NBA Playoffs 2017 Preview: Boston Celtics vs Chicago Bulls
The Boston Celtics are gearing up to defend home court throughout the 2017 NBA Playoffs when they host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. The Celtics finished the season with the number one record in the East, beating out Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers by just one game for the coveted top spot. The Celtics now has the Chicago Bulls to worry about, as the eighth seeded Bulls roll into Boston with their sights set on an upset.
There are several big questions for this series but the number one question (for the Celtics) is who will help Isaiah Thomas carry the scoring load. We saw the Atlanta Hawks take Thomas out of his normal groove in last year’s playoffs which helped the Hawks take down the Celtics in 6 games. The Hawks were able to do this by doubling Thomas and forcing other Celtics to take the big shots which they didn’t. However since last season, Thomas has grown as a playmaker and having Al Horford on the floor helps Isaiah move without the ball and create his own shots. But Horford has had a down year in terms of scoring and that needs to change in this series. Horford can’t look to feed the ball to his teammates as much as he likes to if the Celtics want to dominate the Bulls. Horford has proven he can be the best passing big in the league but I would rather have him score more than pass. If he can get fed down in the low block or even outside of the paint. Big Al shouldn’t take as many threes as he did in the regular season, I know the game is changing and big men are starting to develop that shot but he needs to go back to his old role in order to be successful.
Besides Al Horford, the next best thing for the Celtics in this series is a fully healthy Avery Bradley. Bradley is one of if not best perimeter defender in the league. He will be key in stopping Dwyane Wade’s production in this series but also his scoring will help the Celtics. His three point shooting has improved this season but also his ability to penetrate the lane will help Isaiah Thomas by taking off the scoring load.
As good as the Celtics are offensively and defensively, their rebounding is atrocious. It is strange that with all the big bodies they have the Celtics struggle to rebound the ball. This weakness won’t be exposed by the Bulls though, Chicago has struggled in their own right ever since trading Taj Gibson to the Thunder but if the Bulls can expose this weakness then the Celtics will be on upset alert. The teams split all meetings they had with each other this season and one key element for those games was second chance points. The Bulls outscored the Celtics 40-9 in both games in Chicago this season while in Boston both teams had 25 second chance points. If there is one thing this series will come down to, it’s rebounding.
This HAS to be the year the Celtics breakout in the playoffs. No more of the one and done in the first round it is time for Isaiah Thomas to prove he is a star and show up in the playoffs. This Bulls team is nothing to sleep on, they can give the Celtics a series and in fact I predict this one to go 5 or 6 games but the Celtics will emerge victorious and move on to face the Pacers or Wizards. There are a lot of unanswered questions that we will be getting answers to once the playoffs tip off.