BOSTON • After three quarters of back-and-forth basketball, the fourth period belonged to the Boston Celtics.
Isaiah Thomas led them on a late surge in the final period, scoring 11 of his 24 points, as they took command of the game and their play-off series with a 108-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
The top-seeded Celtics lead the Eastern Conference first-round series 3-2 and can advance with a win in Game Six today in Chicago.
The Celtics made up for inconsistent shooting by playing stifling defence in the fourth quarter, outscoring Chicago 29-16 in the period and flustering the Bulls into turnovers, missed shots and two technical fouls down the stretch.
"This whole group remains confident in everybody, from the first guy to the last guy," said Thomas, who shot just one-for-10 from beyond the arc but was perfect at the free-throw line, going 11-for-11.
"One thing about play-off basketball, when the shot's not falling, you've got to figure out a way to win."
The Celtics are in a much better position than they were after the Bulls came to Boston and won the first two games of the series. Chicago then lost two straight games at home.
"We believe in one another. We went to Chicago knowing we were going to win those games, not hoping," said guard Avery Bradley, who also scored 24 points for the Celtics. "Now it's our job to continue. Play the same way and finish the series in Chicago."
Boston's Al Horford finished with 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Kelly Olynyk scored 14 points off the bench for the Celtics, who closed the rebounding gap that the Bulls used to win the first two games.
Dwyane Wade had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Bulls, who sputtered down the stretch. Jimmy Butler and Robin Lopez added 14 points apiece for the Bulls, who were without point guard Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from a broken thumb.
"When you're in a series like this, small details are very important," Wade said. "They got some things on us that we didn't want to give up late in the fourth.
"Unfortunately we got a few technical fouls at the end. I'd rather see that than see nothing. It shows that people care."
Wade ran the offence for the majority of the game and said he expects to continue that role in Game Six. If the Bulls win today, Game Seven on Sunday will be in Boston.