By Brian Jones @JonesyNBA
The Celtics powered past the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs after a scary start to the series. They rattled off four wins in a row after losing the first two. Old friend Rajon Rondo went down with an injury after game two and the Celtics took advantage. Would they have won if he never got injured? Who knows? But more importantly, who cares?That doesn’t matter now. The Celtics have a chance to prove themselves in the upcoming series against the Wizards while the Bulls will be fishing and playing golf. Some players will have to improve on their first round performance for this team to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, let’s take a look at how each player performed in the first round.
Isaiah Thomas: A
Under normal circumstances his performance would not warrant an A. He shot 20% from 3 and averaged 6 points less than he did in the regular season. However, the circumstances were not normal. Thomas played this series while mourning the sudden death of his 22 year old sister, Chyna Thomas. He could have decided to sit out until he was ready to play and it would have been completely understandable. But he played and he was the best scorer. He may not have been his usual self but he was there for his team and that is what is most important. Celtics nation would like to thank you Isaiah.
Avery Bradley: A
Bradley was great offensively and defensively this series. He averaged 16 points while shooting 41% from 3 which was huge considering how Isaiah was shooting. Perhaps even more important than his shooting was his defense. He is the best in the league at guarding smaller guards on the perimeter but this series he had to guard Jimmy Butler. The size difference made this match-up difficult from Bradley but he certainly held his own. He was also on Dwyane Wade at times and was great at guarding him as well. In my opinion, he was our MVP from this round. We will need him to step up again next series because he will have to guard the dynamic back-court of Bradley Beal and John Wall.
Al Horford: A-
After game two Horford was an A+ player but he gets bumped down a little because of how dominant Robin Lopez was for the first two games. Horford averaged the most impressive numbers for the Celtics and he was very efficient. He averaged 15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists while shooting 60% from the field, 54% from 3, and 85% from the line. The numbers are great and so was he. His playoff performance so far has Celtics fans feeling a lot better about the huge contract he was given this off-season.
Marcus Smart: A-
When looking at Smart’s impact you have to look past the numbers. Celtics fans know a few things about Marcus Smart such as: he is great on defense, he can pass, he can rebound, he is great in the clutch, and uhh.. he can’t shoot. Well, this series he could shoot! When you add a consistent 3 point shot to everything else Smart brings to the table he goes from being a good role player to a very good player. At times it is hard to keep him on the court with his shooting but this series he shot 39% from 3 and it made a huge difference. When he is shooting like that I’d take him over any bench player in the NBA. Let’s pray he can keep it up.
Gerald Green: A
Bulls fans point to Rondo going down as the turning point of the series but many Celtics fans will argue that Gerald Green being inserted into the starting lineup over Amir Johnson as the real turning point. It was a great coaching move by Brad Stevens to start Gerald Green because it made the Celtics a faster and better shooting team and the Bulls just couldn’t keep up. Lopez couldn’t just sit in the paint and dominate the glass because everyone on the court for Boston could shoot and he was forced to guard the perimeter. As for the numbers, Green shot a fantastic 40% from 3 which is very impressive when you consider how little he played in the regular season.
Kelly Olynyk: B
You never know what Kelly Olynyk you are going to get from a game to game basis. This series he had some good games and his floor spacing was big for the Celtics. He averaged 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists playing in 19 mpg. When he plays with confidence and aggressiveness he is a great backup and he did that in this series.
Terry Rozier: B
Terry played some big minutes this series and took advantage of the moment by shooting 54% from 3 and averaging 6.4 points off the bench. He was great at creating his shots and played some nice defense.
Jae Crowder: C+
Crowder gets a C+ because of his defense on Dwyane Wade. The numbers suggest he played poorly this series and in fairness he was pretty bad on offense. However, his defense was very good and that was more important. He would have gotten a better grade if he didn’t shoot 6 for 27 from 3 in the first 5 games of the series. He was 3 for 6 in the last game which is an encouraging sign going into the next series.
Jonas Jerebko: C
Jonas shot poorly but he didn’t have many opportunities. He played solid defense and his play of the series was in Game 6 when he forced an offensive foul on Bobby Portis. I’ll give him a C because he did about what I expected.
Jaylen Brown: C-
Brown didn’t get much of an opportunity this series after poor defense in games 1 and 2 forced him to sit until garbage time in game 6. There isn’t much to grade him on so I’ll just give him a C- because of his defense.
Amir Johnson: D
Amir was flat out dominated in games 1 and 2. He was seemingly useless and Brad realized that. Green took all of his minutes and Amir didn’t play after game 2. His play warrants a F but he was a great teammate on the bench for the rest of the series and didn’t complain once about his lack of playing time. His veteran presence brings his grade up to a D.