Associated Press

Three things we learned Thursday: Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas put on shows

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Maybe you were too busy to watch the NBA action on Thursday night because you were getting your hair cut by lighting it on fire. That happens. Here are the big takeaways from Thursday around the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook with triple-double leads Thunder past Cavaliers. Now bring on Kevin Durant, Warriors.
There were two key factors in this Oklahoma City upset of a Cavaliers team that had been playing well. The first is that this was the second night of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Cavaliers, and it showed. In the first quarter you could see the sloppy play — particularly on the defensive end — from Cleveland, something that would return many times over in the fourth quarter. On offense, they didn’t have the legs we had seen even the night before in Indiana. The Cavaliers can call this a “schedule makers loss” and move on.

The other was Russell Westbrook.

Early in the game he drove to set up teammates — Westbrook had five first quarter assists — while Victor Oladipo had seven points in the frame and Steven Adams six. Also, just like in the first meeting Westbrook the trouble he had scoring inside against Cleveland and Tristan Thompson (3-of-9 shooting inside 8 feet in this game) so he found spots on the floor where he could get knock down looks — left elbow extended, free throw line, straight on threes. The end result was 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. That’s his 26th triple-double of the season, for those of you scoring at home.

Other Thunder players were making contributions as well. Victor Oladipo finished with 23 points, Steven Adams 20, Cameron Payne is back and had a nice 15 off the bench, and Andre Roberson did this to LeBron James.

For the Thunder, next up is Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Saturday night (OKC also catches Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back and third game in four nights).

One bright spot for the Cavaliers, Derrick Williams had 12 points in his debut for the team on a 10-day contract. The guy picked No. 2 right behind Kyrie Irving in the 2011 draft brings some skills to the table, he can drive and score in the paint, and he can knock down corner threes. However, he’s been inconsistent on offense and terrible on defense. There’s a reason the Heat waived him to make room for a D-League call-up. But he gets another chance on a Cavaliers team looking for playmakers, we’ll see if this is finally a fit for him.

2) Another dominant fourth quarter from Isaiah Thomas, another win for Boston. He is the best fourth quarter scorer in the NBA right now, and he did it again Thursday night. Isaiah Thomas was getting to the rim on his way to scoring 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, leading Boston to a road win in a game where Portland led by 17 at one point in the first half. There may be no more dynamic player to watch in the league right now than Thomas.

Also making plays late was Marcus Smart — he had a key steal, poking the ball away from Al-Farouq Aminu, then he had an impressive put-back off an Al Horford miss when Boston needed it late.

Portland is eight games below .500 and is a game out of the playoffs in the West. How is a team with this much talent on the roster out of the playoffs?

3) Is he the clutch Sixer? T.J. McConnell with another game winner for Philly. The best news for Philadelphia fans out of the come-from-behind win in Orlando was that Dario Saric had 24 points — he is looking like a player, a guy who can be the stretch four next to Joel Embiid who makes the whole thing come together for this team.

But when the game was on the line, it was once again T.J. McConnell with the game winner, a little floater in the lane. He’s becoming Mr. Clutch for this team.

Avery Bradley scores 23, Celtics eliminate Bulls 105-83

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CHICAGO (AP) — Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Boston 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 Conference semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday.

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 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.

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 Celtics led by 13 at the half and outscored the Bulls 34-18 in the third quarter to put this one away. Things got so bad that loud boos started ringing through the United Center.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Bradley said he was planning to attend Chyna Thomas’ funeral. That hinged on the flight options and whether the Celtics were playing on Sunday. “If I’m not able to be there I’m going to make sure I’m supporting him however I can to let him know I’m here for him during this time,” Bradley said.

Bulls: Hoiberg said there is no structural damage in Butler’s right knee. He also had this response when asked what soreness means: “Uh, that it hurts.” … New Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 pick in the draft, got a rude welcome from the Chicago crowd. He was booed when he was shown on the videoboard in the third quarter.

“Fire Hoiberg” chants break out as Bulls eliminated from playoffs

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The problems with the Chicago Bulls — the ones that led to a mediocre season and a first-round exit from the playoffs after being up 2-0 on the Celtics — are certainly not all coach Fred Hoiberg’s fault. Blame starts with the roster that GarPax put together.

