Watch as the Bulls take on the Boston Celtics on Sunday night on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. with a special one-hour edition of Bulls Pregame Live. And be sure to stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.
Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live-streaming coverage of the Bulls.
Five things to watch
1. Playoffs Jimmy Butler. When the Bulls made the playoffs two seasons ago Butler was just coming into his own as a star in the NBA. When he made an even bigger jump a year ago the Bulls missed out on the postseason. Fast-forward a year and Butler is better than ever and being asked to carry a bigger load than ever. The best players step up when the stakes are highest, and Butler has shown up in the clutch many times over the course of his young career. This is his biggest stage yet.
2. How will Isaiah Thomas focus? Tragedy struck the Celtics' leading scorer just one day before tipoff when Thomas' sister, Chyna, was killed in a highway accident in Washington. Basketball seems trivial at this point, but the reality is the game is going to be played and one has to wonder how it will affect the All-Star point guard.
3. Hitting the glass. The Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA this season, ranking 27th in rebound percentage. Not only were the Bulls excellent on the offensive glass in 2016-17, players like Butler and Rajon Rondo rebound so well for their position that it could have an even bigger effect. Missed shots won't be the end of the world for the Bulls, but it will if they aren't hitting the glass hard. It's almost worth it to risk transition points because of how much Boston allows on the glass. It'll be a key to every game in the series.
4. Jimmy Butler vs. Jae Crowder. These two former college teammates don't like each other, and they're also an excellent matchup and don't mind getting scrappy. That should make for excellent playoff basketball, and it wouldn't be surprising to see these two scuffle early in Game 1 to set the tone for the rest of the series.
5. More nail-biters? The last time these two teams met it created one of the most epic playoff series in NBA history. These two teams appear more evenly matched than your usual 1-vs.-8, and one has to wonder if we'll see some overtimes, buzzer-beaters and massive box score lines. We can only hope so.
The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.
It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.
The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.
James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.
Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.
It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.
That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.
Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.
"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"
Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.
"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"
Watch the video above to see the interaction.
Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.