After locking up the top seed in the East, the Boston Celtics, many assumed, were on a collision course with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals. Instead, the Celtics have lost two games – both at home – to the Bulls and are two losses away from their third consecutive first-round exit.
The Celtics dropped Game 1, 106-102, and dropped Game 2, 111-97. They seem to have little fight and no sense of urgency.
“That’s a great question for Brad Stevens,” Celtics color analyst Cedric Maxwell said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The only thing I can say is initially I thought they were very tentative in the first game of the series. Isaiah’s sister passed away, and I thought that the team would carry the team, but Isaiah carried them. Now they really just look like they haven’t played or they’ve just been introduced to each other for the first time. Defensively, they’re getting beat. Rebounding and blocking shots, the Bulls have just had the advantage. They’ve just taken the Celtics to the woodshed.”
Isaiah Thomas did all he could for Boston in Game 1, scoring a game-high 33 points with a heavy heart. Boston, though, was out-rebounded 53-36, including 20-12 on the offensive glass. Game 2 was considerably better in that department, with Boston getting out-rebounded 43-38, but the Bulls shot 51.1 percent from the floor, as Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade both scored a game-high 22 points.
Outside of Thomas, Boston didn’t have much of a response.
“I think ball movement is important because they don’t have the one-on-one personnel to beat you, and that’s what they’ve relied on – a lot of ball movement, attacking the rim, running the ball up the floor,” Maxwell said. “But you cannot run if you cannot rebound. That is where the Celtics are getting killed. The Bulls are doing such a great job of hitting the Celtics’ defensive glass that the Celtics are sending four guys now to rebound the basketball and there’s no outlet guy. A one-man fast-break, a lot of times, is Isaiah one-on-two – and it’s not working for the C’s.”
Game 3 is Friday in Chicago at 7 p.m. ET. The Celtics will need a better all-around effort to get in the win column, but they’ll also need a strong scoring performance from Thomas, whose Game 1 effort will live on, even in defeat.
“If you watch Isaiah with the tears coming out of his eyes and the fans responding, it was really, really special,” Maxwell said of the Sunday scene at TD Garden Arena. “It was as emotional (of a) game or as emotional (of a) place as I’ve ever been since I’ve been in the NBA.”