Boston Back in Control Against Rondo-less Bulls, Series tied 2-2
Playoff Rondo was in full force through the first two games in Boston. If you remember anything about Rondo and his time in Boston the dude always took his game to another level on national TV and especially the playoffs. Nobody was more fun to watch then a locked in Rajon Rondo. While watching Rondo through the first two games I couldn’t help but think back to all the great moments he had in Boston. Who can forget his legendary duels with Derrick Rose in 2009 in one of the most epic first round series ever. Three years later Rondo put on a performance for the ages scoring 44 points in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron and the Heat. Good times. Luckily for us fans Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics recent success have made these memories delightful rather than painful recollections of the good ole days. That’s the beauty of this team and its bright future. It makes everything just that much more enjoyable. How things ended here in Boston and Rondo’s lack of success recently has made us Celtics fans forget how impactful Rondo can be.
Without question Rondo was the driving force behind the Bulls taking a 2-0 series lead. Rondo was a nightmare for the Celtics leading the Bulls in both steals and assists. Rondo poured in 20 of the 50 assists for the Bulls through games 1 and 2. He was the cog in the well-oiled machine for the Bulls averaging 108.5 pts/game. Rondo was causing havoc in the passing lanes as well with 7 of the 22 steals in the 2 games in Boston. His 7 offensive rebounds were killers for Boston who already had their hands full with Lopez. Rondo’s 10 defensive rebounds helped ignite the offense on the fast break and the Celtics had no answer. Rondo was +17 and no coincidence the Bulls were +18 as a team. But maybe his biggest impact was his effect on Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas also had all 11 of his turnovers with Rondo on the court. Rondo was locking down Thomas while looking like his pre 2013 form and it looked like he was well on his way to get revenge on his former team by mounting a giant upset in the first round.
But then with the feeling of divine intervention….
Just like that Rondo was likely out for series. All the momentum that Chicago had seemed to disappear with the news of Rondo’s injury. And the Celtics capitalized. They looked like the team with the momentum to start game 3 and took an early 20-point lead. They never looked back. The two games in Chicago have made Rondo look like the real MVP. The Bulls offense that scored 217 points in Boston but just 182 in 2 games in Chicago. . The Bulls who averaged 25 assists in the first two games with Rondo leading the charge have fallen to 16.5 assists since. The Celtics were an amazing +20 in assists in game 3. Chicago’s offense has slowed down, every shot for the Bulls has to be worked for, the loss of Rondo flat out deflated the Bulls offense.
Game 4 wasn't so different. Boston again got off to a great start and lead by 20 points in the 2nd quarter for the second straight game. The Bulls got hot in the 3rd and actually took the lead but again, the Celtics pulled away and proved they're the better team. The Rondo-less Bulls had no answer for Thomas as he willed the Celtics back late in the 3rd. Considering the 19 made free throws for Butler in an insane 46 minutes its hard to believe the Bulls will have enough offense to win 2 of the next 3 with 2 in Boston.
The injury to Rondo just may have saved the Celtic’s season. Will the Bulls be able to adjust for game 5 back in Boston and recapture the series? I wouldn’t bank on it. Thomas seems back to full force and the Bulls are now without a competent point guard. Which results in a slow iso half-court offense. This favors the Celtics who have players like Bradley, Smart and Crowder to lock onto Butler or Wade which proved to be extremely effective in game 3 and 4. The Bulls seem to be lost without Rondo. It’s time for Boston to capitalize again with a win on their home court in game 5 and with it take control of this series!