Lineup tweak that helped Celtics bounce Bulls could impact Wizards series, too
Boston completely shut down Chicago on Friday, setting up an exciting matchup with Washington
The Boston Celtics ended the Chicago Bulls' season with a 105-83 blowout victory in Game 6 of their first-round series Friday, led by Avery Bradley's 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, plus five rebounds and three assists. Bradley scored 47 points in the final two games of the series, and he did it while being the primary defender on Bulls star Jimmy Butler.
Butler, who appeared to be playing through significant pain, still managed 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting, plus seven rebounds and three steals. Chicago shot 31 for 81 (39.5 percent), though, including 4 for 19 (21.1 percent) from the 3-point line.
The Bulls lacked energy from the beginning despite facing elimination at home. Boston went on a 16-4 run that spanned the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, and Chicago never really appeared threatening after that.
The Celtics advance to the second round to face the Washington Wizards. Game 1 is Sunday in Boston.
Three things to know:
The meaning of Green
Gerald Green once again , scoring 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including 3 for 8 from deep, plus three assists. His individual contributions, though, mean much less than how he affected the rest of the team.
When Green entered the starting lineup in Game 3, it profoundly changed the series. Boston needed another shooter, and it needed to let Jae Crowder defend stretch 4s and Al Horford space the floor and make plays against the bigger Robin Lopez, who was forced to match up with Horford with Amir Johnson out of the starting lineup. The Celtics looked much more like they did in the regular season, and the clincher might have best illustrated the type of team they want to be. They had 28 assists on 39 field goals, and they shot 16 for 39 (41 percent) from deep.
Every Boston player who entered the game outside of garbage time attempted at least one 3-pointer, and everybody made one except for Kelly Olynyk. The Celtics can go bigger and use Amir Johnson again if they have to, but this is where their depth -- Green reportedly wasn't a sure thing to even make the team in training camp -- really helps them.
This is also something to keep an eye on in the Washington series. The Wizards' starting five, and in particular their backcourt, is formidable. Their bench has hurt them all season, though, and it wasn't surprising when that was the case in their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. If this matchup becomes a series of adjustments, Celtics coach Brad Stevens will have more moves to make.
The shadow of Rondo
No one knows how this series would have turned out if Rajon Rondo hadn't broken his thumb in the second game. Without his play-making, rebounding and defense in the past four games, the Bulls appeared to be outmatched, especially with Butler at less than 100 percent.
Maybe Chicago was going to lose its mojo in Game 3 regardless. It certainly didn't earn the benefit of the doubt with its uneven regular season. Maybe Isaiah Thomas was always going to dominate Game 4 no matter who was guarding him. It is notable, though, that the absence of a player as polarizing as Rondo could appear to derail what looked like a potential upset. And the big question is what this means for his future with the Bulls.
Due to the structure of the deal Rondo signed last summer, Chicago can either keep him around next season for $13.4 million or pay him $3 million to go away. Coach Fred Hoiberg said he loves everything about Rondo and would like him to stay, but no one knows what management plans to do.
The Bulls remain a bummer
What a way for a season to end. After unexpected success to start the series, Chicago lost four games in a row by an average of 14.8 points. This looked like a typical No. 1 seed against a typical No. 8 seed in the end, despite all the talk about this being the closest such matchup in some time.
Butler was clearly limited by a sore knee in the past couple games. Dwyane Wade scored just two points on 1-for-10 shooting with a rolled ankle in Game 6. The contrast between the Bulls and Celtics in terms of spacing, shooting and offensive flow was as stark as can be.
Late in the game, there were "Fire Hoiberg" chants in the upper bowl of the United Center. It would be unfair, though, to pin this fascinating, but ultimately forgettable season on him alone. He deserves criticism, sure, but the roster never made sense and it's not even clear if the front office wants to continue to build around Butler.
Should be a fun summer.
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