BOSTON (CBS) — In an 0-2 hole to the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics are in some serious trouble.
Boston faces another first-round exit from the playoffs, which would be unacceptable given their 53-win regular season and No. 1 seed status heading into the postseason. But head coach Brad Stevens said the focus is simple as the series shifts to Chicago on Friday night.
“We have no choice but to focus on Friday, and that’s what we’ll do,” Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand on Wednesday. “We have some guys in here shooting right now on an off-day. But I think it will be good, for the most part, to separate for a day and get our minds fresh, get ready tomorrow to prepare for our best game on Friday.”
Stevens wouldn’t discuss who the team’s best — or worst — players have been over the first two games of the series.
“We all can improve,” said Stevens, who is now 2-10 in the playoffs. “We’re going to need everybody to be as good as they can be on Friday. Everyone has had moments, we need to sustain them.”
Stevens highlighted two areas of need to improve if the Celtics want to claw their way back against the Bulls: Their play in transition and rebounding.
“The two biggest areas of concern from a basketball perspective are the transition play, both our offensive transition and our inability to convert versus giving up transition, oftentimes off of our turnovers and our decisions off offense. Those are hurting us in a big way,” he said. “And obviously, the rebounds have been well documented. I thought we did a better job, at times, last night of getting to the ball and getting them off the glass.”
The Celtics bounced back after getting pummeled on the glass in Game 1, as both teams were even with 49 rebounds in Game 2. But Stevens said Boston’s inability to put the ball in the basket on offense is hurting them on the defensive end.
“I still feel good about our half court, set defense for the most part, but we have to play better with our offense, especially in transition. There was a stretch in the second quarter that really hurt us. We missed a few in transition, we threw the ball away a couple of times, and it seemed like they just turned around and converted, converted and converted. Those are hard runs to withstand because it’s deflating when you don’t score when you have an advantage,” he said.”If you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, it seems like the other team is going to go down and score.”
Stevens said that Isaiah Thomas has left the team to be with family in Tacoma, Washington following the death of his younger sister over the weekend.
“It’s been a really hard week, a really hard week. Isaiah has been able to play in both games, and I think that’s probably been a time when he can have his mind away from the hurt and away from the pain. But I know the other 21.5 hours have been tough,” said Stevens.
No services have been planned for Chyna Thomas, who was killed in a car accident on Saturday.
“Our guys and the organization has been great about supporting him and will continue to do so,” said Stevens. “At the same time, we are aware there’s a game we have to prepare for and we have to play better than we have the last two. But we have the perspective that we have to be there for a teammate, first and foremost.”
Stevens also touched on the play of Al Horford, and postgame comments from the C’s forward about the series being a “learning experience” for some players: