Celtics’ One-Dimensional Offense Proving Ineffective Vs. Bulls

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BOSTON — The Boston Celtics know they’ll get points from Isaiah Thomas.

The star guard has shown up in the Celtics’ first two games against the Chicago Bulls, too. Thomas recorded 33 points in Game 1, followed by a 20-point performance in Tuesday night’s Game 2.

It’s the Celtics offense outside of Thomas plaguing Boston so far in its first-round series against the Bulls, which Chicago now leads 2-0 following Tuesday’s 111-97 win at TD Garden.

The Bulls have made stymying the Celtics’ offense look easy, but Boston hasn’t helped its own cause either. The C’s have received no help from a player other than Thomas, and they’ve suffered mightily because of it.

It would be one thing if the Celtics lacked the personnel necessary to achieve offensive success, but that’s certainly not the case. Boston’s roster features multiple capable players — both starters and off the bench — who can contribute on the offensive end. But through two games, they’ve been nowhere to be found.

Avery Bradley, in particular, struggled quite a bit in the first two games at TD Garden. He posted 14 points in Game 1 and responded with 12 in Game 2. While those aren’t nightmarish point totals, it’s a level of production that simply won’t cut it in the postseason.

Al Horford, like Bradley, is a critical component of the Celtics’ offense. The big man opens the floor and creates shots for his teammates. Horford impressed in Game 1, but his seven points in Game 2 hurt the C’s. Although Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic match Horford in size, neither of them are elite defenders by any means. Horford’s a versatile offensive player, but he’s yet to really utilize his skill set in this series.

Boston’s offensive shortcomings are even more apparent on the bench. Jaylen Brown has only played 19 minutes through two games, which is a bit of a head-scratcher for the Celtics. Though he’s only 20 years old, the rookie already has shown he’s capable of finding his own points. He’s strong enough to attack the basket, and he can hit the open shot. For a team desperate for a spark, it’s puzzling as to why he’s been featured so little in the series.

And while the Celtics continue to search for scoring from role players, Chicago has experienced considerable success in that area to start the series. Bobby Portis notched 19 points in Game 1 and Paul Zipser contributed 16 in Game 2. Neither are household names by any stretch of the imagination, but they were huge factors in both Bulls’ wins.

The playoffs are driven by star players, but they can’t do it on their own. The Celtics’ defense has limited Jimmy Butler at considerable stretches in both games, the production of Chicago’s role players eased Butler’s relative inactivity. The stingy Bulls defense clearly has bothered Thomas at times in both contests, but IT’s teammates have failed to pick up the slack.

The Celtics claimed the top seed in the Eastern Conference for a reason. They’re a good team whose players complement each other well. Their chemistry and well-rounded offensive attack paid dividends in the regular season, but it’s remained dormant when it has mattered most.

Boston now will have to try to figure out its offensive woes in Chicago in Games 3 and 4. If the Celtics continue to put all of their eggs in Thomas’ basket, it could be the driving force that sends them home early.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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