Boston Celtics (1-2) at Chicago Bulls (2-1)
Sunday, April 23, 2017
6:30 PM ET
Playoff Game #4, Road Game #2
TV: TNT, CSNNE, CSN-CHI
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WLUP FM97.9
The Bulls host the Celtics for the second straight game. The Celtics come into this game looking to even the series and take the series back to Boston tied at 2 games each. The Celtics have been at their best this season when their backs are to the wall and when the odds are against them. That was certainly the case in the first game in Chicago and they came through with a win. They are still the underdogs and need to come out strong once again and fight for another win.
Brad Stevens made a very surprising lineup change before Game 3 by inserting Gerald Green into the starting lineup in place of Amir Johnson, who played just 5 minutes in the game. That move seemed to work out as the Celtics jumped out to a first quarter lead and then kept the pressure on all game to come away with an impressive win. The Bulls will more than likely make adjustments of their own to try to counter the Celtics' small ball lineup. Hopefully the Celtics will be ready to counter any moves they make.
Rajon Rondo missed Game 3 with a fractured thumb and is expected to miss this game as well. Although, if he decided to go ahead and play with a fractured thumb it wouldn't surprise me one bit. We've seen him finish games with a dislocated elbow, with a torn ACL, and now with a fractured thumb. He's as tough as they come. But hopefully, he will be more cautious and sit out again. The Celtics are not reporting any injuries.
Probable Starting Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Jerian Grant
Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade
Jae Crowder vs Jimmy Butler
Gerald Green vs Nikola Mirotic
Al Horford vs Robin Lopez
Rajon Rondo (thumb) out
Jae Crowder vs Jimmy Butler
Jae will likely be playing the 4 at times with the small ball lineup. In game 3, Avery Bradley was matched up with Jimmy Butler and pretty much contained him. Butler finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, no assists and 1 steal. This is another example why Avery deserves first team all defense once again this season. The Bulls may use Butler at the point in this game if their young back up point guards struggle once again. Either way, limiting Butler will be key to getting a win in this game.
Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade
Wade started Game 3 strong but struggled down the stretch. The key to containing Wade is to make him run constantly during the game and wear him out. There is always a chance that Playoff Wade shows up but if the Celtics make him run and then defend him well, they may be able to keep him from having an impact. He is averaging 17 points, 3.3 rebounds an 3.7 assists for the series.
Isaiah Thomas vs Jerian Grant
Isaiah is key to the Celtics fortunes. As Isaiah goes, so go the Celtics. The Bulls aren't nearly as efficient without Rondo and Grant struggled in Game 3, but the Celtics can't underestimate it because he has shot well at times this season and if he feels comfortable, then he may cause them some problems.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics' defense has been up and down. They have allowed easy baskets at times and at other times played good defense for a spurt. They have to do a better job of locking them down and defend both inside and out. The Celtics won Game 3 with their defense, holding the Bulls to just 87 points. Each player needs to make defense a priority and be sure to have each others' backs on team defense. When the Celtics lock down on defense, they are very tough to beat. They need another game like Game 3 where they played tough in your face defense.
Rebound - The Bulls are a very good rebounding team. They out-rebounded the Celtics by 39 rebounds in their 2 wins against the Celtics in the regular season. They picked right back up in Game 1 with a 53-36 rebounding edge. The Celtics did a bit better in Game 2 closing the gap to 6 fewer rebounds. Even in their big win in Game 3, they were outrebounded by 15. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and so the Celtics must put out the extra effort on the boards to give themselves extra possessions as well as to limit the Bulls fast break opportunities and second chance points. Every Celtics player must crash the boards and work extra hard to beat the Bulls to rebounds.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics were the more aggressive team in Game 3 and it resulted in a win. The Celtics must be aggressive on both ends of the court. They have to be the more aggressive team going for loose balls, on defense, on the boards, and in going to the hoop. KG sent the team an inspirational message before the game and according to Avery Bradley, KG reminded them that Celtics are always supposed to be the hardest working team every single night. They need to heed those words once again in this game and outwork the Bulls once again.
Ball Movement - The Celtics ball movement was phenomenal in Game 3. They brought the ball up the court quickly and shared the ball, making the extra pass to find the open man. They had 34 assists to just 14 for the Bulls. The Celtics have to continue to move the ball and find the open man for the best shot and they need to continue to take care of the ball and limit turnovers by avoiding sloppy passes and careless ball handling.
Focus - There has been a dark cloud over the Celtics locker room since the death of Isaiah's sister the day before Game 1. It has affected every player on the team which speaks to the closeness of the players. It was good to see Isaiah smile in Game 3 and all of the players seemed to be looser and having fun on the court once again. They need to keep that focus on the game and keep their spirits up. Focus on playing one game at a time and playing the game the right way.
Underdogs On the Road- This Celtics team is at its best when they have been disrespected underdogs. They haven't done well as the favorite. They are still down in the series and the Bulls still have home court and so the Celtics still have to play from behind and give it their best effort. Also, they have played well on the road, with the hostile crowds seemingly pushing them to play their best. Hopefully they can continue winning with their us against the world mindset.
Team Play - The Celtics won Game 3 mostly because every player on the court was playing hard, crashing the boards and hitting their shots. They have to do the same thing in this game if they want to win. Every player has to be playing their hardest. Every player has to crash the boards. Every player has to move the ball and find the open man. Every player must defend as if their lives depended on it. Every player has to stay focused and take good shots and make them. If they do all this, they will come out on top once again.
Live by the 3, Die by the 3 - The Celtics take a lot of 3's in the game. They made 17 3's in Game 3. They have to keep their focus and take good shots and make their 3's when they take them. If the 3's aren't falling for some reason, they have to take it inside. Hopefully they can stay focused and the 3's will fall once again in this game.
TNT Game - The Bulls have won their last 21 home games televised on TNT. Who knows what forces go into keeping that record alive. In the game they beat the Celtics on TNT, it came down to a phantom foul call on Marcus Smart to give the Bulls free throws and a one point win. With this being a Bulls home game on TNT, they may have some extra confidence going into the game and the Celtics need to counter that with even better defense.
Officiating - Officiating will always be an x-factor. Some crews call every little bit of contact that takes the flow out of the game. Some crews let them play. Some refs have an agenda against a team, a coach or a player. All of these things can alter the way a game is played and the ability of a team to play well. So far in the series, the officiating has been pretty good and they have mostly let them play. Hopefully they call this game fairly as well and let them play.
Scott Foster as lead referee is worrisome. He was voted the worst ref in the league by players and coaches in a survey done by the LA Times. Foster's former close friend, Tim Donaghy, described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes.
The league admitted to Foster making 3 crucial bad calls and non-calls against the Celtics in the final 2 minutes of the 1 point loss to Atlanta in last year's playoffs.. His home W/L record this season is 45-27. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games with Foster and Chicago is 5-5 in their last 10 with Foster on the court.