The Boston Celtics were defeated by the Chicago Bulls 106-102 on Sunday Night. It wasn’t pretty. The Celtics, as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, were expected to have a fairly easy time with the Bulls. Granted, no one in their right mind really thinks the Celtics are the best team in the East, but they can surely beat a .500 basketball team in a seven game series, right? Think again. The Bulls exposed the Celtics glaring weakness that the Celtics continue to not be able to overcome. It’s the same weakness that did them in last spring against the Atlanta Hawks. Interior defense and rebounding. The Celtics don’t either and it takes away any shot of them have a realistic chance to contend.
Towards the end of the second quarter of last night’s game, the Celtics had held Jimmy Butler to five points on 1-5 shooting. Surely, if you take away a #8 seeds best player, you’re going to be ahead in a blowout, correct? Nope. The Celtics were losing. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. The Bulls had 16 offensive rebounds in the first half. The Celtics had 11 defensive rebounds. This means that the Bulls rebounded their own shot 59% of time. No teams wins that way. Not the ’85 Lakers. Not the ’86 Celtics. Not the ’96 Bulls. If you let your opponent get multiple chances to score you lose. It’s a simple fact.
The Celtics knew that this was their glaring weakness after last season. They went out and signed Al Horford to help…and he has to some extent. But, we all know that Horford is not an elite rebounder. This season he didn’t even average seven rebounds a game which is a problem for a starting center. We’re not going to put this loss on Horford. He had 19 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Solid game. We’ll take that every night! The culprits of this loss are the same two guys who continue to hurt this team with their lack of defensive impact…Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson. These two guys were just non-existent on the defensive end last night. It was borderline embarrassing. They were the two biggest contributors to the Celtics getting out rebounded 65-44! Astounding number for a #1 playoff seed.
Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson are responsible for the Celtics loss last night. It’s a shame that neither player showed up on a night where Isaiah Thomas raised his game on a night that he showed a lot of heart to even step onto the court for. No, it wasn’t Isaiah whose head wasn’t in the game. It was the two Celtics big men who fail over to stop opponents from getting easy offensive rebounds and points down low. When you shoot and miss against the Celtics, you just a mulligan more often that not.
The good news? Olynyk and Johnson are as good as gone after this season. If they keep playing 20+ minutes a game in the playoffs, it isn’t going to end well for the Celtics and the postseason run that Celtics fans are craving will be nothing more than a pipe dream. Danny Ainge is going to need to shuffle the deck this offseason and he if really thinks this team is ready, he will find a legit big man.
In the meantime? How about Tyer Zeller? No, he isn’t going to chuck threes like Olynyk, but he’ll give you a good defensive effort and make an impact on the boards. If it was not obvious all season, it sure was last night. The personnel that played down low lost this game. Adjustment time.
Game Two: Tuesday at 8:00 PM at TD Garden.