Jimmy Butler made sure to make his mark on round 1 of the NBA playoffs early. After qualifying for the second part of the season on the last day of the regular season, the stud wingman gave an A+ performance to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 1-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics.
It was an emotional day for the Boston Celtics and their star Isaiah Thomas. In a monumental display of courage and fortitude, IT was sensational dropping 33 points including his usual display of 4th quarter heroics making huge shots to keep the Celtics in the game. This performance came a day after the passing of his younger sister, Chyna Thomas, in a car accident in their hometown in Washington. However, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls snagged game 1 on the road behind Butler’s 30 points including 23 in the second half. Here are some takeaways from the exciting game 1.
The Celtics Rebounding Woes Continue
In our series preview, we discussed how the Celtics would have to keep up with the Chicago Bulls superior rebounding in order to get ahead. This did not happen at all in game 1, as Chicago were able to stay in the game despite going 0-for-9 from 3 point range. Robin Lopez opened up with 10 points and 6 rebounds and set the tone for a night in which Boston repeatedly looked overmatched on the boards. The Bulls outrebounded the Celtics 53 – 36 including a massive 20 offensive rebounds.
The Celtics famously decided not to make any major moves at the trade deadline. They also declined to add any type of veteran presence headed into the playoffs. They need to address their issues of both rebounding and defending at the rim in a hurry to avoid an upset.
Bench Players will be key for the rest of the series
It is well known that at one point or another the stars for both teams will get their numbers. Isaiah Thomas and Jimmy Butler both shined yesterday and did not disappoint for their teams. However, the bench play will be a key factor for two teams that struggle to be effective when their stars are off the floor.
Bobby Portis was huge for the Bulls yesterday in his playoff debut. He dropped 19 important points on an efficient 8-10 shooting including 3-4 from 3 point range. He also contributed to the domination on the glass with 9 rebounds. Being able to step up and play 29 effective minutes in place of the struggling Nikola Mirotic (1-9 shooting) was critical for the Bulls to stay afloat offensively. He ended the game with a team-leading plus-minus rating of +12 and will no doubt be called upon again in game two to assist the offensively inconsistent Bulls.
On the other end, the Celtics bench underperformed particularly in the paint with neither Jonas Jerebko nor Kelly Olynyk able to make an impact on either end of the floor. The Bulls Bench outscored the Celtics bench 35-22.
They say a series doesn’t truly start until the first team loses at home. For this 1/8 seed matchup, the series has already started. The Chicago Bulls know that they cannot rest on their laurels and need to continue to press their advantage on the glass while hoping for consistent shooting throughout. The Celtics look to rebound and give Isaiah Thomas some assistance offensively. The two teams get a day off before returning to action on Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST on TNT.