Bulls-Celtics se­ries shifts to Chicago

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - SPORTS - By An­drew Seligman

The Chicago Bulls are the early sur­prise of this post­sea­son. They hold a stun­ning 2-0 lead over the top-seeded Celtics as the se­ries shifts to Chicago for Game 3 on Fri­day night.

CHICAGO » For a team that bick­ered and barely made the play­offs, the Chicago Bulls are the early sur­prise of this post­sea­son.

They hold a stun­ning 2-0 lead over the top-seeded Celtics as the se­ries shifts to Chicago for Game 3 on Fri­day night.

“The credit through this team stick­ing to­gether through in­juries to put our­selves in po­si­tion to make the play­offs goes to ev­ery­one from the coach­ing staff to the lead­ers to the young guys, ev­ery­one did it to­gether,” Dwyane Wade said.

The Bulls took a com­mand­ing lead in the se­ries with Tues­day’s 111-97 vic­tory, and they come home look­ing like a strong con­tender to be­come just the sixth No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1. None has swept a top seed.

It was hard to see the Bulls in this po­si­tion. They didn’t clinch a play­off spot un­til they beat Brook­lyn in the fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son game. That put Chicago back in the post­sea­son, af­ter miss­ing out a year ago for the first time since 2008.

The trip to the play­offs comes on the heels of a tur­bu­lent reg­u­lar sea­son for a tran­si­tion­ing team.

There was the big trade last sum­mer when the Bulls sent home­town fa­vorite and for­mer MVP Der­rick Rose to New York af­ter go­ing 4240. Chicago also split with Joakim Noah and Pau Ga­sol, help­ing clear the way for young play­ers such as Bobby Por­tis to get more time.

They brought in Ra­jon Rondo and then Wade in free agency, moves that seemed to go against the idea of get­ting younger. And even though they came with a com­bined four cham­pi­onships, nei­ther vet­eran filled the team’s big­gest need: bet­ter shoot­ing.

There was a big flare-up in Jan­uary when Wade and But­ler teed off on the team fol­low­ing a loss. Rondo fired back while de­fend­ing the younger play­ers, and all three vet­er­ans got fined by the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Rondo was also sus­pended for a game by the team ear­lier in the year, and he was in and out of the ro­ta­tion this sea­son.

The Bulls sat him for five straight games at one point, but had him start 13 of their fi­nal 16 games. In Game 2, he just missed a triple-dou­ble with 11 points, 14 as­sists and nine re­bounds. Just as im­por­tant, he helped con­tain Isa­iah Thomas, the Celtics’ dy­namic, high-scor­ing point guard.

“He’s a con­fi­dent kid and that rubs off on all the other guys,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s been in a lot of these big mo­ments, cham­pi­onship ex­pe­ri­ence and he’s go­ing to con­tinue to lead us as long as we are play­ing.”

At the mo­ment, ev­ery­thing seems to be go­ing right for the Bulls.

But­ler is av­er­ag­ing 26 points through the first two games. The 35-yearold Wade is com­ing off a 22-point per­for­mance in which he scored 16 in the sec­ond half. Not bad, con­sid­er­ing he missed three weeks late in the year be­cause of a frac­tured right el­bow.

The Bulls have also got­ten big con­tri­bu­tions from their role play­ers and have pounded the Celtics on the glass, out­re­bound­ing them by 22 through the first two games.

Chicago got 19 points and nine re­bounds from Por­tis in the opener. In Game 2, Robin Lopez chipped in with 18 and eight, while Paul Zipser scored 16.

“I’m just try­ing to shoot it with con­fi­dence,” said Lopez, who hit sev­eral midrange jumpers. “I’m sure Bobby told you the same thing. When­ever we’re pass­ing the ball we’re told shoot it if you’re open. That makes it easy to shoot the ball. It makes it easy for it to go in.”

Celtics’ Smart fined

Celtics guard Mar­cus Smart has been fined $25,000 by the NBA for mak­ing an ob­scene ges­ture dur­ing Bos­ton’s first-round Game 2 loss to Chicago.

The league did not re­lease video of the in­ci­dent in an­nounc­ing the fine Wed­nes­day, but TNT’s cam­eras ap­peared to show Smart giv­ing some­one the mid­dle fin­ger af­ter miss­ing a 3-pointer in the fourth quar­ter Tues­day night.

Bos­ton coach Brad Stevens said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call ear­lier in the day that he was aware of the video, but he couldn’t tell ex­actly what Smart was do­ing in it. Though, he added that “if he made a ges­ture, it’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” and said he ex­pected it would be han­dled by the league.

Smart played 27 min­utes in the 111-97 loss, fin­ish­ing with 13 points, eight re­bounds, two as­sists, two steals and two blocks.

The Bulls lead the se­ries 2-0. Game 3 is Fri­day in Chicago.

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