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Wednesday's NBA playoffs: Celtics beat Bulls, take 3-2 lead in series

Jimmy Golen
Associated Press

Boston — The Celtics and Bulls found another thing to argue about after Game 5 of their spirited first-round playoff series:

Was Avery Bradley more impressive on offense, or on defense?

“Everyone knows he’s a good defender. Tonight, he got his offensive game going,” Chicago’s Dwyane Wade said after Bradley scored 24 points to lead Boston to a 108-97 victory and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“You expect him to do what he does defensively, but we gave up 24 points to him tonight. He hurt us offensively tonight more than anything.”

Isaiah Thomas also scored 24 for the Celtics, the top seed in the East. After the road team won each of the first four games, the Celtics won at home in Game 5 to earn a chance to eliminate the Bulls on Friday night in Chicago. A Bulls victory would force the series back to Boston for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.

Al Horford had 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Celtics. Bradley’s 24 points were a career playoff high, but after watching him hold Bulls star Jimmy Butler to 14 points — and just one foul shot — Celtics coach Brad Stevens praised Bradley’s defense.

“Jimmy Butler’s a hard guy to guard. Dwyane Wade’s a hard guy to guard. You’re not going to stop those guys, but you just try to make it as hard as possible,” Stevens said. “Avery … has done a really good job.”

Butler, who shot 23 free throws in Game 4 and made 19, was 0-for-1 on Wednesday.

“I was trying to eliminate letting Jimmy Butler get to the free throw line. That was my goal this game, and I feel like I did it,” Bradley said.

Wade had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. But Wade and Robin Lopez were called for technical fouls 32 seconds apart with just under five minutes left, helping the Celtics to a 20-5 run that turned an 84-84 game into a 15-point Boston lead.

The Bulls cut it to nine before Horford got loose for a dunk, Wade missed a 3-pointer and then Horford fed Jae Crowder for a layup that made it 108-95 with 99 seconds to play.

Despite the technical fouls, there was little of the tension that characterized Game 4, when Butler and Marcus Smart got in each other’s face on the court and continued the criticism in their postgame comments.

The Celtics started slowly on their home court, making just one of their first nine shots to fall behind 12-4. Boston missed its first eight 3-point attempts before making three in a row at the end of the first quarter.

More Eastern Conference

(At) Washington 103, Atlanta 99: Back at home, and back in charge, Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and John Wall added 20 points and 14 assists, leading Washington over Atlanta for a 3-2 lead in the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 29 points, making a career high-tying five 3s, and 11 assists. But after his basket from beyond the arc pulled Atlanta within 101-99 with 70 seconds left, Wall responded with a 21-foot pull-up jumper.

A miss followed from Paul Millsap, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, but after Wall’s jumper was off the mark, the Hawks seemed to waste too much time at the other end and the buzzer sounded.

The host has won every game in this series so far.

Washington can close out the best-of-seven series and move into the conference semifinals by winning Game 6 at Atlanta on Friday night.