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NBA Playoffs: Celtics Lose 111-97 And Are Now Down 2-0

Well, shit. In yesterday’s preview, I laid out a few things the Celtics absolutely had to do to be able to even this series:

  • Get production off the bench (particularly from Marcus Smart)
  • Not let Chicago’s shooters get hot

So let’s see how we did:

After losing the rebounding battle 65-44 in Game 1 and allowing 20 offensive rebounds, Game 2 saw both teams grab 49 rebounds, and both snag 11 offensive boards. If you’d told me this statistic before the game, I’d have been insanely confident that the Celtics walked away from Game 2 with a win. This was clearly the most glaring issue in Game 1, and it was the biggest point of emphasis going into last night. The C’s were able to right the ship in this respect, and in others: they won the bench scoring matchup 38-25, and Smart dropped a solid 13-8-2 in 27 minutes off the bench. So they followed most of my guidelines, and I’m a genius, but they still lost. What the hell happened?

What happened was, they didn’t listen to all of my guidelines. Nikola Mirotic was one of the main guys the Celts couldn’t let get hot, and what happened? In a 2 minute span near the end of the 1st quarter, they allowed Mirotic to score 8 straight Chicago points (all of assists from Rajon Rondo, which continues to sting a bit) and finish the game with 13 points and a +18 for the game. Of course, Mirotic didn’t destroy the Celtics – aside from that 8-point run, he was relatively quiet, and he finished the game 3 of 9 from three. The problem last night was this 3-headed monster that’s forming in Chicago’s lineup just in time to ruin the Celtics’ season – Rondo, Dwayne Wade, and Jimmy Butler.

This trio scored almost half the points Chicago put up last night (55 combined, 111 total; I’ll leave the math to you) and made life hell for the Celtics D all night long. Wade and Butler both dropped 22 points and were +22 on the night, and while we almost expect that output from Butler, letting 35 year old Dwyane Wade put up 22 points in 32 minutes and put our backs to wall is just unacceptable. And he wasn’t even the worst: Rondo, who I kinda thought was dead till a couple months ago, dropped 11 points and 14 assists, falling a rebound short of a patented Rondo Playoff Triple Double and finishing a game-high +24. And I hate to say it, because I’m head over heels for the guy, but Isaiah Thomas is a part of the problem. Not the entire problem, but a part of it – the guy just can’t defend like we need him to. He’s been bailed out all year by guys like Smart and Avery Bradley, who are two of the best perimeter defenders in the game, but in a playoff series against a team that has the Celtics scouted and has 3 talented guards (Butler’s a 2-guard, don’t care what the lineup card says) in the starting lineup, he’s getting exposed. And it’s not fun. At all.

A couple other quick hits that concern me moving forward in this series:

  • Paul Zipser (who?) dropping 16 points on 6-8 shooting off the bench CANNOT happen
  • Celtics players not named Isaiah Thomas attempted just 6 free throws in the game
  • Keep an eye on Terry Rozier — just 5 points, but a team-high +11 in 13 minutes. Nice spark off the bench that could help in a road playoff game
  • Can we stop falling for Rondo shot fakes, especially behind the 3 point line? This guy has averaged 1.1 3PA for his CAREER and is a career 30% shooter from three — LET HIM TAKE IT. Don’t let him get to the paint and wreak havoc like he’s been doing.
  • Kelly Olynyk played A LOT – 24 minutes, after 23 in Game 1. He put up a solid line – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, +2 – but still watched too many rebounds fall right into the hands of Robin Lopez.
  • Speaking of Lopez – what the fuck? If Chicago played the Celtics for 82 games, Lopez would be the friggin’ league MVP. 18 points and 8 rebounds on 8-11 shooting. BOX THE GUY OUT. And now he’s hitting mid range jumpers? We’re toast.

No, no, ok I got ahead of myself. We’re not toast. I referenced the 2008 team yesterday that took 7 games to beat the 8 seed Hawks and still won the title, and I’ll reference history again here: the last 1 seed to lose Games 1 and 2 at home was the ’93 Suns, who won that series and made it to the Finals that year. I’m not saying just because the Celtics are a 1 seed and history’s on their side that this series can’t be different, but I’ll just keep stressing this – don’t freak out. Whatever you do, don’t freak out. Don’t be like WEEI:

Just don’t do it. Wait for the series to play itself out – these are two teams with a lot of talent, but one is clearly better than the other. Let’s just see what happens.

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