BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas took the floor to a deafening cheer for the Boston Celtics’ playoff opener against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night, just a day after his sister was killed in a car accident.
The Celtics held a pregame moment of silence for Chyna Thomas, who died early Saturday in a one-car interstate accident in their home state of Washington. She was 22. The Celtics’ All-Star guard was informed of her death following the team’s practice Saturday afternoon.
Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points. But Jimmy Butler overcame a united Garden crowd and led Chicago to the victory, scoring 23 points in the second half.
"We were so locked in all week," Butler said. "We knew their stuff, just like they knew ours. But we executed extremely well. We haven't done that all season, but this is the right time to do it."
Celtics fans rallied behind Thomas, showering him with a deafening cheer when he was introduced.
Still, Thomas appeared to be a little emotional at the start of the game, badly missing his first free throw short off the front rim. He wasn't the only Boston player a little off their game in the first half. Boston's second unit started the second quarter 1 for 7 from the field and was outscored 10-0 to surrender the Celtics' first-quarter lead.
Al Horford acknowledged afterward that emotions were tough for not just Thomas, but the entire team.
"We're never going to make excuses, but this is hard," Horford said. "This was difficult, and I felt like our guys really dealt with it best. We knew (Thomas) was hurting...we have a lot of respect for him that he was able to come out."
Bulls: Outrebounded the Celtics 32-16 in the first half, including 16 offensive rebounds.
Celtics: Thomas recorded his second career 30-point game in the postseason. He had 42 against the Hawks last season. ... Horford has now scored in double figures in each of his last six postseason games. ... Were 18 for 45 from the field in the first half.
The Celtics took an 88-87 lead with 5:33 to go, before the Bulls went on a 14-4 run to push back in front. Boston got within two on a layup by Thomas with 7.5 seconds following a Chicago turnover, but Butler hit a pair of free throws to seal it.
MOMENT OF SILENCE
The Celtics held a pregame moment of silence for Thomas' sister, part of an emotional pregame introduction for him. He looked toward the Garden rafters just before tip-off and wrote several messages to his sister on his sneakers. Visible were "Chyna," ''RIP Lil Sis" and "I love you."
During the team's pregame shootaround TNT's cameras captured him being consoled on the bench by teammate Avery Bradley.