BOSTON (AP) — The Chicago Bulls talked 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 and 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 3 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 2 after he hurt them with 19 points off the bench in Game 1. But Paul Zipser picked up the slack in Game 2, scoring 16 points in 29 minutes.
After getting thoroughly pushed around underneath in Game 1, 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 3s. As a polished team we have to know when to take those shots and when not to.”
Bulls: Nikola Mirotic finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. … Chicago held a 14-9 edge in fast-break points and 14-12 advantage on second-chance points. … Now hold a 22-rebound advantage through two games of the series.
Celtics: Finished with 16 turnovers, leading to 23 Chicago points. …Thomas shot 7 of 13 from the free throw line. …. Scored 46 points in the first half of both Games 1 and 2. … Have failed to score 100 points in three of their last four postseason games dating back to last year.
Wade said the Bulls’ performance so far in this series is a testament to how much they’ve grown.
“You play the 82 games to learn a little bit about yourself,” he said. “One thing I learned about this team is through adverse situations, this team sticks together.”
Thomas did not speak to the media afterward and will now head to Tacoma, Washington to be with his family to finalize funeral arrangements for his sister, Chyna Thomas. But Bradley said while the team continues to grieve for him, it can’t be a distraction when they are on the court.
“We have to play hard no matter what,” Bradley said. “You go through a lot throughout a season. You’re going to face a lot of adversity. The best teams overcome any type of adversity.”
GAME 2 BLUES
Boston fell to just 14-4 in Game 2 at home following a loss in Game 1. Chicago’s win also snapped the Celtics’ six-game winning streak in such games.
The series shifts to Chicago on Friday night for Game 3.