Bulls role players at the heart of 2-0 series lead vs. Celtics

Bulls role players at the heart of 2-0 series lead vs. Celtics

BOSTON – Chicago’s Big Three of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo have been major problems for the Boston Celtics in the first two games of their best-of-seven series.
But it has been the Bulls’ role players who have stolen the show and more than anything, are at the heart of Chicago taking a 2-0 series lead following Tuesday’s 111-94 win over the Celtics.
In Game 1, it was Bobby Portis coming off the Bulls bench to tally a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds.
On Tuesday, it was Paul Zipser’s turn.
He was the latest Chicago reserve to step up, scoring 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
“I got to give our role players a lot of credit,” said Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. “Paul Zipser was huge for us; Christiano (Felicio) made some huge plays for us, especially on the defensive end for our team; Michael (Carter-Williams) went out there and gave us good minutes for not playing in the series yet; then Robin (Lopez) continues to go out there and do all the little things to help us win basketball games. Then at the end it was good to see Dwayne (Wade) get it going a little bit and obviously Jimmy is going to have the ball in his hands a lot in the fourth quarter.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens had similar comments about the Bulls.
“The Zipsers, (Nikola) Mirotic, Portis, those guys have had huge impacts on the first two games of this series,” Stevens said. “I expect it from (Dwyane) Wade, right? I think we all do. Last year he hit less than 10 3’s in the regular season and more than that in the first round of the playoffs. This is who he is. It’s who Rondo’s been throughout his career. The level he’s playing at is terrific And Butler is Butler. But those other guys are really impacting the series in a big way.”
And as impressive as they have been, the real MVP of this series thus far isn’t any of those reserve players, or Wade, Butler or Rondo, either.
It’s Robin Lopez.
His ability to control the glass in both games in addition to scoring around the rim as well as in pick-and-pop action consistently, has been easily the biggest factor in Boston being down 2-0 in this series which moves to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
“That shots open,” Lopez said of his mid-range jumper that he has been killing the Celtics with thus far. “I’m just trying to shoot it with confidence.”
Confidence is a good thing to have this time of year in the playoffs.
The Celtics sound confident that they can get back in the series, their play thus far suggests something entirely different.  

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

With Kyrie Irving undergoing a “minimally invasive procedure” on Saturday, the Boston Celtics may look to add a player via the “hardship roster exception” that only teams that are significantly impacted by injuries, are eligible for. 

MORE - Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

The Celtics won’t have a clear sense of what the timetable will be for Irving’s return until after his procedure is performed. 

But it’s likely to be at least a couple weeks which at the earliest would put Irving’s return just before the playoffs. 

In order to qualify for the NBA’s hardship roster exception, at least four players must miss a minimum of three consecutive games, and later be deemed to be out for an additional two weeks. 

Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) are out for the season, and Marcus Smart (right thumb) recently underwent surgery that will keep him sidelined for at least another five weeks. 

An independent doctor will determine if the extent of the aforementioned injuries as well as the recovery time for Irving, meet the two-week criteria to be eligible for the hardship roster exception. 

Once that’s determined, Boston will be given a hardship roster exception to use on a player for the remainder of the regular season but won’t be eligible for the postseason. 

If Boston does add a player, look for him to come from the Gatorade League, possibly their G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. 

Boston has a collection of guards who have helped fill the void left by Irving’s absence, but Boston has not been able to address the loss of Daniel Theis. 

Keep an eye on former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Red Claws this season. 

MORE - Hayward gives update on rehab

Boston has a 45-day cap on the use of its two-way players with the parent team, but that limitation ends tomorrow which means guard/forward Jabari Bird and guard Kadeem Allen can earn the league minimum for every day they are with the Celtics going forward in the regular season. That can provide some depth to a Celtics team that because of injuries, can use every healthy body they can find.


Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Kyrie Irving could be back on the court in time for the Celtics to begin the playoffs.

Or not.

Irving will have what the Celts are describing as a "minimally invasive procedure" on his injured left knee Saturday. NBC Sports Boston talked to Dr. Christopher Chihlas from Southcoast Health -- who has not examined Irving but is familiar with his type of injury -- about how long Irving may be sidelined.

"A minimally invasive procedure is basically an arthroscopy," said Dr. Chihlas. "His return to play is mostly dependent on what is done . . . If it's just a cleanout, as we're being told, then -- best-case scenario -- we could see him back playing in three to four weeks."

But, he added, "it could be double that . . . depending upon what exactly is found . . . 

"The key here is the patella fracture (which Irving suffered during the 2015 playoffs). My feeling is that he's suffering a bit of the consequence of the patella fracture, which is a fracture into the knee joint . . . [He] may need to have this done periodically to get him through the rest of his career."