BOSTON (CBS) — The 1-seeded Boston Celtics are in a 2-0 hole in their playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, with the series shifting to Chicago for Game 3 on Friday night.
Boston has been dominated by Chicago’s trio of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, and have had no answer for Robin Lopez’s play in the paint. Isaiah Thomas is the only player who has shown up for the C’s in the first two games, averaging 26.5 points on 49 percent shooting, and he’s done so while dealing with the death of his younger sister just prior to the beginning of the series.
CSNNE’s Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Friday morning to look ahead to Game 3, and explain what the heck has happened to the C’s over the first two games.
“I think, in a way, they were ambushed a little bit, not thinking Butler, Rondo and Wade were Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen,” said Gorman. “I don’t know whether the Celtics have the personnel to stop these guys when they’re on the same page, which they seem to be right now. … All of a sudden over the last 2-3 weeks, it’s like they had some kind of meeting and said they could be a factor in this. The truth of the matter is when Rondo, Butler and Wade are playing at their best, and [Nikola] Mirotic hits jump shots and guys off the bench can score, like [Bobby] Portis, the Celtics have a real matchup problem.
“I would say this is the coaching challenge of Brad Stevens’ young career,” added Gorman.
The Celtics won 53 games during the regular season to claim the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but Gorman says reality has set in now that the postseason has arrived.
“I think reality set in a little bit and they hit a bit of a wall at the end of the year. I think they overachieved all year long; I think this team is a year ahead, maybe two years ahead of schedule in terms of where the Celtics though they’d be. The regular season Eastern Conference Champs, that’s not something that was anticipated coming into this season. So I think this team really overachieved and it caught up with them over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“They can’t really change who they are, but they need to play with a much more sense of urgency,” added Gorman. “The Celtics have to play with a passion tonight that we haven’t seen in the first two games.”
As for what the Celtics can do to turn things around, Gorman said to expect some changes to Stevens’ rotation going forward.
“I think there’s going to be some mixing and matching that we haven’t seen. I think they may extend defensive pressure a little bit. That seems to be playing into Rondo’s hands, but maybe find a way to get it out of his hands; he seems to be the head of the snake as far as Chicago goes,” he said. “The big thing is they have to take the intensity level, which has only been a six or seven, and ratchet it up to a nine. Everything has to be ramped up emotionally, and they have to sustain that for 48 minutes.”
Stevens currently sits at just 2-10 in postseason play, and his reputation would take a big hit should Boston get swept out of the first round as the 1-seed. But Gorman doesn’t think it should.
“If Chicago turns around and gets swept by whoever they play next, yes. If they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals and give Cleveland a series, then you say ‘well they caught a bad draw.’ But I don’t think it affects Brad Stevens’ reputation. This team won the Eastern Conference regular season title, and that’s better than who they are, if that makes sense,” he said.
Gorman also touched on what the Celtics need to do to make Al Horford more effective in the paint: