Five takeaways from Celtics' Game 4 win over Bulls
CHICAGO -- We're in a 2-2 tie in this first-round series between Boston and Chicago, which isn't all that surprising.
But how we got here? There's too many adjectives in Webster's Dictionary to rattle off describing this series adequately.
The next home win will be the first home win in this series, even though neither of these teams won a game on the other's home floor during the regular season.
Rajon Rondo, once exiled to the bench, rose from the ashes to lead the Bulls into the playoffs, help them win Games 1 and 2, and then suffered a potentially series-ending right thumb injury that has significantly crippled Chicago.
And Boston, which looked on the verge of becoming one of the greatest top-seed duds in NBA history, rebounded with a pair of victories on the road. They even beat the Bulls in a TNT-televised game, which never happens.
The Celtics made a lineup change that at the time was a head-scratcher but so far, has Brad Stevens looking like John Wooden 2.0 in how ridiculously effective his outside-the-box tweak has worked.
And the best part?
We still have at least two more games in a series whose narrative has been a lot of fun to watch, for sure.
Here are five takeaways from Boston's 104-95 Game 4 win against Chicago.
Hoiberg desperate as hell right now
One of the surprising developments from Game 4 was Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg's rant after the loss about Isaiah Thomas carrying the ball. Loser talk is all that is, coach. That's like an All-Pro NFL running back rushing for 200 yards and the opposing coach griping about the offensive line holding all game. Rather than worry about Thomas' alleged carrying, how about getting your players to perform better and not shrink like a bunch of slugs dipped in salt water?
Gerald Green still has game
Brad Stevens' decision to insert Gerald Green into the starting lineup has been pure genius in terms of how it has worked out for both the player and the team. You had to wonder just how much Green, the oldest member of the squad, had left in the tank.
Apparently, a lot.
Among the starters for both teams in Games 3 and 4, Green's athleticism ranks right up there with the best players in this series. And his ability to score off the dribble, as well as from 3-point range, gives Boston a dynamic in that first unit that the Bulls have yet to figure out how to deal with. The way this series is progressing, the Bulls won't have to worry about Green or any Celtics players much longer.
Bulls have major problems at the point now
Before this series, it was not a given that the Bulls would pick up their option on Rajon Rondo. But after seeing what their alternatives are, coupled with Rondo's play in Games 1 and 2, the former Celtic would cash in big-time if he were allowed to test the free agent waters this summer.
That's because the Bulls' point guard options are, in a word, dreadful.
Jerian Grant started the last two games, and completely underperformed while looking overwhelmed.Would anyone be shocked if we don't see him take the floor again in this series? Then there's Michael Carter-Williams. He's supposedly a decent defender, but he too has been among those whom Isaiah Thomas has sliced and diced up repeatedly in this series. When Thomas got a tech for telling MCW, among other things, "You can't guard me," it wasn't bravado, folks. Have you seen this series? It was the truth. And so now the Bulls are down to Isaiah Canaan, who actually did a good job for the most part when he was on the floor and has proven to be the best option for Chicago at this point. But here's the problem: With end-of-the-bench players, there's a point in the game when their production dips off considerably. For Canaan, his impact really seemed to fall off once he got into the mid-20s in terms of minutes played.
Thomas' mental toughness unmatched in this series
There's a high level of toughness anyone has to have in order to be an NBA player. But when you're 5-foot-9, been told your whole life what you couldn't do or who you weren't, you develop a mental toughness few fully appreciate.
Well, Isaiah Thomas' mental toughness has been challenged on a level few could imagine this past week. His 22-year-old sister, Chyna J. Thomas, died in a one-car accident on April 15, just as the Celtics' playoff journey was about to start. Emotionally devastated, Thomas channeled his person pain into playing at a level we have not seen from him in the postseason.
His mental toughness in the face of the kind of adversity that's bigger than the game, has been admirable. And now that he's getting more help from his teammates the Celtics are finally starting to play like a top seed, which is bad news for the upset-minded Bulls.
Celtics biggest foe now is . . . the Celtics?
At this point, it really should be a matter of when, not if, the Celtics will eliminate the Chicago Bulls. They have the deeper team. They have home-court advantage. (You figure it's gotta help now, right?) They have made lineup tweaks that the Bulls have shown an inability to counter. The only thing that can trip the Celtics up at this point, is themselves. They have at times played down to the level of their competition. But that's not the issue with Chicago. For Boston, it's about playing with great effort that will put this series away. And if the Celtics play with that same sense of urgency we saw in Games 3 and 4, this series will be over in six games.