Before the NBA playoffs started, experts as well as just about everyone in Boston had the first round matchup against Chicago as a basic cake walk into the second round. There has been more talks about Boston and Washington meeting in the second round then there has been about the actual first round matchup. Now that Boston has officially clinched the number one seed, it seems everyone forgets that it is actually a possibility Boston loses this series. Game 1 was a reality check to the people of Boston. The Bulls are a legitimate threat to upset Boston.
Let’s start with how bad the Celtics actually are. They are simply not a real one seed. The Cavs took the one seed and handed it to Boston on a silver platter. In fact, Boston should be embarrassed. It was a complete slap in the face to all of Celtics Nation. They come into the TD Garden, beat you by 20+ points to prove they are better than you. Then, they rest their starters for the final four games of the season basically showing they are not one bit worried about home court advantage. Even Danny Ainge who owns the damn team has came out and said the Cavs are “the class of the Eastern Conference”. Even their owner does not truly believe they are a one seed. If you don’t believe the owner, check the numbers. Boston has a point differential net rating of plus-3.1. This is the worst net rating of a one seed since the 1980 Super Sonics (per USA Today). They also only won 53 games, which usually gets you around the three seed in most years. Some are even considering this to be the worst one seed EVER.
We cant forget about the Bull’s now. This was a team who at the beginning of the year was considered one of the NBA’s newly built “super teams”. With the Rondo, Wade and Butler combination, this team had the potential to be higher than an eight seed. It was team chemistry that made them fall and eventually give up Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. After the Instagram shots from Wade and Rondo, it seemed this team was far from a playoff hunt. But that was months ago, and the team has came together since then. It shouldn’t be a surprise to people if this is when they play their best basketball. Dwayne Wade has got plenty of rest since his fractured elbow that kept him out the last month of the season. He should be primed and ready for a playoff push. He may be 35 years old and not able to dominate a series, but he can still hit big shots in the fourth quarter as he showed in game one.
The knock on Rajon Rondo has always been his lack of effort. No team wants a guy who spends all 82 games of the regular season giving minimal effort. However, theres a reason why he plays better in the playoffs. It’s because he actually plays hard. When Rondo plays hard, he can play. How else can you explain him matching up one-on-one in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals against LeBron James? Rondo has always shined in the playoffs and he showed flashes in game one. Playing against his former team when people doubt him more than ever should really motivate him to play well this series.
Then of course there’s Jimmy Butler. He is undoubtably the best player on the court in the series. A great two way player, Butler can go off for 30 points any night and can also shut down anyone he guards. If he can continue his consistent play of the regular season as well as build off his game one long range shooting, he may very easily be the X factor in this series. With Danny Ainge also not pulling the trigger at the trade deadline, it could lead to some extra motivation for Butler.
Finally, the Celtics face a huge rebounding issue. Robin Lopez dominated the glass, and especially dominated $30 million dollar man Al Horford. This is another case of Celtics Nation getting too caught up in the statistics. Sure Horford filled the stat sheet as he usually does, but he was horrendous on the matchup against Lopez. He had nine rebounds, but not one of them came in the fourth quarter. Al plays smaller than he is normally, but Lopez made him look microscopic in game one. He did everything right, except the one thing Boston needed him most for. If Lopez continues to win this rebounding battle, this series can be closer than most thing.
Now I’m not saying the Celtics are going to lose this series. Boston still has a much more talented roster and home court advantage. However, this won’t be the cake walk most fans imagine and don’t be surprised if the Bulls manage an upset.