NBA Playoffs: Celtics Vs. Bulls Preview
The one seed Celtics (53-29) will meet the eighth seeded Bulls (41-41) in the first round of the NBA playoffs after splitting a regular season series 2-2, a strange but true fact, given the disparity in the teams records and opposite trajectories of their seasons. Both Chicago wins came in the Windy City, one being in October when D-Wade’s knees didn’t feel like they were used by the Cubs for batting practice, the other in February on a ticky tacky foul at the buzzer on Jimmy Butler by Marcus Smart. The C’s lost on free throws after gutting out a game that was close for the majority and the stank reality of it left a nasty taste in Boston’s mouth, evident in their twenty-point beat down of Chicago a few weeks later. These two teams last met in the playoffs in 2008 in a seven-game series that could only be summed up as a bar-fight without stools or broken glass shivs with tough guys like Carlos Boozer, a less psychotic than current Joakim Noah, KG, and Paul Pierce on the floor. Oddly enough, Rajon Rondo played in that one too in wearing number 9 and kelly green. Man, that feels like a long time ago! Here is my breakdown of the upcoming series.
Jimmy Butler vs. Marcus Smart/Avery Bradley
Make no mistake that Jae Crowder will be across from Butler in the starting line-up but the Celtics will throw these defensive hyenas at him for much of this series. Butler is the leading scorer for Chicago with 23.9 PPG and D-Wade is second with 18.3 but Wade has been subpar (more on this shortly) in his return averaging a little over 11 points. Pretty much, if the Bulls want any real shot, Butler must score. A lot. And with these two guys hanging off him, it’s not going to easy. He averaged 20.3 PPG against Boston this year but only scored 5 in their last meeting in March. Butler needs to have a huge series if the Bulls want any type of realistic shot.
D-Wade Vs His Elbow/ His Knee/ Basically Failing Body
In his debut season in his hometown D-Wade managed to play 60 games, something I thought for sure he wasn’t going to be able to do. But he did and looked okay doing it for the most part, averaging a decent 18.3 PPG. But when you look at his stat line for the season, almost every number is career low including FG%, 3PT%, assists, and MPG. Pair that with a set of knees that have bothered him on and off for years, his recent elbow injury, and a general slowness in his first 3 games after a long layoff, D-Wade looks at the end of his rope. His role coming to Chicago was to be an effective second option and while it looked promising to start, I’m guessing he won’t be able to fill the role successfully against Boston. D-Wade must miraculously roll the clock back to give Chicago a punchers chance in a series where they are deftly outmatched.
Boston’s Bench Vs. Chicago’s Bench
The Boston bench is superior to the Chicago bench in every aspect. Smart could start almost anywhere in the NBA, Jaylen Brown will be there soon, Kelly Olynyk continues to grow and show his worth; Boston’s bench is full of guys who pull their own weight when on the floor while Chicago’s has guys that are just there to give starters rest. Outside of Nikola Mirotic, Chicago’s reserves are not guys you can trust on the floor to give stability when the fatigue sets in on the starting 5. Boston is the deeper team and come this time of year, the fresher and better team at the 10 and 11 spot can make a huge difference as it will in this series.
Bulls- The Bulls have surrendered 102.4 PPG to their opponents which is good enough for 6th in the league. Teams that can keep the score low have given the Celtics fits this season as they rely heavily on the hot hand to score, lacking a true consistent option beyond IT.
This could help keep Chicago in the game and series especially at home where they have held the Celts to 101 PPG this season, a full 5.5 points less than Boston’s PPG road average.
Celtics- The Celtics have shot a remarkable 40.3% against Chicago from three-point range. Chicago usually allows 34.5 of all threes to tickle the net, good for sixth lowest in the lead. The C’s are almost 6% above the average total which increases to 43.5% at home, 9% more than Chicago’s average. Boston’s speed makes it hard for Chicago to keep pace along the perimeter allowing Celtics lots of solid opportunities from 3.
Who Will Win and Why
Celtics in 5. This series should look a lot like that last meeting the two teams had in March with the Celtics dominating, especially in games 1 and 2 at home. While the Celtics stumbled a little toward the finish line, I don’t think that is anything to be concerned about. The Celts could of easily have gone 3-1 against the Bulls this year if it hadn’t had been for that shit call in a highly competitive game. The Bulls are largely anonymous beyond their 8th spot on the bench, a large hindrance against a team with as much talent as the C’s. Jimmy Butler is a great player but can’t do it all himself and with D-Wade coming to the end of his career, looking more and more mortal by the month, they can’t count on him to have a solid impact. I’m not saying the Bulls are just going to roll over; they are scrappy and prideful but lack enough talent to be a real threat. The Celtics should have no problem icing Chicago down in 5 games with the Bulls winning one at home after a tremendous effort from Butler and Rajon Rondo breaking out his old playoff persona and D-Wade looking like it’s 2012. The C’s are just too good for the squad from Windy City. Celts persevere giving Brad Stevens and his group their inaugural playoff series win.