By David Creed
There were high hopes for the Boston Celtics coming into the playoffs. They clinched the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, and looked primed to go on a run and win at least one playoff series for the first time since 2013.
The Celtics came into the series preparing to play a team that was led by an old friend in point guard Rajon Rondo, an old nemesis in future hall of famer Dwayne Wade, and budding superstar Jimmy Butler. The Celtics were expected to handle the Bulls quite easily by many people who had been watching the team all season long.
These expectations didn’t come to fruition right away however, as the Celtics lost game one at home 106-102, game two at home 111-97. They were outrebounded by the Bulls 96-74 through the first two games of the series, and showed a lack of fight and energy that should be deemed completely unacceptable by anyone who is affiliated with this historic Celtics franchise in anyway.
They came into this series with a heavy heart, as Celtic’s All Star Isaiah Thomas and his family received news that Isaiah’s 22 year old sister was killed in a one car accident in Washington. Fans across the league believed the Celtics would come out firing and would play with lots of emotion in an effort to win for Isaiah, but through the first two games of the series they have did anything but that.
The Celtics bounced back however, winning game three 104-87 while being led by Center Al Horford, who finished the game with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. The Celtics then went into game four and took care of business, winning 104-95 behind Isaiah Thomas’ 33
points and Al Horford’s 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. Bulls guard Rajon Rondo did not play in either of the previous two games, as he fractured his thumb towards the end of game two while fighting for a loose ball.
Despite this comeback the Celtics have put together, it should still be noted that since Brad Stevens took over as head coach of the Boston Celtics, the Celtics are just 4-10 in postseason play. Even with the Celtics pulling even with the Bulls in this best of seven series through four games, Boston is the one seed and the Bulls are the eight seed. In the NBA it is often unheard of for a one seed to have problems in the first round, let alone lose the series, which has to have Celtics fans wondering what the problem could be.
While Stevens certainly deserves his share of criticism for the Celtics inability to translate their regular season success to the playoffs, it should also be mentioned that the Celtics roster may simply be overhyped and overvalued by fans, media, and management who are affiliated with or cover the team. Celtics fans for the past four years have been proposed trade proposals and scenarios that could possibly become realities in the league moving forward, and many take the stance that they would not trade players like Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley for players such as Jimmy Butler or the Indiana Pacer’s Paul George.
While it is fine for these fans to have their own opinions on how this Celtics franchise should move forward, it should be noted that their lack of talent has been exposed in the playoffs these past three postseason appearances. The need for an impact scorer like Jimmy Butler or Paul George is on display more than ever in this very series even with the Celtics ability to come back in the series. We have already seen someone like Jimmy Butler who has been in many Celtics trade rumors for the past year being able to take over the fourth quarters of game one and two, and other spurts along the way through this whole series.
Jimmy Butler, the player Celtics fans wouldn’t trade Jae Crowder has been able to eat the Celtics alive in this series so far. If the Celtics cannot complete the comeback and defeat the Bulls in the opening round, this may be the series that many Celtics fans realize they need to rid themselves of these ridiculous love affairs they have for some of these players, and begin to understand that a trade really does need to be made for someone like Butler, even if it is at the expense of losing someone like Crowder, Smart, or Bradley.
In the end it wouldn’t shock me at all if the Celtics complete the comeback and win this series. They have more depth and simply have the better team. They should beat this Bulls team. The Bulls were the eight seed for a reason and the Celtics were the one seed for a reason. Regardless of whether the Celtics comeback and win this series or not, the biggest takeaway Celtics fans should have is that they need a superstar on this team that can go head to head with the opposing teams star. Until that day comes where they land that player or develop one that they draft, the Celtics will continue to be vulnerable and ill-equipped to make a title run.
In the meantime, Celtics fans should just hope the Celtics don’t become the third team in the past 25 years to lose to the eight seed in the first round of the playoffs while holding down the top spot in the conference.