Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics unraveled in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 loss to the Bulls Tuesday, and Marcus Smart took out some of his apparent frustration towards a fan at the T.D. Garden. 

After clanking a three-pointer, Smart flipped his middle finger towards a person in the crowd as he was jogging back on defense. He also put one of his fingers to his lips, purportedly telling the fan to be quiet. 

Earlier in the period, Isaiah Thomas reamed out Smart on the court. The third-year guard finished 6-of-11 from the field with 13 points and eight rebounds in the Celtics 111-97 defeat

Faced with a 2-0 series deficit, the Celtics are on the verge of getting ousted in the first-round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Head coach Brad Stevens is now 2-10 in the playoffs. 

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer
Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), center Al Horford (42), guard Avery Bradley (0) and forward Jae Crowder (99) walk off the court after their 106-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4), center Al Horford (42), guard Avery Bradley (0) and forward Jae Crowder (99) need to regroup in a hurry. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports).

The problem with these Celtics through two games is they haven’t met the challenge of the more experienced Chicago Bulls. This is not the job of Brad Stevens. 

Stevens can only do so much. True, he fell to 2-10 in his three playoff seasons in Boston, including 2-5 at home. No coach in NBA history has a worst record after at least 10 playoff games. Don Chaney and Bob Weiss were 2-9. Monty Williams stands 2-8. But Stevens can only pull so many players from a bench that consists of rookie and second-year players in Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. His bigs behind Amir Johnson are Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. Marcus Smart has been spotty at best and Jonas Jerebko has been non-existent. 

Al Horford has underachieved in the first two games and doesn’t play like a pure post player even though Stevens admitted that, due to matchups, the Celtics have no choice but to put Horford at the ‘4’ and hope he can defend the low post. 

Jae Crowder continues to struggle and Isaiah Thomas seems – very understandably so – carrying the weight of the entire team on his shoulders, while his mind is clearly burdened with the loss of his 22-year-old sister last weekend in a tragic car accident 3,000 miles away. 

What exactly is Stevens supposed to say or do with all of that? 

“We have to get ready to play great on Friday,” Stevens said after the 111-97 loss to the Bulls.in Game 2 Tuesday night. “That’s what our focus has to be; we don’t have any other choice. And that’s what we said in the locker room, and that’s it.  We’ll dissect the film, we’ll go through it, we’ll figure out what we didn’t do well and there’ll be quite a lot, and go from there. But the (Paul) Zipsers, (Nikola) Mirotic, (Bobby) Portis – those guys have had huge impacts on the first two games of this series.

“I mean, I expect it from Wade, right? I mean, I think we all do.  Last year I think he hit less than 10 threes during the regular season and then more than that in the first round of the playoffs.  Like, this is who he is. And it’s who Rondo’s been throughout his career. I mean, the level that he’s playing at is terrific. And then Butler’s Butler. So, but those other guys are really impacting the series in a big way.”

Stevens coached this team to 53 wins in the regular season. He’s clearly one of the brightest minds in the game. But at some point, the players like Jae Crowder and Al Horford have to pick it up.

“Its self-explanatory. Down 0-2 going into their place we just have to take it one game at a time,” Crowder said after his 16-point minus-12 effort Tuesday. “They came in and took, and we have to do the same. Take it one game at a time and try to get a game three. It’s not ideal for us. Definitely don’t put yourself in a 0-2 hole having home court advantage. But it’s not the end of the world for us. We have the unit to go to Chicago and take care of business.”

Horford had seven points but was a minus-19. 


“Jae said it best. I think that’s all we have. Game three is a must win for us,” Horford said. “I think we rushed a little bit at times on offense. We had some carless turnovers that aren’t typical of our team. It gave them some rhythm and it hurt us. As far as getting off to a slow start, I think the way I tried to play is off what the defense gives. For those who really understand the game, they were packing the paint making us find shooters. Tonight I wasn’t able to get into a rhythm offensively. As far as the defense goes I feel we played better at time… we still need to get better as a group.”

Stevens is not on the hot seat. He at a serious personnel matchup disadvantage in this series because Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are getting support from Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. 

“We’ve got a great group of guys in here,” Kelly Olynyk said. “We’ve done a lot of good things in here. We’re not down on each other.  We believe in each other 100 percent.  We believe in the coaching staff.  We have the ability to rattle some (wins) off and hopefully we can.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) is guarded by Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the third quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo (9) is guarded by Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the third quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Before Tuesday’s Game 2, Fred Hoiberg couldn’t talk enough about how well Rajon Rondo handled being demoted to the second unit midway through the season when he was struggling and the Bulls were headed the wrong way in the playoff race.

After Game 2, a 111-97 thrashing of the Celtics that has the No. 8 seed Bulls two wins from the Eastern semifinals and the No. 1 Celtics soul-searching, all the talk was again about the mercurial point guard who fell just a rebound shy of a triple-double with five steals to boot.

This was a team that was entertaining the thought of trading their best player in Jimmy Butler and there were some in Boston who hoped Danny Ainge would pull the trigger.

