Worst Case Scenario
How does this happen? How does Boston end up down 2-0 after starting off a series at home as a 1 seed? The team that for long stretches throughout the season, was arguably one of the best teams in the league, has come out looking like the 8 seed with the Bulls getting the results they were hoping for to start the season when they brought Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo aboard. There were points this season when the Bulls were laughable from there on and off court dysfunction to all around poor play. This seemed like an easy series for the boys from Boston, the first moment matchup was announced. But as they say, hindsight usually looks like a 12-car pile-up of terrible play. What has happened to the Celtics?
For starters, all the problems that plagued Boston on and off throughout the season have all manifested themselves in the first two games. First and foremost, they can’t shoot or score effectively against a Chicago team that has allowed them solid looks at the basket. In Game 1, only 3 Celtics shot above .380 from the floor. I mean, that’s dreadful. Like Black Mirror Scary. IT’s emotional challenges dealing with his sister’s death are irrelevant to this equation as he has produced 26.5 PPG in the first two games. IT is a hero who should be celebrated for his dedication to his team and staying with them when he should have been back home in Washington with his family. He came out, played, and did beyond what most normal people would be able to achieve in that situation. I’m not going to sit here and say his team let him down emotionally; they rallied around him publically and in private, but on the court, IT has been abandoned as the lone dependable scorer. Not that this is any different than the regular season but he always required a second player to be hot for the Celtics to succeed. Didn’t matter who as long as it happened. And guess what? No one has stepped up to fill that role in the two most important games of this groups of time together. Jae Crowder was awful in Game 1 and mediocre in Game 2. Al Horford has reverted to his trash play we saw in February, only producing in the fourth quarter of Game 1, although his effort was better in Game 2 as well. Avery Bradley is pressing too much, throwing up brick after brick. Marcus Smart is losing his mind, evident in his bird flip to the Garden on Tuesday night, revealing a lack of maturity in this stage of his young career that people feared he would demonstrate when coming out of Oklahoma St. Defensively, there are lapses all over the floor leading to the Bulls getting easy buckets and the Celtics, who before this nightmare began, were pegged to at least get through the first round, are now left to fight for their lives in Chicago over the next two games, a place they lost both games this year. The look lost, broken, and unconfident, words you never want to be described by, especially this time of the year.
But I must tip my hat to the Bulls who have come out looking stellar when they needed to most. Rajon Rondo has been a terror tying a record with 14 assists in Game 2, carving up his former team with the precision of a surgeon. We all know about postseason Rondo and make no mistake, he knows what month it is. Rondo has been the catalyst and you should assume he grabbed some of that mojo from the parquet floor he used to dominate in his time with the Celtics. It’s remarkable and frustrating all at the same time knowing he is still capable of these efforts but in this scenario, it’s heartbreaking for any C’s fan. Then there’s Jimmy Butler and D-Wade, who obviously read my playoff preview and followed my directions like a manifest. It’s like they knew I was the biggest fan boy Celtics blogger out there who knows his shit, so they obviously lifted my advice. D-Wade suddenly has been resurrected like a basketball playing zombie Jesus and was stone cold old school draining 22 in Game 2 like it was 2009. He looked practically dead 5 days before Game 1. And Jimmy Butler, well, he’s been the good Jimmy Butler, hustling and having a huge fourth quarter in Game 1 that likely pushed the C’s to an L. These guys are energized and playing veteran playoff basketball. Bobby Portis’s (?) and Paul Zipser’s (?!?!) have had huge games off the bench, leading me to want to stick a gun in my mouth for even bringing up a single thing about either team’s bench in my preview. The Bulls want it more at this point and this is concerning.
So where does the series go from here and what does it mean for the Celtics? The Celtics are forced to win two in Chicago. That is an evident fact right now. That need to tie the series and get home court back. That’s step one. Without this, they are out in maybe 4, but more likely 5. If they win both, from there it’s a three-game series. They need to get more physical. Send guys like Jonas Jerebko and Gerald Green, guys who don’t mind gooning it up a bit, knock the Bulls around a little and wear them out, take fouls if it means drawing the line in the sand. I am not optimistic of their chances from here on out although two day layoffs can yield amazing results sometimes in playoff series where it looks like all is lost. 17 teams have come back from 0-2 holes (ask D-Wade bout ’06), so the odds aren’t great but this group is special, at least I think they are or though they were or something…anyway, these next couple games have heavy stakes for C’s current makeup and immediate long term future. A third consecutive first round ousting in the Playoffs would lead to a player shakeup no doubt. I’m predicting Crowder, Jerebko, and Tyler Zeller will have different homes come next year. If the C’s make a blockbuster trade, the turnover could include anyone not named Isaiah, Al, or Avery. Brad Stevens will be safe as his coaching, at least in Game 1, gave the C’s ample room to shoot and kept it close to the wire. But that’s too far ahead to think right now as The Celtics need to get on track, shake of the bad start like a cold New England April, and even the score out in the Windy City to show this season wasn’t a fluke and there is some real heart and depth to this team.