When the news broke after Game 2 that Rondo would be out indefinitely with a thumb injury, who would have thought it would make such a big impact in this series. The mentality of the Celtics going into game three in Chicago went from “we need to win” to “we better win,” and they took care of business.
Even with the absence of Rondo, credit must be given to the C’s for making adjustments and that starts with coach Brad Stevens. At the end of Game 2, I suggested there should be a lineup change. Except it wasn’t Jaylen Brown, it wasn’t Kelly Olynyk or Tyler Zeller or anyone from Europe, it was none other than Gerald Green. Going with the small ball lineup to bring Robin Lopez away from the basket and to spread the floor was a critical move for the Celtics. They still jacked up their share of three pointers but contributions from the Celtics horses in Al Horford and IT, was the key to victory. Al Horford FINALLY showed up in a 4th quarter, scoring, rebounding and defending. It doesn’t take his player efficiency rating for all of us to notice him on the court in crunch time. Another great move by Stevens was when he started the 4th quarter with Olynyk, Bradley, Smart, Jerebko and Rozier and at the 10 minute mark, subbed in Crowder, Horford and Thomas right away which I loved. Kudos to Stevens for realizing his best players have to play, this isn’t hockey, play your horses in the 4th.
I do have one bone to pick with the Celtics specifically with Smart, Crowder and Thomas. Marcus Smart continues to play like a European soccer player, flopping all over the court like a bad actor. Not only that, in the 3rd quarter of game four, he gets the ball stripped from him because he’s too busy stiff arming Jimmy Butler and the Bulls score on the Marcus Smart turnover. Then he gets into Butler’s face, the crowd gets into it, Smart gets a tech and the Bulls made a small run. It didn’t decide the game but Smart needs to cut the antics out. Thomas and Crowder tend to bark a lot during the game and pick up an occasional technical foul which doesn’t help anyone. I’d love to see the head coach take control of the team and worry about getting his players back on defense rather than trash talking an under manned 8th seeded Bulls team.
All in all, a successful weekend in Chicago ties this series up at two games apiece going back to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday. As long as Rajon Rondo is out with an injury, the Celtics shouldn’t lose another game in this series. It took Fred Hoiberg five quarters of bad basketball to realize that Jerian Grant and Carter-williams are not the answers. Forcing Wade or Butler to run the point and Isaiah Canaan off the ball to spot up and shoot was the most effective lineup for the Bulls with the absence of Rondo. We should see that going forward if Fred Hoiberg isn’t completely clueless