Then Rondo slowly but surely began to rediscover his groove. His momentum began to build as the Bulls made their late charge to the playoffs. When the Bulls clinched the eighth and final spot in the East on the final night of the season with a 39-point win over the Nets, Rondo was in full stride.

Now that has carried over to the postseason and “playoff Rondo” is in full bloom. On Tuesday, he had 11 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and five steals. This was the Rondo that Celtics fans saw in the team’s biggest playoff moments from 2008-2013.

“I just tried to stay aggressive. I was pretty aggressive last game, but I got myself into some foul trouble. Isaiah (Thomas) is a really crafty guy and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could,” Rondo said. “Definitely Game 3 is just one game, but its going to be the biggest game of our season and we want to approach it with that mindset and try to go out there and get another W. Its one game at a time, one possession at a time.”

Dwyane Wade has seen it before from Rondo in the postseason. From 2010-12, Wade’s Heat went up against Rondo’s Celtics. In 2012, the Heat with LeBron James were barely able to get past the Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Finals. In ’11, Wade’s Heat team took care of the Celtics, 4-1, in the Eastern semis. In 2010, the Celtics came out on top in five games in the opening round.

“Hated him, hated him, as a competitor,” Wade said of Rondo after Game 2 Tuesday night. “That hated him is that respect. We played against Boston back in the day, Rondo knew all the plays. He messes up your first option. He knows your second option. We were just good enough to have a third option. He was that good. I think it helps me and Jimmy to have someone so locked in. Fred gives us a voice and Rondo gives us another voice. He’s so locked in. We know we can go to him and ask him anything. He’s watching film all the time. So, it’s key when you have a point guard like him that controls the whole game. You just have to play. Tonight, our job was easy. We just had to play. As I told him, way to run your team. He did an amazing job.”

“I thought he was the key early in the game as far as getting us up the floor,” added Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “I thought his pace was terrific. We knew they’d come out and play with great energy. Rajon, I thought, did a terrific job once we got the ball off the glass to push the ball down the floor and get our guys some good shots which led to some confidence. “He’s in a battle all game long. He guarded Isaiah (Thomas) for most of the game tonight; had his hands full with that. When we inserted him back into the starting lineup how key he has been to our recent success. He’s a confident kid and that rubs off on all the other guys. He’s been in a lot of these big moments, championship experience and he’s going to continue to lead us as long as we are playing.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) is guarded by Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the third quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo (9) is guarded by Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the third quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Before Tuesday’s Game 2, Fred Hoiberg couldn’t talk enough about how well Rajon Rondo handled being demoted to the second unit midway through the season when he was struggling and the Bulls were headed the wrong way in the playoff race.

After Game 2, a 111-97 thrashing of the Celtics that has the No. 8 seed Bulls two wins from the Eastern semifinals and the No. 1 Celtics soul-searching, all the talk was again about the mercurial point guard who fell just a rebound shy of a triple-double with five steals to boot.

This was a team that was entertaining the thought of trading their best player in Jimmy Butler and there were some in Boston who hoped Danny Ainge would pull the trigger.

Then Rondo slowly but surely began to rediscover his groove. His momentum began to build as the Bulls made their late charge to the playoffs. When the Bulls clinched the eighth and final spot in the East on the final night of the season with a 39-point win over the Nets, Rondo was in full stride.

Now that has carried over to the postseason and “playoff Rondo” is in full bloom. On Tuesday, he had 11 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and five steals. This was the Rondo that Celtics fans saw in the team’s biggest playoff moments from 2008-2013.

“I just tried to stay aggressive. I was pretty aggressive last game, but I got myself into some foul trouble. Isaiah (Thomas) is a really crafty guy and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could,” Rondo said. “Definitely Game 3 is just one game, but its going to be the biggest game of our season and we want to approach it with that mindset and try to go out there and get another W. Its one game at a time, one possession at a time.”

Dwyane Wade has seen it before from Rondo in the postseason. From 2010-12, Wade’s Heat went up against Rondo’s Celtics. In 2012, the Heat with LeBron James were barely able to get past the Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Finals. In ’11, Wade’s Heat team took care of the Celtics, 4-1, in the Eastern semis. In 2010, the Celtics came out on top in five games in the opening round.

“Hated him, hated him, as a competitor,” Wade said of Rondo after Game 2 Tuesday night. “That hated him is that respect. We played against Boston back in the day, Rondo knew all the plays. He messes up your first option. He knows your second option. We were just good enough to have a third option. He was that good. I think it helps me and Jimmy to have someone so locked in. Fred gives us a voice and Rondo gives us another voice. He’s so locked in. We know we can go to him and ask him anything. He’s watching film all the time. So, it’s key when you have a point guard like him that controls the whole game. You just have to play. Tonight, our job was easy. We just had to play. As I told him, way to run your team. He did an amazing job.”

