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Isaiah Canaan gets the nod, will try to play savior in Game 5

The cast was off Rajon Rondo’s right wrist Monday, but the Bulls’ point-guard problems persist.

Coach Fred Hoiberg quickly put the kibosh on a Game 5 return for Rondo, pointing out that his fractured right thumb was still in a splint.

He even named the team’s third starting point guard for the series, giving Isaiah Canaan the nod.

Canaan, who didn’t play for long spells throughout the season, has played in only 14 games since Dec. 21.

“It really tests the mental part of basketball,’’ said Canaan, who admitted that there are times when it’s hard not to take it personally and lament one’s standing in the organization. “I mean as basketball players, our job is to play whenever it may be. It may be the first 10 games of the season; it may be the last 10 games of the season.

“Throughout the season, you just wonder when that opportunity is going to come. I believe everything happens for a reason. You never can see what it may be, going from not playing for the second half of the season to playing in the most crucial time of the season in the playoffs.’’

“Crucial’’ is an apt way to sum it up.

The Bulls took a 2-0 lead over the top-seeded Celtics, only to find out that Rondo, who injured his thumb late in Game 2, could miss the rest of the series.

The domino effect was quick. Hoiberg went with Jerian Grant in the starting lineup in Game 3, stuck with him early in Game 4 but pulled him in less than five minutes. Michael Carter-Williams lasted about five minutes, then Hoiberg finally turned to the seldom-used Canaan to try to slow down Celtics star Isaiah Thomas.

Canaan actually had some good moments and will get a chance to help salvage the Bulls’ postseason with the series tied at 2.

Containing Thomas won’t be an easy task, especially after Hoiberg called out the officials for overlooking how often Thomas carries the ball.

Hoiberg did not hear back from the league, but he knows that some sectors were turned off by his comments, considering Thomas lost his sister in a car accident right before the playoffs started.

Hoiberg addressed that aspect of the controversy, as well, saying insensitivity was not the intent.

“I’m a huge Isaiah Thomas fan,’’ Hoiberg said. “I think the world of the kid, especially what he’s going through now, how he’s fought through that, and like I said last night, he’s a warrior to go out there and do what he’s done so far in this series.

“He’s a guy I think a lot of people root for because of the chip on his shoulder he plays with. He was the last pick in the draft, and now he’s a guy you’d argue could be in the MVP race. So I’m a huge fan. I said what I said, and I’m done talking about it.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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