Who’s the next X-factor in Celtics-Bulls series?
After Portis' surprise Game 1 performance, who’s the next X-factor in series?
WALTHAM, Mass. – You knew Jimmy Butler would go off in Game 1 and that Dwyane Wade would come up with at least one or two clutch baskets.
But Bobby Portis?
In his first playoff game, Portis absolutely smashed the Celtics off the Bulls bench with a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds.
Without question, Portis was the biggest X-factor in Chicago’s 106-102 Game 1 win over Boston.
So who will it be in Game 2?
Here are five potential X-factors for Tuesday’s Game 2:
Cristiano Felicio, F-C, Bulls
Game 1: Four points, 2-for-3 shooting, four rebounds, two steals.
He’s big (6-foot-10, 275), strong and physical as hell – exactly what you want in the frontcourt in the postseason. If the Celtics make the necessary adjustments on Robin Lopez (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Bobby Portis (19 points, nine rebounds), they sure as hell better keep that same script in hand in dealing with Felicio who averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game this season.
Amir Johnson, F-C, Celtics
Game 1: Five points, 2-for-8 shooting, four rebounds.
It was indeed an unusual Game 1 for Johnson who has been among the league’s top finishers at the rim and is career 57.4 percent shooter from the field, and 65.2 percent in the playoffs. While rebounding will certain be a major priority for him and his teammates, Johnson can make a significant impact on the game and not necessarily put up big rebounding numbers. He’s not going to get his number called much offensively. But Johnson has been an offensive factor in the postseason. In fact, his scoring average in the playoffs has been higher than his regular-season numbers in each of the past three seasons.
Tyler Zeller, C, Boston
Game 1: zero points, 0-for-1 shooting, two rebounds.
In a series in which physicality is at premium, the Celtics may turn to Zeller as we get deeper into this series. It makes a lot of sense, too. Zeller averaged 7.0 points in the three games against the Bulls this season, his highest scoring average against any team this season. He could be just what they need more of to help neutralize Robin Lopez and Chicago’s other physical centers.
Nikola Mirotic, F, Bulls
Game 1: Four points, 1-for-9 shooting, four rebounds.
He was a big part of the Bulls’ surge towards the playoffs this month, but you would not have known that by the way he struggled in Game 1. Indeed, he looked like a playoff neophyte in every sense of the word which is why no one should be surprised if he has a strong bounce-back game. Since becoming a regular starter on March 18, Mirotic has had just one game in which he scored four or less points (Brooklyn, April 8) and not surprisingly they lost. But here’s the thing. His next game, he had 16 points in a blowout win over Orlando. The Celtics are a much better team than the Magic, obviously. But Boston has to be on guard for Mirotic who can get it going from 3-point range in a hurry.
Kelly Olynyk, F-C, Celtics
Game 1: Seven points, 3-for-8 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots.
It has been well documented that when Olynyk plays well, beating Boston becomes extremely difficult. When he scores in double figures, the Celtics are 27-6 this season. And when that double-digit total reaches 15 or more points, the Celtics are 11-2. But in this series, the Celtics need him to be a dual threat who can not only score but also rebound at a relatively high level. In April prior to the playoffs, Olynyk averaged 6.2 rebounds per game, which was his best rebounding month of the season. The Celtics need more of that in Game 2.