Bradley steps up for Celtics in 108-97 Game 5 win over Bulls

Bradley steps up for Celtics in 108-97 Game 5 win over Bulls

BOSTON – It was the little fella from Tacoma, Wash. getting it done for the Boston Celtics.
And no, I’m not talking about Isaiah Thomas this time.
It was the other half of the Celtics’ Tacoma tandem in the backcourt, Avery Bradley, who played the role of difference-maker all night long in Boston’s 108-97 Game 5 win over the Chicago.
Boston now leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, with a chance to move on to the next round of the playoffs with a Game 6 win at Chicago on Friday.
Bradley finished with a playoff career-high 24 points to go with six rebounds. Boston also got a strong game from Isaiah Thomas (24 points) and Al Horford (21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds).
Meanwhile, Chicago was led by Dwyane Wade who had a near triple-double of 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Jimmy Butler and Robin Lopez each had 14 points.
After three lead changes in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, Thomas’ short runner in the lane gave Boston an 96-89 lead with 5:40 to play, their largest of the game at that point.
That game-high milestone didn’t last long, with Horford making it a 98-89 game just 25 seconds later.
Boston’s crowd was into the game because of the team’s strong run that was fueled even more so by Celtics legend Kevin Garnett delivering a message on the Jumbotron to the fired-up Celtics faithful who were so loud that no one had any idea what the hell Garnett said.
Frustrated by the game’s momentum clearly in Boston’s favor, Wade was called for a technical foul on a play in which Thomas was fouled driving to the basket.
Just like that, Boston was on a 23-6 run following a pair of free throws by Horford that put Boston ahead 104-89.
Chicago was able to chip away at Boston’s lead, but never made up enough ground to where Boston’s down-the-stretch control was ever seriously threatened.
Boston’s ability to pull away in the fourth quarter looked nothing like what we saw through the first three quarters of play.
The third quarter looked like a carbon copy of the first half as they continued to exchange leads with neither team putting together the kind of run to put some distance between the two teams.
Knowing how pivotal Game 5 is in this series, it wasn’t all that surprising that both teams played with a heightened sense of urgency most of the game.
Not surprisingly, the third quarter margin was decided on the final shot of the quarter, a 3-pointer by Butler that gave the Bulls an 81-79 lead going into the fourth quarter.
After a back and forth first half with six ties and six lead changes, the Celtics went into the half clinging to a slim 52-50 lead.
Boston spent most of the first quarter playing catch-up to the Bulls who opened with a 12-4 run.
After missing several open to lightly contested shots to start the quarter, Boston soon got going behind Bradley whose nine first-quarter points allowed Boston to close the first with an 11-2 run and lead 23-20.
Chicago’s Bobby Portis tied the game with a 3-pointer, only for Boston to score four straight which included a breakaway dunk by Terry Rozier that led to the Bulls calling a time-out.
But Chicago, scrappy as ever, continued to stay within striking distance unlike Games 3 and 4 when they fell behind by 20 points in the first half of both games.
However, the Celtics looked on the verge of finishing the second quarter playing well.
After Chicago’s Paul Zipser made it a 40-37 game in favor of the Bulls, Boston went on an 8-2 run to lead 45-42.
But a Bulls time-out was just what Chicago needed as they got back-to-back scores by Butler to regain the lead, 46-45.
A 3-pointer by Thomas with less than a minute to play, his lone basket of the first half, would be the final made basket by the Celtics in the first half which was good enough to give them a slim two-point lead.

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pelicans in New Orleans. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”