“I thought he was the key early in the game as far as getting us up the floor,” added Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “I thought his pace was terrific. We knew they’d come out and play with great energy. Rajon, I thought, did a terrific job once we got the ball off the glass to push the ball down the floor and get our guys some good shots which led to some confidence. “He’s in a battle all game long. He guarded Isaiah (Thomas) for most of the game tonight; had his hands full with that. When we inserted him back into the starting lineup how key he has been to our recent success. He’s a confident kid and that rubs off on all the other guys. He’s been in a lot of these big moments, championship experience and he’s going to continue to lead us as long as we are playing.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Celtics are in trouble.

With old friend Rajon Rondo turning back the clock and falling a rebound shy of a triple-double, and his Bulls teammates playing free and easy, Chicago romped to a 111-97 victory in Boston to open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first round series.

Brad Stevens, pictured earlier this month, must figure out what ails the Celtics.</p>
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How did this happen? How are the No. 8 seed Bulls THAT much better than the No. 1 seed Celtics? Well, it starts with Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler and yes, Robin Lopez? WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss a 111-97 loss to Chicago that leaves the Celtics in an 0-2 hole headed to Chicago.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics will need to pick themselves up in Chicago. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics will need to pick themselves up in Chicago. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are in trouble.

With old friend Rajon Rondo turning back the clock and falling a rebound shy of a triple-double, and his Bulls teammates playing free and easy, Chicago romped to a 111-97 victory in Boston to open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first round series.

Led by Jimmy Butler (22 points) and Dwyane Wade (22 points), the Bulls buried the Celtics in the second half — demolishing any hopes of a close game midway through the fourth quarter. Chicago’s leading scorers combined for 29 of the Bulls’ 57 second-half points and got it done on both ends of the floor, with help from Rondo (11 points, 9 rebounds, 14 assists, 5 steals), who was everywhere.

Offensively, the Bulls fired on all cylinders, shooting 51.1 percent.

The Celtics leaped out to a quick 7-0 lead before the Bulls responded with a 9-2 run and went on from there. Chicago led mostly throughout the first half before Robin Lopez — who scored 10 first-half points — caught fire in the third quarter en route to 18 points and eight rebounds.

Meanwhile, it felt like the Celtics couldn’t get any offense from anyone not named Isaiah Thomas, who was harassed into 6-for-15 shooting en route to 20 points. Thomas, the second best free throw shooter in the league during the season, went an uncharacteristic 7-for-13 from the line, not that it mattered.

Thomas plans to leave the team on Wednesday and return to his native Washington for the funeral of his sister, Chyna, who died in a single-car crash on Saturday. His teammates have been given the option of joining him. The series resumes with Game 3 in Chicago on Friday.

Through three quarters, the Celtics only trailed by 11 points (86-75) but were far from grabbing any offensive momentum. When Kelly Olynyk drained a 3-pointer to pull the Celtics within nine points with under 10 minutes left, it felt like an opportunity for the C’s to capitalize, but instead the Bulls went on a 13-6 run keyed by the three-time champion Wade.

As the Celtics left the floor to boos, it was clear what lay ahead — they’ll need to win four of the next five to avoid their third straight first-round ouster.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Isaiah Thomas will be heading immediately to his hometown of Seattle after Tuesday’s Game 2 against the Bulls at TD Garden to attend the funeral service for his 22-year-old sister Chyna.

He may have company on the grueling cross-country trip to support him.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens indicated that the team would like to make the option of travel to Seattle available to all players who wish to make the trip on Wednesday, but added before Tuesday’s Game 2 that details have not been finalized by the organization.

The logistics of the trip are made somewhat more viable by the fact that there are two days off between Games 2 and 3, with the third game not taking place until Friday night at the United Center in Chicago.

Stevens indicated that the plan would be for Thomas to definitely travel to Seattle after the game and return to Chicago in time to play Game 3 Friday.

“He’s playing tonight. Still hard stuff,” Stevens said. “He’s going to go home tomorrow to Seattle and then he’ll rejoin us in Chicago. That’s the plan of attack right now.”

The possibility of the players and staff joining Thomas later after he arrives in Seattle Wednesday is still up in the air.

“From everything I’ve been told, there’s still aren’t any final plans on the services and everything else so once we get information on that, we’ll obviously have to make those decisions on our schedule and everything else,” Stevens added. “But we would hope to, for sure, at least make that available to everybody. Those plans have not been finalized. Isaiah’s just going back [by himself] to be with his family.

“Bottom line, it’s quiet. Everybody really feels for the guy. We’re together all the time. It’s a great group of guys. We realize that we have a job to do and we have to prepare to do our job as well as we can. But at the same time, there’s a strong relationship there.”

Thomas was emotional throughout Game 1, scoring 33 points in the loss and tearing up during the national anthem. Avery Bradley, who is also a native of Washington state, was spotting consoling him before Game 1.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Isaiah Thomas decided to play Sunday one day after his younger sister was killed in a one-car crash. On TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” analyst Charles Barkley implied he thinks it was a mistake.