Celtics Bulls First Round Preview
As the Boston Celtics prepare to open their first round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls Sunday night, here are some story lines to follow.
1 Vs. 8- The C's did exactly what they needed to down the stretch. Couple that with a late-season slide by the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston has earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference. That fact won't really factor into this round of play, as the C's would have been hosting their opponent whether they finished first or second, but it could factor into Boston's success should they advance.
Playing Their Best- The Bulls, of course, enter the series as the 8th seed in the East. While they hold the final playoff spot, they have been playing some of their best basketball down the stretch. Chicago finished the regular season winning seven of their final 10 games, which really helped to carry them into postseason play.
Home Cooking- The C's will be looking for a little home cooking and a lot of noise from the home crowd, as they open the series up in front of the Boston faithful at the TD Garden. They worked hard all season to put themselves in this position, but must execute to make the most of their home court advantage.
Split 'Em Down The Middle- In their four regular season meetings the teams split the season series going 2-2 against each other. Boston took both games played at the TD Garden, while the Bulls swept the two games played in Chicago. If that trend keeps up the C's have the advantage in the series with four of the seven games slated to be played in Boston.
Who Will Help Isaiah?- The C's should be asking themselves one question, heading into the series; Who will help Isaiah Thomas, when it comes to scoring? Boston's biggest question mark all season long has been determining who will play second fiddle to Thomas, especially if the high scoring, diminutive guard is kept in check. The Celts have six guys that could, on any given night, step up and add a scoring punch, the best equipped being Avery Bradley. Unfortunately for Boston, none of those guys has been a particularly reliable scoring threat this season, or any season for that matter. They will undoubtedly need at least one of their others guys to step up each night, if they plan to play deep into the postseason.
What Will Bulls Get From D-Wade, Rondo?- Chicago, similar to Boston, has a star that can get his points in Jimmy Butler. What could help push the Bulls over the C's, however, would be a resurgence from veterans Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo. Both players have a bulk of postseason experience and each have won a title, with Wade claiming three over his career. If Wade, who has battled injuries this season and missed 22 games, can stay healthy and put together a performance similar to last season's efforts, the Bulls could be in business. Rondo had a down year this season, but, if he can muster up some solid play against his former team, he could also throw a wrench into Boston's plans of sailing to the second round.
Playing With A Heavy Heart- Due to the unfortunately and untimely passing of his younger sister, Chyna, who was killed in a one car accident Saturday, Isaiah Thomas will likely be playing with a very heavy heart. The plan is for Thomas to play on Sunday, but there is no telling how this emotional and painful time in his life will effect his play on the court. Of course, a situation as tragic as this takes precedence over basketball. The Celtics must be hoping that Thomas can find a way to both deal with this unexpected loss and also continue his on-court success.
Prediction- This one is a much tougher decision than most would suspect. When a top seed plays the lowest seed in the playoffs, typically it's a no brainer to pick the top seed to advance with relative ease. That expectation must be at least somewhat tempered a bit, however, as the C's have some of the most glaring holes of any one seed to ever play in the NBA playoffs. Couple that fact with some solid playoff experience in the Bulls' locker room and the lack of postseason success for the C's, as of late, and it wouldn't be shocking to see Chicago advance. Putting it simply, the C's will need to have a constant second scoring threat, regardless of who it is, if they want to win. As for the Bulls, they'll need the D-Wade of old and a rejuvenated Rondo to compliment the stellar play of Jimmy Butler. When all is said and done, I'd like to think the C's supporting cast will be able to help Thomas soar into the second round, so I'll take Boston in seven. I wouldn't be shocked, however, if its another one and done for Celtics nation.