LOS ANGELES: The Chicago Bulls powered past the Boston Celtics 111-97 Tuesday to take a 2-0 lead over the Eastern Conference top seeds in their NBA playoff series, while the Toronto Raptors avoided falling into an 0-2 hole.
The Bulls, who clawed their way to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, are trying to become the first eighth seed to topple the top-ranked team in the opening round since the Philadelphia 76ers upset Chicago in 2012.
They’ll head home to Chicago with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven set thanks in large part to a vintage performance from Rajon Rondo.
Rondo, a former Celtic who won a title in Boston, narrowly missed the 11th playoff triple-double of his career with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.
Rondo also produced five steals and three blocked shots.
Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler scored 22 points each, leading six Bulls players in double figures. The Bulls didn’t trail in the second half, using a 10-0 scoring run to build a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter on the way to a convincing win.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, still reeling from the death of his sister, Chyna, in a road accident at the weekend, had a quiet night. He scored 20 points but made just six of 15 shots from the floor, missed six of his 13 free-throw attempts and had five turnovers.
In Toronto, Kyle Lowry bounced back from a lackluster game one as the Raptors beat the Bucks 106-100 to level their series at one game each.
DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points and produced the go-ahead jump shot late in the fourth quarter.
Lowry, who scored just four points in the Raptor’s series-opening defeat, added 22 points and delivered a clinching jump shot over Bucks rookie Malcolm Brogdon.
His basket gave the Raptors a four-point lead with 8.9 seconds remaining.
“He always bounces back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry. “He’s a competitor. He’s a fighter.”
Patrick Patterson added two free throws for Toronto, while the Bucks were left to regret five missed shots to end the game.
That included a three-pointer by Brogdon that rattled in and out of the hoop.
Toronto led by one going into the fourth quarter, when the scored 11 straight points to stretch the lead to 12.
With six minutes remaining the Bucks had cut the lead to five, and Toronto led by just one after Milwaukee’s rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo’s layup with 2:46 to play.
Serg Ibaka’s jump shot put the Raptors up by three, but Antetokounmpo made a three-pointer to knot the score at 100-with two minutes left.
DeRozan made a pull-up jumper with 1:43 remaining to give Toronto a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Khris Middleton added 20 points for Milwaukee, who will seek to regain the series edge when they host game three on Thursday.
In the only Western Conference game on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Clippers were also trying to avoid a second straight home defeat when they hosted the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz snatched a 97-95 game-one victory despite losing star center Rudy Gobert in the opening seconds, and they were without the defensive standout again in game two. -- AFP