Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) gets a hug from guard Avery Bradley (0) after hitting a shot against the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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In a tough, hard-fought game, the Boston Celtics dropped the opening game of the series to the Chicago Bulls 106 -102.
The Chicago Bulls made a run midway in the fourth quarter to take the lead and the Boston Celtics‘ last minute run proved to not be enough as they fell to the Bulls in Game 1.
Dropping Game 1 at home is never ideal, especially to a Bulls team that was in the middle of the pack on the road this season, going 16-25. However, lessons can be learned from this loss and applied to future games.
Losing Game 1 isn’t the end of the world, and the Celtics still have a good shot to win this series, but the Bulls proved Sunday night they they won’t just be rolled over because they are an eighth seed.
Sometimes early losses like this can prove to be reality checks and motivators for good teams and Celtics fans are hoping this game was just that.
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) is surrounded by Chicago Bulls including forward Bobby Portis (5) and guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 106-102 win over the Boston Celtics in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
1. Isaiah Thomas is Tough as Nails
Isaiah Thomas came into the game after learning that his younger sister had died in a one-car accident on Saturday morning.
Thomas was visibly emotional before the start of the game, but managed to put together a spectacular effort.
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) goes to the basket past Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) and center Kelly Olynyk (41) during the third quarter in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
2. The Celtics Need to Contain Jimmy Butler … For More Than a Half
Jimmy Butler had seven points in the first half. Butler finished the game with 30 points, including a 15-point fourth quarter. A flip was switched after halftime and Butler was able to take over the game.
It’s puzzling because Jae Crowder did such a good job on Butler in the first half, but in the second Butler had his way with the Celtics’ defense.
The Marquette product was effective from all around the court, shooting 9-for-19 from the field while also hitting nine free throws and three shots from behind the arc. Additionally, Butler chipped in nine rebounds and three assists.
Butler is indisputably the Bulls’ best player and Chicago will only go as far as Butler can carry them.
It may be smart for Brad Stevens to experiment more with Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart matching up with Butler. Using all parts of the Celtics’ three-headed defensive monster could cause Butler to struggle more as he faces different defenders.
To win this series, the Celtics will need to figure out how to limit Butler, or else they could be sent home packing early.
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) shoots over Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the second quarter in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
3. Rebounding is the Celtics’ Biggest Issue
The Celtics got out-rebounded this game. It was bad, like really bad. The Bulls grabbed 17 more rebounds and doubled the Celtics on the offensive glass. Rebounding is considered one of the key barometers to winning and here, rebounding won the game.
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) pumps his fist after hitting a three point shot as Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) looks on during the second quarter in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
4. Al Horford Put on a Show
Al Horford is not normally a man who produces highlight play after highlight play, but he put on an absolute show for the hometown crowd.
His first highlight came at the end of the first half then he was able to sink a three as time expired to bring the Celtics within three at the half.
Later in the third quarter, Horford was able produce a highlight that would go viral. Horford drove into the paint and was able to make Nikola Mirotic look silly before finishing the play by sinking a mid-range jumper.
The clip was all over social media with multiple fans claiming Mirotic needed to retire.
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser (16) blocks a shot by Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) during the second quarter in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
5. Celtics Need a More Balanced Attack
The Celtics were only able to put three players into double figures: Thomas (33), Horford (19) and Avery Bradley (14). On the other hand, the Bulls had five double figure scorers: Butler (30), Portis (19), Lopez (14), Rondo (12) and Dwayne Wade (11).
Marcus Smart managed to put up nine points on three three-pointers, but the odds of him hitting that many again in a game are basically zero. Smart is there to play defense. Olynyk specifically, needs to step up after only putting up seven points in 23 minutes of action.
Jaylen Brown did a good job coming off the bench and making a few athletic plays, finishing 2-for-2 for five points.
Every fan in the building knows the Celtics are going to Thomas when they need offense, but getting bigger contributions from Crowder and Olynyk would go a long way to a more efficient and effective offense for the Celtics.