However, Hoiberg didn’t have the respect of his stars, his rotation management was bizarre at points, and there just seemed to be no consistent structure. What kind of team where the Bulls trying to be? What was Hoiberg doing to get them there?

As the Bulls were being eliminated by the Celtics Friday night, “Fire Hoiberg” chants broke out at the United Center.

Bulls fans are understandably frustrated, but they are not going to get this wish. Not this summer.

Hoiberg was the handpicked replacement for Tom Thibodeau, the guy Gar Forman and John Paxson — the Bulls front office brain trust — had their eye on and plucked out of the college coaching ranks. They bet big on him, and to admit that was a mistake after two years could endanger their jobs. So Hoiberg will stay.

What the Bulls roster will look like next season is another, more vexing question. Will Dwyane Wade be back? Jimmy Butler? With the seeming lack of a plan by GarPax, it’s all just speculation where they might go.

Whatever happens, Hoiberg will be coaching Chicago next season. Sorry Bulls fans.

John Wall takes over late, clinches Wizards 115-99 win over Hawks, Washington advances

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Closing teams out is hard.

Already up 3-2, Washington on the road was in complete control against Atlanta, up 22 in the third quarter, seeming destined to cruise to a win and a meeting with the Boston Celtics in the next round. Then it started to come apart. The Hawks moved the ball and made some shots, while the Wizards got tight. The lead shrunk down to three at 93-90 Washington, and Atlanta had all the momentum.

Then John Wall happened.

First, he made this play.

That changed the momentum as the Wizards closed the game on a 22-9 run where Wall scored the final 13 points on his way to 42 for the night on 25 shots. The result was a 115-99 Wizards win to close the Hawks out 4-2.

Washington starts the second round Sunday against Boston.

“I was just trying to close the game out, man,” Wall said of his block on Dennis Schroder and his run at the end of the game. “We had a big lead, but we knew those guys was not going to stop fighting. We had a couple careless turnovers, I had, but we just kept fighting and we came back and got this win.”

Heck, Wall was even taunting Julio Jones sitting courtside as he rattled off those late-game points.

Bradley Beal had 31 points in this one as well. Washington had 26 fourth quarter points, Wall and Beal combined for 24 of them. The Hawks went small in the end, benching Dwight Howard in the fourth again, and that was just fine with the Wizards, who have better athletes when small.

Wall and Beal learned over the course of this series to read and adjust to what Atlanta was doing. The Hawks chased and trailed over the top of picks all night, with their bigs staying back trying to protect the rim, and Wall and Beal both just took the shots given them and knocked them down. More than just those two, the packing of the paint by the Hawks in Game 6 allowed Bojan Bogdanovic, Otto Porter and others to step into clean midrange shots they missed earlier in the series. Washington made Atlanta pay for the Hawks’ defensive gameplan.

The feistiness of this game bubbled over in the second quarter when Bradley Beal had a breakaway layup and Kent Bazemore pushed him a little in the air. Beal got up and went right to Bazemore angry.

The referees reviewed that play and Beal and Bazemore got technical fouls with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jason Smith also getting them for jumping into the fray late.

For Atlanta, an interesting offseason begins where they will try to retain Paul Millsap, an unrestricted free agent, and if they can’t a rebuilding will start in earnest.

For the Wizards, it is on to Boston.

Bradley Beal, Kent Bazemore get technicals for scuffle in Hawks, Wizards

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It’s been a chippy kind of playoff series — one where Paul Millsap gets called a crybaby — and with the Hawks on the brink of elimination emotions were especially high on Friday night.

Kent Bazemore had been frustrated with a couple of calls (and no calls) and he took that out on the play above — he got picked by Kelly Oubre, who threw the ball ahead to Bradley Beal for a layup, and Bazemore gave him a little push in the air. It wasn’t much, but when a guy is airborne and defenseless that touch throwing off balance can lead to serious injury.

Beal bounced up and got in Bazemore’s face. Then an NBA version of a scuffle started.

The referees reviewed it and Beal and Bazemore got technical fouls with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jason Smith also getting them for their role later in the “festivities.”

The league should come in with a fine for Bazemore on this — you cannot let guys push other guys who are airborne, even slightly. That was a dangerous play, and I’m surprised the officials did not call a technical.