Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
Chicago Bulls Head Coach Fred Hoiberg looked to former Racer guard Isaiah Canaan to fill the point guard void on Sunday while starting guard Rajon Rondo is sidelined with a fractured right thumb.
Canaan played a season-high 34 minutes in the Bulls’ Game 4 matchup against the Boston Celtics. He knocked down three 3-pointers en route to recording 13 points and three assists.
Smart defense leads to a CANAAN-BALL! pic.twitter.com/MT1yWZNLUx
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 24, 2017
Although the Bulls inevitably suffered a 104-95 loss, Hoiberg praised the Murray State guard’s performance.
“I was really proud of Isaiah Canaan for coming out after a lot of DNPs [Did Not Play], being on the inactive list,” Hoiberg said after the game. “We wanted to get him in there because he is a guy that can pressure the ball and pick up the ball full court. That was the plan going into today.”
The Murray State alumnus averaged 21.8 points per game his senior season for the Racers. In 2012, the National Association of Basketball Coaches named Canaan to the All-American Team. In his junior season with the Racers, he led them to the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated Colorado State to advance to the second round.
Canaan’s defensive pressure in the game wasn’t enough to slow down the other Isaiah, however. Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points and added seven assists to help tie the series at 2-2.
Rondo said doctors told him his injury will keep him out of the lineup until Thursday at the earliest, when he will be evaluated by doctors. The Bulls have faced point guard woes all season long, and the injury to Rondo left the team scrambling for someone to fill the void.
Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said after the game he was glad Canaan was able to do it.
“We needed something different and he picked it up,” Wade said. “That is a guy that worked behind the scenes for his opportunity. Hopefully going forward, he is a big part of what we do.”
The heavy minutes that Canaan accumulated in Game 4 may have come as a surprise to some fans, considering he didn’t receive any action in 22 games this season. While he saw around 20 minutes per game early in December, Canaan has since taken a very limited role in the Bull’s scheme.
“It’s tough,” Canaan said after the game. “Many nights I couldn’t sleep, just wondering what happened. I had to stay with it. My teammates believed in me that whole time and kept me locked in, kept me ready to go, kept me motivated.”
Hoiberg announced Monday that while Rondo is making progress with his recovery, Canaan will be placed in the starting lineup in place of Jerian Grant, who has been starting in Rondo’s place since Game 2.
The Bulls will look to Canaan to provide a much-needed boost at the point guard spot when they take on the Celtics in Game 5 on Wednesday, April 26 in Boston.