The Voice Of Downtown Boston

Celtics Face Bulls, Rondo In Opening Round Of NBA Playoffs

Celtics continue their path to hanging another championship banner.

Sometimes it’s tough being a Boston sports fan. Just as everyone was gearing up for a Bruins’ playoff push, the Boston Celtics began their postseason on Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Bostonians better be able to multitask at the Garden for the next couple of months.

The Celtics wrapped up the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference last week with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics battled the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers all season for the best record in the east. Boston won its last three games of the season and Cleveland skidded into the playoffs with a four-game losing streak, giving Boston home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

So was securing the number-one overall seed that big of a deal? Since the NBA instituted the current playoff format, there have been 33 championships. Of those 33 champions, 22 of them have started as a number-one seed, while six have gone as a number-two seed. The real advantage doesn’t come until the semifinal round of the playoffs where the number-one seed is 56-5 (92 percent) against their opponent and the number-two seed has only won 35 of 61 series (57 percent). If it does come down to the top two teams in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s a deadlock with a 14-14 series record in those situations.

But as for the current series at hand, the Celtics will face an inconsistent Bulls team and a very familiar face to Boston fans – Rajon Rondo. Fans know all too well that Rondo can take over a game at any given time and the Celtics are aware of that as well. By no means does Boston have to be on “upset alert” in the first round, but the Bulls do possess much more playoff experience as a team than the Celtics do.

Just as Rondo exited Boston as the face of the franchise, a new face emerged in Isaiah Thomas. Thomas has been the leader of this team all season. Chicago will look to take Thomas out of this series with defense from Rondo and Bulls guard Jimmy Butler forcing another player like Avery Bradley or Al Horford to step up and take some of the pressure off of Thomas.

Along with Rondo and Butler, the Bulls also have Dwyane Wade in a very talented and dangerous guard trio. If Wade can step his game up like he did last year in the playoffs with the Miami Heat, the Celtics may be in for a long, tight series. Wade is recovering from an elbow injury and it could be a lot to ask the 35-year-old to produce numbers like he did last year. The Celtics have greatly improved their defense since the All-Star break and have a huge advantage over the Bulls in that category. If Boston can shut down Butler and make Rondo or Wade step up, the Celtics should remain in control of this series.

Boston dropped the series opener on Sunday night 106-102. Thomas, to no surprise, led the Celtics in scoring with 33 points, but Boston was unable to contain Butler as he led the Bulls with 30 points. One of the key reasons the Celtics stumbled in the opener was that they were outrebounded 53-36, including 20 offensive rebounds for the Bulls. Chicago isn’t a mismatch for the Celtics on the glass, but they were on Sunday night. It will be a long series if the Cs can’t find rebounds and if Thomas doesn’t get some support.

Game two of the series will take place on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on TNT. The full series schedule is below:

Game 1 Sun. CHI at BOS 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2 Tue. CHI at BOS 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3 4/21 BOS at CHI 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4 4/23 BOS at CHI 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5* 4/26 CHI at BOS TBD
Game 6* 4/28 BOS at CHI TBD
Game 7* 4/30 CHI at BOS TBD
* If necessary