BOSTON—The Chicago Bulls spoke often during the regular season about believing they had the personnel to play as a physically imposing team.
Their output has caught up to those desires so far during the postseason.
Jimmy Butler scored 22 points, Rajon Rondo finished one rebound shy of a triple-double as the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics, 111-97, on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their series against the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
While some might be shocked by how Chicago has played as a No. 8 seed that was just 41-41, Butler made it clear he’s not one of those folks.
“I’m not surprised because everybody’s so locked in right now,” said Butler, who added eight rebounds and eight assists.
Rondo had 11 points and 14 assists on a night when all five Bulls starters reached double figures. Dwyane Wade had 22 points, including 16 in the second half, and Robin Lopez added 18 points and eight points.
“Everybody’s putting in each work, watching film, working on their game,” Butler said. “That’s where your confidence always comes from.”
The Bulls host Game Three on Friday.
After a better start by the Celtics, a familiar theme started to take hold as the Bulls took control by again dominating on the offensive glass. Chicago held a 43-38 rebounding edge for the game.
Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston.
Boston got within 91-82 early in the fourth before Chicago went on a 14-4 run to push its lead up to 19.
The Celtics did a much better job containing reserve Bobby Portis in Game Two after he hurt them with 19 points off the bench in Game One. But Paul Zipser picked up the slack in Game Two, scoring 16 points in 29 minutes.
After getting thoroughly pushed around underneath in Game One, the Celtics grabbed the first four rebounds of the night while scoring the game’s first seven points.
That changed quickly, though, as the Bulls responded with a 20-4 run. Boston’s early rebounding edge evaporated just as fast, with all five Bulls starters grabbing an offensive rebound in the first six minutes of action.
Boston shot 46 percent for game, but too many times was just one-and-done in the half court.
Chicago again used its big men to push the Celtics out of the paint and was quicker to the ball in a lot of 50-50 situations. The Bulls outscored the Celtics in the paint 32-20 for the half.
“I feel like in the second half, the ball stopped moving. It wasn’t moving at all,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “Even when we made a good play, got a steal, got an offensive rebound, we were just thinking quick threes. As a polished team we have to know when to take those shots and when not to.”
Kyle Lowry scored 22 points, including the clinching basket with less than 10 seconds to play, and Toronto beat Milwaukee, 106-100, to even the first-round playoff series at 1-1.
DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, Serge Ibaka added 13 of his 16 in the second half and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 5-1 when playing Game Two of a playoff series on their home court.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks. Khris Middleton scored 20 points and Greg Monroe had 18.
Blake Griffin led a smash-mouth revival of Lob City with 24 points, DeAndre Jordan had a double-double and Los Angeles beat Utah, 99-91, to also even their playoff series at 1-1.
Jordan finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 21 points and 10 assists for the Clippers, who crushed the Jazz in the paint, 60-38.
Los Angeles stormed to a 12-point lead in the first quarter, reeling off the kind of dunks that earned the team’s Lob City moniker years ago. Jordan’s tomahawk jam put an exclamation on the end of the period.
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 20 points. Joe Johnson, whose floater at the buzzer gave them a two-point win in Game One, added 13 points off the bench.
Image credits: AP