The Boston Celtics are in trouble.
They’re the first No. 1 seed to lose both of the first two games at home in Round 1 since the NBA playoffs went to a best-of-7 format in the first round. After losing by just four points in Game 1, the Celtics were much worse Tuesday night in Game 2 as the Chicago Bulls cruised to a 111-97 victory.
The Celtics have a lot of adjustments to consider before Friday night’s Game 3 in Chicago. But before that, let’s look at three takeaways from Boston’s Game 2 defeat.
Jaylen Brown Needs A Bigger Role
Sure, Brown is a 20-year-old rookie in his first playoff series, but the Celtics need his athleticism and ability to drive to the basket and draw fouls. Isaiah Thomas is the only player on the C’s roster able to create his own shot. Brown certainly isn’t on Thomas’ level in that regard, but he does have the explosiveness off the dribble to attack the rim or kick it out for an open 3-point shot.
Brown mostly has been used as a 3-and-D guy stuck in the corner on offense this series. The Celtics should run a few plays for him in Game 3 and see what he can bring, because Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder have struggled offensively over the first two games. Someone has to step up and provide a scoring punch, particularly off the bench.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ comments on Brown after Game 2 were a bit puzzling.
Well, Brown’s first stint lasted less than three minutes in the first quarter. How is he supposed to develop a rhythm when he’s in the corner at the 3-point line and not given a chance to make an impact? He played just nine minutes overall.
Brown’s positional versatility and size also make him a good option to defend Bulls superstar forward Jimmy Butler. Brown is quicker than Crowder and bigger than Bradley. Putting Brown on Butler, thus freeing up Crowder — who’s guarded Butler a lot so far — to find his shot might benefit the C’s.
Amir Johnson Shouldn’t Be First Or Second Option At PF
Johnson has started at power forward throughout the season, but his lack of production at both ends of the court should force Stevens to explore other options at that position. Johnson played just nine minutes and scored four points in Game 2, and he was consistently destroyed on the boards as Chicago once again dominated the rebounding battle. Getting outplayed by Robin Lopez is not a good look.
Tyler Zeller started in place of Johnson to begin the second half. Zeller and Kelly Olynyk stretch the floor much better than Johnson and thus bring more to the table offensively. They should receive the majority of playing time alongside Horford or when Stevens uses his bench.
3-Point Shooting Must Improve
The Celtics attempted the third-most 3-point shots per game (33.4) during the regular season. They launched 38 in Game 1 and 33 in Game 2, and they’ve hit just 24 total (33.8 percent).
In Game 2, Crowder went 2-for-6 from beyond the arc, Smart 1-for-4, Bradley 2-for-8 and Thomas 1-for-5. Four players who receive a lot of playing time went 6-for-23 from 3-point land, and that’s not good enough when you’re allowing so many second-chance points and getting killed on the glass.
The ball movement must be better, too. The Celtics were too stagnant in the second half, and one way to beat the Bulls length and overaggressiveness on the perimeter is to keep the ball moving and set screens.
The Celtics are a small team with five players who shot four or more 3s per game in the regular season. They are built to create open perimeter looks and make them, and if these shots aren’t falling, it’ll be difficult for them to erase this series deficit.
Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images