NBA Game Preview - Celtics v Bulls

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Boston 33 11 32 28 104
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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 PM MST6:00 PM EST3:00 UAE (+1)01:0019:00 ET6:00 PM CTNaN:� , April 21, 2017
United Center, Chicago, Illinois  Attendance: 21,293

Celtics face must-win situation against Bulls

According to STATS
According to STATS

Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls

  1. The Bulls lead the First Round series versus the Celtics, 2-0, scoring at least 100 points in each game. Prior to this postseason, Chicago had not scored 100 or more points in consecutive games to begin a postseason since doing so in 2009, when it scored in triple digits in each of the first two games of its First Round series versus the Celtics (which it would go on to lose in seven games).
  2. The Celtics find themselves in an 0-2 best-of-seven playoff series hole for the 14th time in franchise history. Boston has a 1-12 best-of-seven series record all-time when trailing 2-0, with its only such series win coming against the Lakers in the 1969 NBA Finals (won the series in seven games).
  3. This is the 16th best-of-seven playoff series all-time in which the Bulls have led 2-0; the Bulls won 14 of the previous 15 such series, with their only series loss coming versus the Wizards in the Eastern Conference 2005 First Round.
  4. Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points in Game 1 and 20 in Game 2. Prior to Thomas, the last time a player started his Celtics postseason career with consecutive 20-point games was in 2002, when Antoine Walker began his Celtics postseason career with a six-game streak and Paul Pierce began his with a five-game streak.
  5. Jimmy Butler has scored at least 15 points in each of his last 17 playoff games dating back to 2014, the third-longest streak by a Bull all-time behind Michael Jordan (179) and Derrick Rose (27).
  6. Rajon Rondo had 14 assists in Game 2, his 42nd career playoff game with double-digit assists (the most among active players). He also added 11 points in the game, his 34th career postseason points-assists double-double (the second most among active players behind Chris Paul's 38).

CHICAGO -- With his team in a 2-0 hole, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens can't rule out any possibilities.

So when the Celtics' first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Chicago Bulls shifts to the United Center on Friday night, Stevens is leaving his options open -- even if that means changing how his team looked in two lopsided losses.

Meanwhile, the Bulls will look to replicate a game plan that provided them with two road victories over the top-seeded Celtics.

However, the Bulls will have to do it without guard Rajon Rondo, who suffered a fractured right thumb in Game 2 on Tuesday night and will be out indefinitely, the team announced Friday. His injury will not require surgery.

Rondo is averaging 11.5 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds in the Bulls' two victories over the Celtics.

"We have to continue to go out and play for each other," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Thursday before knowing the extent of Rondo's injury. "I know our guys aren't satisfied, and we have to continue to bring it, and I'm confident that our guys will."

The Celtics find themselves scrambling to right the ship before the series gets any worse for Boston than it already is. The team and star guard Isaiah Thomas are already dealing with the emotional pain that came when Thomas' sister, Chyna, was killed in a car accident last weekend.

Thomas left to be with his family in Tacoma, Wash., on Wednesday and according to the Boston Herald, funeral arrangements were not yet complete. The Celtics traveled to Chicago without Thomas, who is expected to return to play in Game 3 on Friday night.

"This is really hard, this is super hard on Isaiah, you can tell," Stevens said Wednesday. "During the games and walkthroughs, he's trying his very best to focus. (Basketball) can be a guy's sanctuary. That's what the gym is for Isaiah. It alleviates the pain for a couple of hours. We are here to support him in any which way we can. It's tough, a challenge, but it's what we're supposed to do."

Stevens also faces the challenge of rallying his team after back-to-back losses. While he said he wouldn't take possible lineup changes off the table, Stevens added that his team needs to focus on the small things and make changes on a possession-by-possession basis rather than trying to figure out how to make up for all of the shortcomings that put the Celtics in the hole they find themselves in.

"We need to go to Chicago and steal two from them just like they did to us," guard Avery Bradley said. "That's our mentality ... now it's our job to go out there and prove it."

For his part, Hoiberg will continue to stress the little things that gave the Bulls the advantage as they head back to Chicago.

The Chicago bench also played a major role in the first two games. On Thursday, Hoiberg praised reserves Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser for their parts in Chicago's success.

Hoiberg also likes the pace and unselfishness the Bulls played with in Boston. Given the resiliency and road poise he expects to see from the Celtics starting Friday night, he wants to keep things as status quo as possible moving forward.

"It's about everybody on your roster playing a part," Hoiberg said. "That's what it's all about this time of year is going out and playing your role to the best of your abilities and doing your job."

Updated April 21, 2017

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