Everybody knew the Boston Celtics weren’t a true #1 seed heading into the playoffs. A good team? Yeah. But the best team out of the East? No shot.
That title belongs to LeBron James and the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers. But the Celtics edged them out for the #1 seed, only to run into a Chicago Bulls team that snuck in the playoffs at 41-41.
It’s been a rough week for the Celtics, their players and fans. Most notably, and most importantly, it’s been a rough week for Isaiah Thomas, their star player who lost his younger sister in a car accident just a number of hours before Game 1 of the playoffs. It’s clear that he isn’t the same despite putting up solid numbers. He missed six free throws in Game 2; he shot over 90 percent from the line during the season. It’s evident he’s playing with a heavy heart.
But despite the horrific circumstances, Thomas and the Celtics still have basketball to play. They find themselves down 0-2 to the #8 seed Bulls, only the second time in NBA history (in the 16-team playoff format) a #1 seed has fallen behind two-games-to-none in the first round. With the next two games in Chicago, the Celtics are in serious danger of being swept in the first round.
The problem for the Celtics in this series is overwhelmingly obvious. The best player on the court is in a Bulls uniform, and the Celtics have no answer for him. Jimmy Butler has been fantastic for the Bulls, averaging 26 points, 5.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds in two games. But that’s not the only reason the Celtics find themselves in this big of a hole. The Bulls backcourt is playing with chemistry, while the Celtics’ is unraveling.
Rajon Rondo, who Celtics fans once loved, is killing his former squad. Him and Dwayne Wade have the playoff experience that the Celtics lack, and Boston players know it. They’re each chipping in and doing their part, with Butler leading the way, while Celtics players are responding with pure frustration.
Brad Stevens, despite putting together great regular seasons, is now 2-10 in the playoffs as a head coach. While Isaiah Thomas’ efforts are amazing and heroic, he simply isn’t equipped to do it himself. He’s not getting any help from his teammates, while the Bulls seem to be clicking at the right time.
There’s still at least two games to play, and this series is long from over if the Celtics can steal at least one in Chicago. But all signs point to history being made; it’s a legit possibility that the Celtics will be the first #1 seed to be swept by an #8 seed.