Last night, the Boston Celtics clinched the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference by defeating the Bucks. This is the first time since 2007 they clinched the #1 seed in the playoffs; the year they won it all with the Big 3. Their first opponent of this playoff campaign are the Chicago Bulls (41-41).
They’ve fair well against Chicago; splitting the match-up 2-2, 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. Chicago had to fight their way through the season to get that #8 seed, edging the Miami Heat for it. Led by Jimmy Butler, this team seems loaded with talent; from Dwayne Wade to Rajon Rondo, you’d think they’d be seeded higher. Well that’s not the case here; injuries have cost them, Rondo (like the player he is) creates controversy in the locker room, and overall not very well coached. As of lately they’ve been known as the #TNTBulls; whenever the Bulls are shown on TNT network AT HOME, they have a 20 game regular season win streak. Quite impressive, but these are the playoffs; different atmosphere, different intensity.
The edge: Jimmy Butler is their best scorer, no question; scoring 23.9 points a game, compared to Thomas’ 28.9 points a game, definitely a huge gap there. Right behind Butler is Dwayne Wade, whose scored 18.3 points a game; though he was injured and sat out a few games, he played a majority of the season (60 games). Celtics second man in scoring is of course Bradley with 16.3 points a game; same as Wade, Bradley got hurt this season but played less games than him (55 games). So offensively its fairly matched, but Celtics seemed to be favored because of Thomas.
Defensively for both teams are quite similar, but favors the Bulls by a smidge. The leading rebounder for the Bulls is Gipson with 6.9 rebounds per game, Hordford leads the Celtics with 6.8 rebounds per game. Butler leads in steals for the Bulls with 1.9 steals per game, while Smart has 1.6 steals per game. Leading the block category for the Bulls is Robin Lopez with 1.4, while Hordford blocks per game is 1.3. So overall not much difference in the defense; evenly matched by just a bit.
Series preview: The Celtics have a lot to prove in these playoffs; not to us, but the critics who say they don’t deserve the #1 seed. The Bulls shouldn’t be a problem for us for that matter; at home we’re 2-0 against them, not that it means much but it’s a confidence booster if anything. The Bulls may have an All-Star cast; but Wade’s best days seem to be behind him, and Rondo really can’t shoot so he just passes the ball around. If anything Butler will be a key player the Celtics have to stop if they plan on beating the Chicago Bulls. On the Celtics offense, Isaiah just needs to be him; don’t be fancy or be “that player that everyone wants you to be”, just do what you’ve done all season. Hopefully a supporting cast player can keep up with Thomas’scoring, whether that’s Bradley or Crowder. The Celtics must win the rebound game as well; the Bulls don’t have a lot of big guys compared to Hordford and Johnson, they shouldn’t have a problem but that always seems to be a problem with us as of late.
The Celtics shouldn’t have a problem with this match-up, I’m predicting this series goes to 5 games, 4-1 Celtics move on.
The Celtics next potential opponent could either be Washington or Atlanta, and preferably I would want to face Washington. We’re 2-2 against Washington, but like the Bulls, we’re 2-0 at home and 0-2 against them on the road; and if it were to go into a 7 games series we still have home-court advantage, which is huge. As for Atlanta, we’re 1-2 against them, we haven’t beaten them since January; and the past two meeting Atlanta has has our number. Some consider Washington a threat to us; but honestly in a 7 game series with home court advantage, I feel confident that we could beat them.
The Celtics start their playoff run Sunday, April 16th at 6:30pm on TNT.