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The Read & React: bull rushed

Despite 33 from Isaiah Thomas and a solid night from Al Horford, the Celtics lost to a more physical, hungrier Bulls team.

NBA: Playoffs-Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Time for a dog fight (Alex Kungu): The Celtics are a young team that despite a fantastic regular season still needs to learn how to win in the postseason. In a perfect world the 8th seed would be the perfect tune-up to get the experience, but instead the Celtics were matched up with a Chicago team that's great in areas the Celtics are weak. It'll be important for the Celtics to let this game go to the rear view. They're the better team, and that was probably the best shot the Bulls could muster. They have the formula to at least contain Butler/Wade, but they'll need to really limit the turnovers and contain better on the boards which they did in the second half. Also, the Cs are just going to need more from Jae Crowder on the offensive end—4-of-12 shooting including 1 of 5 from three just isn't going to cut it. It's a rough pill to swallow, but it's by no means a death sentence. The Celtics are one of the best road teams in the conference and are very capable of stealing a game if need be. But as for now, it's time to focus on game two.

Defense doesn't end until you have the ball (Keith P. Smith): The Celtics forced 52 missed shots from the Bulls. Unfortunately, Chicago converted 20 of those misses into offensive rebounds. An optimist would suggest it got better in the fourth quarter, but that had more to do with Chicago hitting 9 of 17 shots in the final period. Boston's single biggest wart stood out more on the biggest possible stage than it had all year long. Robin Lopez was the biggest culprit of stealing second chances, with eight offensive boards, but it was a team-wide field day for the Bulls.

Boston has a chance to have a special postseason run, but it won't happen if they don't clean up the rebounding. No external help is coming, so it has to come from adjustments internally. The scheme isn't likely to change, but most coaches will tell you defensive rebounding is about desire and size. Sometimes you can just get beat by bigger teams. But for large parts of the night, the Bulls simply wanted the ball more. The Celtics may have to gamble off shooters even more to put five players on the glass if the primary guys inside can't get it done.

In addition to simply giving up a second shot, offensive rebounds are deflating. Multiple times the Celtics defended their tails off and got a missed shot, only to see the Bulls get another look. When that happens, shoulders sag, heads shake, hands get throw up in exasperation and effort begins to wane on initial defense on the following trips.

As they have all year when the chips are down, you can expect the Celtics to respond with a monster effort in Game 2. They'll play hard and attack the ball and defend like maniacs. But if they can't keep Chicago off the boards, the game might end in disappointment once again.

Oh, and IT is a warrior. A true Celtic through and through. Sign me up to go to battle with that guy anytime. He's not the problem here. Never was and probably never will be.

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I’ve had about enough of Robin Lopez (Jeff Nooney): RoLo was one of those guys around the league that you could root for even if he wasn’t on your team. He personified the id of the Lopez twins: fighting mascots, spending his per diem on comics, styling his hair a la Sideshow Bob, etc. But all that accumulated goodwill ended with his 14-point, 8-offensive rebound performance against the Celtics in Game 1. It felt like he was always lurking around to basket to snag rebounds and extend possessions for the Bulls.

He scored 6 points on put-back layups and dunks alone. There were even two possessions where the Celtics forced a stop after a Lopez offensive board, only to allow another Bulls offensive rebound and subsequent score. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least. Lopez also made his physical presence felt with some tough screens and solid rim protection. If he continues putting up 14 and 11 for the rest of the series, Boston is in some trouble. Whether it takes sacrificing transition offense or sending out Lucky to instigate a fight, the Celtics cannot keep letting Lopez and company dominate the glass like that.

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

You can’t always get what you want (Bill Sy): I’ve been banging this drum all season, but once in a while, games like this happen. Unfortunately, it happened in an emotional Game 1 of the playoffs.

Per Synergy, more than two-thirds of the Bulls’ field goal attempts were contested. For the Celtics, it was about a 50/50 split. But here’s the rub: Boston shot 16 for 42 (38.1%) and Chicago made 27-of-61 (44.3%). Specifically, after keeping Jimmy Butler in check for the first half (despite having Jae Crowder in foul trouble), Butler hit tough jumper after tough jumper in the fourth quarter and got to the line twelve times in the opener.

And then there’s the outlier: Bobby Portis. The 6’11” big man wasn’t even doing damage inside. Portis shot 8 for 10 from the field, hitting three three-pointers and and all four of his mid-range jumpers.

This was a tough game to swallow, but the Celtics will live with that shot chart. Despite giving up twenty offensive rebounds, if Boston can limit the damage in the restricted area and defend the arc, they’ll win most games. Today was an anomaly.


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