Keys to the Game: Celtics 108, Bulls 97

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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Key Moment

Boston trailed Chicago 85-84 with 10:09 remaining in Wednesday night’s Game 5. They responded when they needed to, however, with a 14-4 run that gave them a lead they’d never relinquish.

Many plays were made during the fourth quarter, highlighted by Isaiah Thomas’ 11 points, by Kelly Olynyk’s ferocious and-one floater, by Al Horford’s halfcourt steal and resounding dunk, and by Horford’s and-one bucket in the paint.

Rewind to just before the 10-minute mark, however, and you’ll find what ignited Boston’s critical run: No. 8, Jonas Jerebko.

You won’t hear much talk about Jerebko after this game, but he deserves it. He’s the one who fueled the Celtics and TD Garden with undeniable energy.

Jerebko’s first spark arrived at the 10:44 mark of the fourth, when he made a beautiful basketball read from the left wing while playing off of the ball. He noticed that his defender, Nikola Mirotic, had turned his back to Jerebko and was staring at the ball, which was in Marcus Smart’s hands along the right side of the paint. Jerebko immediately cut down the center of the lane, and Smart hit him with a dish that led to a two-handed flush that tied the game up at 81-81.

The crowd rose to its feet, and the Celtics were ready to roll.

The teams went back-and-forth over the next three possessions, with Chicago pulling ahead 85-84, before Jerebko made another play that injected Boston with energy.

This time, at the defensive end, he was defending Mirotic in transition near the right wing while Dwyane Wade brought the ball up the court along the left sideline. Wade tried to toss an entry pass to Cristiano Felicio, who was cutting down the center of the lane, but Jerebko was too smart to let it happen.

Jerebko, who was alert to both his man and the ball, read Wade’s eyes the whole way. Replays show Jerebko breaking on the ball like a safety for an interception before it even left Wade’s hands. Jerebko rose up with his right hand, picked off the attempted alley-oop, and tossed an outlet pass to Terry Rozier, who then hit Isaiah Thomas for a transition layup.

That bucket pushed Boston on top 86-85 at the 9:40 mark and it would hold on to a lead until the final buzzer.

Many more highlights were to come following that moment, but it was Jerebko’s basketball IQ that got the whole run started.

Key Player

Boston had a Big Three during Game 5, and Al Horford was the biggest of them all.

Horford was one of three Celtics who scored at least 21 points on the night, joined by Isaiah Thomas (24 points) and Avery Bradley (24 points). Horford scored the fewest of all of them, with 21, but his overall play was nothing short of outstanding.

In addition to his 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, the big man also contributed a game-high nine assists to go along with seven boards on the night. He made two of his four 3-pointers and all five of his free throws.

It’s difficult to state how difficult it is to defend a team that plays through its center the way Boston does. When Horford plays to this level, the Celtics are difficult to beat.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Three of the four players in the game who scored 20 or more points were Celtics (Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford).
  • Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Wade also contributed a team-best eight assists.
  • Bradley and Thomas led the Celtics in scoring with 24 points apiece.
  • Horford (nine assists) and Marcus Smart (eight assists) led the Celtics in helpers.
  • Boston scored 56 points in the paint to Chicago's 42.
  • Kelly Olynyk came off of Boston's bench to score 14 points to go along with his eight assists.
  • Wade, who grabbed 11 boards, was the only player in the game to grab more than eight.
  • Chicago shot 50.7 percent from the field, while Boston shot 43.2 percent.
  • One game after attempting 23 free throws, Jimmy Butler got to the charity stripe for only one attempt.
  • Eight Celtics grabbed at least one steal.
  • Thomas made all 11 of his free throws and the Celtics shot 23-for-23 from the free-throw line.
  • Eight of the nine Celtics who appeared in the game finished with a positive plus/minus rating.

Quote of the Night

Isaiah Thomas jokes to Avery Bradley about his strong defensive play during Game 5.