The Chicago Bulls put on a great performance Sunday night in Boston, winning their opening game of the playoffs 106-102. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 30 points. Bobby Portis made a huge impact in his postseason debut, scoring 19 off the bench, 3-4 from 3pt range.
It was a real team win. The Bulls got out and ran the fast break, out-rebounded the Celtics 65-44, and played through Butler. Given the Bulls success against top teams this season, many knew the Bulls would come out strong. The Bulls kept the game close with solid defense, the Celtics largest lead only reached six, and their advantage in rebounding was a main reason they got the win.
So with Game 2 Tuesday at the TD Garden, let’s take a look at what the Bulls have to have to do to go up 2-0.
Nikola Mirotic has to hit shots. Mirtoic was 0-5 from beyond the arc, leading him to only play 19 minutes. Where was March Mirotic last night? When he is able to hit shots consistently, the Bulls are able to pull away from their opponent. The last time Mirotic did not hit a three pointer in a game was in Brooklyn back on April 8th in a 107-106 loss. A reason they lost that game was Miro-tic being a non-factor.
Now starting, Mirotic has to be consistent. Also, he has to do more than just shoot three’s. Putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the rim. The Bulls need Mirotic to be a complete player, not just one dimensional. If he can put on a better showing in game 2, the Bulls offense will be very productive.
If Dwyane Wade gets hot, the Celtics may not have an answer. Wade shot 4-12 in game 1, putting up 11 points. Not a good game for him, especially in the playoffs. This was his fourth game back after missing eleven games. Is he still finding his rhythm ? It’s a possibility.
Wade has a great showing in last year’s playoffs, showing flashbacks of his younger self. The Bulls brought him in for leadership of this young team, but also his impact in the playoffs. If Wade knocks down his shots and goes to work next to Jimmy Butler, watch out. “We’ll ride Jimmy until we can’t ride him no more, Wade said Monday. And then when they’re ready to ride me, I’m ready.”
Robin Lopez must do what he has all season, be the big man in the paint. I do not think Lopez gets enough credit, not just from last night but all season. Lopez has not put up the big numbers, but his low post impact and rebounding gets high praise from the coaches and his teammates.
8 of Lopez’s 11 rebounds last night came on the offensive side. His impact cannot go unnoticed. And without his big game, the Bulls would have gotten blow out. I am confident in saying that Robin Lopez has been the most consistent Bull all season.
With Lopez being as dominant on the glass as he was in game 1, the Bulls have a very good chance to go up 2-0. And, it’s important to find Lopez off the pick and roll because he can hit the mind range shot, another great piece to his game.
Jimmy Butler has to do what he has all year: become the star in the fourth quarter. Butler did a good job last night closing out the game by scoring and getting his teammates involved. But when it comes to clutch time, Butler must be the All-Star he is. “We didn’t come here to win one game, Butler said after the win. We came here to win. Period.”
And, Butler needs to play lockdown defense on Isiah Thomas. I expect Butler to guard him more in game 2 than just the small amount in the fourth quarter in game 1.
Game 2 in Boston will be at 7pm CT on Tuesday.