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Friday's NBA playoffs: Motivated Celtics pummel Bulls

By Andrew Seligman
Associated Press
Bulls' Dwyane Wade, right, and Celtics' Terry Rozier vie for a loose ball during the first quarter on Friday.

Chicago — The Boston Celtics got pep talks from a past champion as well as their current superstar. Then, they put a charge in a series that was slipping from their reach.

Al Horford had 18 points and eight rebounds, Isaiah Thomas scored 16, and the top-seeded Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls, 104-87, on Friday night after dropping the first two games of their opening-round series at home.

The Celtics pulled away after a 20-point lead shrunk to one early in the third quarter and put themselves in position to tie the series just as it was getting away from them. Game 4 is Sunday in Chicago.

They got a recorded message from Kevin Garnett before the game. Thomas, still grieving the death of his sister, had a few things to say, too.

“To me personally, it was everything,” Jae Crowder said. “It was just a little motivation speech. (Garnett) said we looked like a team that wasn’t having fun. We looked like a team that (wasn’t) soaking in the moment. We just needed to play for one another, and play for the moment which is at hand being in the playoffs and have fun with it. He basically said put a little more KG into it.”

Dwyane Wade scored 18 for Chicago. Jimmy Butler had 14 points on 7-of-21 shooting, and the offense simply didn’t click the way it had been, with Rajon Rondo out indefinitely with a broken right thumb. Chicago shot about 39 percent and committed 18 turnovers.

“We’re not going to put this all on missing Rondo because he might not show up,” Wade said. “It sounds like he’s going to be out for a while. We need to come out as a team and figure out how to be better.”

Thomas rejoined the team after spending time with his family in Tacoma, Washington. He scored eight points in the third quarter, helping the Celtics regain control, and finished with nine assists in the game.

Crowder added 16 points. Avery Bradley scored 15 and hit four of Boston’s 17 3-pointers.

“We weren’t coming here hoping to get a win,” Bradley said. “We knew we were coming here to win both games.”

Western Conference

L.A. Clippers 111, (at) Utah 106: Chris Paul scored 34 and the Clippers rallied past the Jazz to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

The Jazz led most of the game before Paul took over in the fourth quarter and powered a 15-0 run that gave the Clippers a 103-96 lead with 2:09 remaining. Utah never led again.

The win negated a spectacular night from Gordon Hayward, who scored a career-high 40 points. But Paul simply dominated the fourth quarter, scoring nine straight himself during the run and getting wherever he wanted on the floor. He iced the game with a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining and finished with seven rebounds and 10 assists.

DeAndre Jordan had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers, who played without the injured Blake Griffin in the second half.

(At) Oklahoma City 115, Houston 113: Russell Westbrook scored 32 points in a triple-double as the Thunder held off the Rockets to cut their deficit to 2-1 in the series.

James Harden scored 44 for Houston, but missed a 3-pointer that could have won the game just before time expired.

Westbrook also had 13 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his second straight triple-double and the seventh playoff triple-double of his career. Taj Gibson added 20 points and Andre Roberson and Victor Oladipo each scored 12 for the Thunder, who shot 55 percent from the field.

The Thunder blew a double-digit lead in the second half of Game 2, and barely hung on this time. Lou Williams scored 22 and Ryan Anderson added 18 for the Rockets.