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Sunday’s NBA playoffs: Bulls hold off grieving Celtics

Kyle Hightower
Associated Press

Boston — Jimmy Butler had 30 points and nine rebounds and the Chicago Bulls outlasted Boston, 106-102, in Game 1 on Sunday on an emotional night for grieving Celtics star Isaiah Thomas.

Playing a day after his 22-year-old sister, Chyna Thomas, was killed in a car accident in their home state of Washington, Thomas led the top-seeded Celtics with 33 points.

Butler scored 23 in the second half. Bobby Portis finished with 19 for the Bulls.

Condolences for Thomas poured in from around the league, from NBA commissioner Adam Silver and various players and friends. Thomas, in his sixth season, grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and starred at the University of Washington.

On his shoes were written “Chyna” and “I love you.”

“He’s struggling,” coach Brad Stevens said before the game. “Obviously, it’s tragic circumstances that he and his family are going through right now. Our thoughts, first and foremost are with them. … We’ve talked a little bit last night and then again today (that) as he goes through it and if he feels like he needs to not (play) — then whatever he wants.”

But he played, and played as well as anyone on the court.

“Isaiah is a very strong man and none of us have any idea what he’s going through or feeling,” said Boston’s Al Horford, who had 19 points, eight assists and seven rbeoundes.

“The fact that he’s even here is just a lot of credit to him. It’s a difficult time, but we’re here for him and we’re going to go out and compete and play hard.”

Neither team had more than a two-possession lead until Butler made three free throws with 4 minutes to play make it 95-88. Butler scored 10 straight points to put the Bulls back in front early in the fourth, the first of three lead changes in the fourth quarter.

Later, Thomas had a scary moment when he was hit on his left hand on a 3-point attempt before landing awkwardly on it. After a quick visit to the trainer, he calmly made all three free throws.

It was part of a stretch in which he scored seven straight.

Still, Thomas appeared to be a little emotional at the start of the game, badly missing his first free throw short off the front rim.

Celtics fans rallied behind Thomas, showering him with a deafening cheer when he was introduced.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Boston.

(At) Golden State 121, Portland 109: Kevin Durant had 32 points and 10 rebounds in his Golden State playoff debut, Stephen Curry scored 29, and the Warriors withstood a sensational day by Portland duo CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard to take Game 1 of the first-round series.

McCollum scored a playoff career-best 41, and Lillard had 34, but the Warriors made the crucial big plays on both ends down the stretch with Portland playing without center Jusuf Nurkic.

Draymond Green (Michigan State) contributed 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and five blocked shots to help last season’s second-place team take the first step in what it is counting on to be a championship run.

(At) Washington 114, Atlanta 107: John Wall scored a playoff career-high 32 and Markieff Morris added 21 in his NBA postseason debut to help Washington take Game 1. Wall scored 15 in the third quarter and finished with 14 assists. Bradley Beal had 22 points, and the Wizards got enough from their top players to offset 25 points from Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder and 19 from Paul Millsap.

Dwight Howard had 14 rebounds but just seven points.