Isaiah Thomas is playing through tears after the death of his sister, drawing strength from the rest of the Boston Celtics.
They found another gear in Chicago.
Thomas scored 33 points, and the Celtics beat the Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.
“Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here so I just feed off what the guys give me,” Thomas said. “They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me and being here is what makes me feel sane and somewhat normal through these tough times.”
Thomas’ life changed just over a week ago when his younger sister Chyna was killed in a one-car crash in their home state of Washington. He spent time with his family in Tacoma between games in Boston and Chicago.
With Game 4 at a critical juncture, the All-Star guard provided a huge lift for a team that has been supporting him in the toughest of times.
Thomas keyed a third-quarter run after the Bulls wiped out a 20-point deficit and briefly went ahead, helping top-seeded Boston return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home.
Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and the Celtics pulled even in a series that was in danger of becoming a rout. Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.
Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.
Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.
“Just like last game, we were using a lot of energy just to come back,” Wade said. “Better starts here at home could’ve did us a little justice. I thought they did a great job of sticking with their game plan, making tough shots offensively.”
The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez’s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.
Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.