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Friday's NBA playoffs: Celtics torch Bulls to advance

By Andrew Seligman
Associated Press
Bulls' Jimmy Butler, left, drives to the basket against Celtics' Al Horford during the first half in Game 6 on Friday.

Chicago — The Boston Celtics kept reminding each other not to let up as they closed in on a lopsided victory and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No need to worry about that.

Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls, 105-83, to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.

The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Boston regrouped after dropping the first two games at home and will meet Washington in the Eastern semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday.

“Once we started to get the game at hand and in control, we all just kept repeating to stay focused, to keep it going, to keep pushing,” Al Horford said. “We didn’t want to give them any life. We were as focused and we were enjoying the moment.”

Bradley finished one point shy of a playoff career high he set in Game 5. He nailed three 3-pointers and the Celtics hit 16 of 39 from long range.

Gerald Green scored 16 in his fourth straight start and Isaiah Thomas had 12 before heading home to Washington state for his sister Chyna’s funeral on Saturday. Her death in a car accident the day before the playoff opener dealt a blow to the Celtics. But Boston rallied around its star player and regrouped when it looked like the series might slip from reach.

“Bigger things than basketball happen and that takes precedent,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I was really proud of our guys, how they treated each other and how they stuck together. Nobody pointed fingers and we’re a great support network for one another, especially Isaiah. I think they appreciated being counted out.”

Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 23 points. But the Bulls never really found their rhythm over the final four games with point guard Rajon Rondo sidelined by a broken right thumb.

Dwyane Wade shot just 1 of 10 in a two-point effort that could be his final appearance for the Bulls. He has a $23.8 million option on the two-year deal he signed last summer to leave Miami and come home to Chicago.

“The big thing about it is we got off to poor starts in pretty much every game after the first two,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “But we found a way to bounce back and make it close.”

Not this time.

The Celtics set the tone by hitting 3s on their first three possessions on the way to a 13-point halftime lead. They buried Chicago in the third, outscoring the Bulls 34-18. Things got so lopsided that Thomas gathered his teammates near the baseline late in the quarter and screamed: “That’s a wrap for these (expletives)!”

“We came out and moved the ball around, we got open looks and they were going down for us,” Bradley said. “It felt good to be playing Celtic basketball again. We were all smiling and having fun and that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

More Eastern Conference

Washington 115, (at) Atlanta 99: John Wall scored 42 points, Bradley Beal added 31 and the Wizards withstood a furious comeback to close out the Hawks and win the opening-round playoff series 4-2.

The Hawks fell behind by 22 early in the third quarter before making a game of it down the stretch. But the home team never led, and Wall stymied the rally with huge plays at both ends of the court.

Wall’s block of Dennis Schroder’s layup kept the Hawks from closing within a single point, and Wall hit every big shot in the closing minutes. He scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, ensuring that Washington picked up the first road victory by either team in the series.

The Wizards advance to face Chicago in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 31 points.

Western Conference

L.A. Clippers 98, (at) Utah 93: Chris Paul scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers forced a Game 7 in their first-round series.

The Clippers will host the only do-or-die game of the first round Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the Golden State Warriors.

Los Angeles began to edge away in the third quarter and appeared to be in control when Austin Rivers capped a 9-2 run with a step-back 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 91-77 with 3:58 remaining.

He hit another with 1:29 left to make it 96-86, but Gordon Hayward scored seven straight to bring the Jazz within three before Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds.