Coming into their first playoff game as the East’s #1 seed, the Boston Celtics were reeling from a sudden tragedy. Isaiah Thomas, the team’s driving force, lost his younger sister in a car accident on Saturday morning. The star point guard decided to play despite the extreme emotional weight, and led the Celtics in an inspiring performance with 33 points and 6 assists. It wasn’t enough though, as the underdog Bulls stole Game 1 thanks to Jimmy Butler’s 15 fourth quarter points.
Now the Bulls face the tough task of winning another game in the loud and hostile TD Garden. And yes, Thomas will play in Game 2 tonight. Can Fred Hoiberg and his crew back up their promising victory, or will the Celtics reestablish themselves as the favorites to win the series?
Here’s what the Bulls must do to have a chance at seizing an unexpected 2-0 series lead.
1. As Jimmy Goes
All season long, through ugly losses to bad teams and surprising triumphs over the league’s top contenders, the Bulls’ successes and failures depended on the play of their All Star leader Jimmy Butler. If he’s aggressive offensively from the jump and is knocking down shots, the Bulls are a tough out. On top of that, he sets the tone for his teammates defensively. In the crunch time moments of Game 1, Butler took over the daunting task of guarding Thomas. He might be asked to do that earlier and more frequently in Game 2, because Isaiah looked unstoppable when guarded by anyone other than Butler on Sunday.
If Jimmy can maintain his position as the best two-way player in this series with a well-rounded effort tonight, the Bulls should keep it close and find themselves within striking distance entering the fourth quarter.
Speaking of keeping it close…
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