celtics humble Bulls in Game 3

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Celtics big man Al Horford was making his feelings known — and not just to a cameraman who was filming him as he walked off the court toward the visitors’ locker room Friday at the United Center.

‘‘Roadkill, roadkill,’’ Horford yelled to Bulls fans. ‘‘Down 2-1 now. . . . We’re right back in it!’’

Considering how bad the Bulls looked without injured point guard Rajon Rondo in Game 3, ‘‘right back in it’’ was pretty accurate.

Facing close to a must-win situation after having lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series at home, the Celtics manhandled the Bulls 104-87 and finally looked like a No. 1 seed playing a No. 8 seed.

The result gave the Celtics new life and sent the Bulls to the film room to figure out how to move forward without Rondo.

‘‘We’re not going to put this all on us missing Rondo,’’ veteran guard Dwyane Wade said. ‘‘If that’s the case, we might as well not show up anymore because it looks like we’re going to be missing him for a while.’’

Rondo injured his right thumb in the third quarter of the Bulls’ victory Tuesday in Game 2 but continued playing and fell a rebound shy of a triple-double. The Bulls found out late Thursday that the thumb was fractured, and Rondo was ruled out indefinitely.

Before the injury, the ‘‘Three Alphas’’ — the nickname Rondo gave Wade, Jimmy Butler and himself in training camp — were showing the Celtics what star power in the playoffs was all about.

In Rondo’s absence, starter Jerian Grant and backup Michael Carter-Williams combined for eight points, three assists and seven turnovers. Butler and Wade also struggled to find good scoring opportunities, combining to shoot 13-for-39 from the field.

Still, the Bulls were trying to say all the right things in the wake of the loss, hoping that Rondo’s injury won’t lead to a collapse.

‘‘You’ve got a guy who has been in so many playoff series, been to the Finals, won a championship — you can’t replace that,’’ Wade said. ‘‘And our young guys will come in the next game and be better.

‘‘We have to move past it. We have to figure out a way with our young point guards and the other guys on the roster to just be better next game.’’

But are the Bulls capable of that? They showed fight against the Celtics, cutting a 20-point deficit early in the second quarter to three at halftime. But the Celtics played with an urgency and a confidence not seen in the first two games and outscored the Bulls 32-22 in the third quarter to regain control.

After the game, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wouldn’t name a starting point guard for Game 4, leaving all his options open.

As for Rondo, he did make presence felt early. The cameras caught him sticking his leg out from the bench as the Celtics’ Jae Crowder was running by.

Dirty play or coincidence? Rondo pleaded the latter.

‘‘When you tear an ACL, your leg gets stiff on you once in a while,’’ Rondo said with a straight face. ‘‘I stretched my leg out.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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