BOSTON – There was no getting around the magnitude of Boston’s 112-94 win over Milwaukee, a victory that secured Boston (53-29) finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference and with that, home-court advantage for as long they're in the postseason.
So, naturally all anyone wanted to talk about afterwards was the Celtics and their first-round opponent, the Chicago Bulls.
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“They’re a really good team,” said Avery Bradley. “We’re going to do a great job preparing over the next few days and it’s going to be a great series for us.”
Isaiah Thomas also had nice things to say about the Bulls who come in having won seven of their final nine games (albeit most of those wins came against the worst teams in the NBA).
“It will be a good matchup for us,” Thomas said. “They’re the eighth seed but they’re better than what seed they are. They’re a really good team, especially with Dwyane Wade back. So we have to be ready for them.”
I understand why Bradley and Thomas said so many nice things about the Bulls.
The last thing they want to do is give the Bulls bulletin board material.
But as much as the Bulls rallied to get into the postseason, there are significant flaws within their roster at several positions that in a playoff series, I anticipate the Celtics will exploit early and often.
Here's a look at the battle pitting the Celtics’ All-Star point guard of the present (Isaiah Thomas) against the franchise’s All-Star point guard of the past (Rajon Rondo):
In Thomas, you have one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA. The 5-foot-9 veteran was third in the league this season in scoring (28.9 points per game), which was tops in the Eastern Conference. And while there are many factors that have played a role in his improved scoring, the biggest appears to be him just being more efficient offensively. This is evident when you consider his effective field goal percentage (Efg%) was a career-high .546 this season. Thomas’ ability to shoot close to what he did during the regular season will go far in Boston’s quest to get out of the first round.
In Rondo, the four-time All-Star returns to the playoffs for the first time with a team other than the Celtics. This season with the Bulls, he appeared in 69 games (42 starts) while averaging 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds while playing just 26.4 minutes per game. It’s clear that Rondo can still contribute in several categories. But he’s shooting just a shade over 40 percent (40.8 to be exact) from the field. If the Bulls are to pull off the upset, they’ll need him to knock down shots at a higher rate than that.