When Chicago Bulls went to Boston they wanted one thing – to win once and take home court advantage. Everything turnout to be even better. Bulls won both games in Boston and is coming back to Chicago with 2:0 lead over Celtics.
Bulls slipped in the NBA playoffs when they won 41 and lost 41 games and took the eight seed in Eastern conference. That meant that Bulls is going to meet Celtics in the first round. Celtics were in a very good form as they passed Cleveland Cavaliers and with 53 wins took the first seed in the East. Celtics were clearly favorites to win series but that is when it all started.
Bulls is leading 2:0
With only goal to take home court advantage Bulls managed to do it in the first game as they won 106:102 and showed NBA that you should not forget about windy city. Jimmy Butler scored 30 points and 15 of them was in the fourth quarter. 15 points in a quarter is Butler’s personal record in the playoffs in a single period. Biggest surprise of the night became Bobby Portis, he scored 19 points with 8 out of 10 field goals. Although, the biggest reason of the win was rebounds. Before the series it was clearly shown that Bulls are first in offensive rebounds with 15,5 per game and Celtics are dead last in defensive rebounds with 25,5 per game. You could see that in game one easily as Bulls won rebounds 53:36 and took 20 offensive rebounds. 12 of them was Robin Lopez (7) and Rajon Rondo (5).
In game two rebounds were not that crucial but they had other elements and it was Rondo butler and Paul Zipser. German scored 16 points and missed only two shots out of eight and he filled in for Portis very well. Butler was the same leader as he was during season he scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had eight assists and four steals. As Rondo reminded everybody about himself as he looked like the old Rondo that spent nine seasons in the Boston Celtics. Guard had 11 points, nine rebounds, 14 assists and five steals. Guard control was unbelievable on the court and if he can continue to play like that Chicago could think more than passing first playoffs round.
It is worth mentioning that it was only the second time in Bulls history that they started playoffs series with two victories on the road. First time was when they have beaten Phoenix Suns. They have beaten Suns in the finals 4:2 and became NBA champions for the third time.
Eight seed against first seed
Chicago could become the fourth team in NBA history to advance to the second round in seven game series while being eight seed. First team to do so was Golden State Warriors as they won 4:2 against Dallas Mavericks in 2007. Although in the second round Warriors lost to Jazz 1:4. Also, Memphis Grizzlies managed to do so as they won 4:2 against San Antonio Spurs but same as the Warriors, Grizzlies lost in the second round. They have been beaten by Oklahoma City Thunder 3:4. Next team to do so was Philadelphia 76ers as they won against the same Chicago Bulls. After Derrick Rose suffered ACL injury after the victory in game one, Sixers won the next four and advanced to the second playoffs round.
This is not the only times when eight seed won against the first seed. In 1994 Denver Nuggets defeated Seattle Supersonics and in 1999 New York Knicks won against Miami Heat team. Although, those series were best out of five. Nuggets lost in the next round to Jazz, while Knicks advanced to the Finals but where defeated by the Spurs.
Celtics guard tragedy
Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas is facing difficulties not only on the court but of the court as well. Guards’ younger sister died in one car crash on Saturday and the next day Thomas was supposed to play against the Bulls. Thomas cried before the game but during the match he scored 33 points, got six rebounds and had six assists but he felt short as the Celtics lost.
In game two it was possibility that Thomas is going to be no show. Isaiah’s sisters’ funeral was supposed to be held on the game day but he decided to help his team and flew back to Washington straight after the game.
Although, Bulls showed very good defense against Thomas as he scored only 20 points and made only six field goals out of 15, also he had only two assists. Rondo played very good defense against the point guard but he needed a lot of help as well and Bulls players were ready for this plan. Thomas could not get the open shot off the screen and in the paint Lopez did everything to make Thomas life on the court harder. Although, once Butler were guarding Thomas, no help were needed. Thomas struggled to play against Bulls superstar but he also needs more help from his teammates.
Bulls advantages and Celtics problems
Celtics has problems not only on the court but off the court as well. After tragedy in Thomas family there is a tension in the team, distraction and wrong mind set going into the game. Before the game one on the internet went viral video where Thomas is crying and his teammate Avery Bradley comforting him. In the game one it was easy to see that sometimes Thomas minds are somewhere else.
Although, before game two Boston team looked better as they were joking around during warmup and looked more than ready for the game. Players on the court looked more natural but they could not do anything against the Bulls that played very well.
Chicago team does not have anything to loose and they are playing like tomorrow is not existing to them. Every player is fighting for every ball they are just giving all they heart on the court. They also have a huge advantage when talking about playoffs experience as Rondo and Dwyane Wade are NBA champions. Bulls used Celtics situation, went on the court more than ready and focus and took two crucial games in Boston. If Celtics cannot focus for 100% there is no chance they could come back against this Chicago Bulls team.
Wade also said how lucky they are: “In 2011 I had a chance to play alongside LeBron James who was stopping Derrick Rose at the most important moments. We have the same situation here as Butler is doing the same against Thomas.”
How Boston could come back?
Celtics is going to need to work hard, very hard if they want to advance to the next round. They need to fix rebounds as Lopez is bullying Al Harford and Amir Johnson. Boston also needs to find ways how to help Thomas in the offence as every time he starts to feel rhythm Butler is here to shut him down.
Although, Bulls should not start sleeping. Even though in Boston they received a lot of help from the bench but during the season Chicago bench ‘likes’ to disappear. If that would happen Butler could not win this series by himself. If Chicago is going to keep sharing the ball and bench players are going to keep stepping up Celtics might not even survive with fixed rebounds.