Isaiah Thomas's supporting cast must step up amidst the pressure of the playoffs

The Boston Celtics bench unit averaged 32.7 points per game, which was good for merely 22nd in the NBA during the regular season.

During Sunday’s playoff-opening loss to Chicago in Boston, the Celtics bench mustered just 22 points, good for 12th in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

In comparison, Isaiah Thomas finished Game 1 with 33 points (10-18 FG, 3-7 3PT, 10-12 FT), five rebounds and six assists. 

The Celtics went 11 deep on Sunday. Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Jaylen Brown, Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko, and Tyler Zeller all saw time off the bench for Boston. They finished a combined 8-22 (36.4%) from the field and 5-13 (38.5%) from deep. Smart (3-9) and Olynyk (3-8) were the Celtics main duds off the bench. Jaylen Brown finished 2-2 while making an impressive three and beautiful alley-oop, but played most of his time on the court without IT and finished +/- -9. Green saw only six minutes but went 0-2. Jerebko played four, and Zeller played three.

Smart didn’t score in the first half and finally made two triples in the third quarter. In the fourth, he missed a couple good shots but continued to take triples with defenders in his face. Plain and simple, bad shots. Smart did finish with six assists, but the Celtics are going to need him to knock down a couple more shots. It’s time for him to step up a little bit more offensively, his percentages would be better if he took smarter shots.

Olynyk missed an alley-oop that the Celtics probably shouldn’t have thrown. He also missed a couple wide-open triples. He’s going to need to start knocking those down, especially when he’s as open as the Bulls left him last night. His defense was what was really lacking, and it was obvious. Multiple Chicago players backed him into the post or drove by him to finish, he was exploited by the Bulls offense. Olynyk is good when he’s aggressive, but when he looks like a deer in the headlights like last night, he’s almost unplayable. Hopefully, Kelly will rebound, literally and figuratively, in Game 2.

Jaylen Brown was fearless and knocked down his first shot of the game as he stepped into a three. Later, Brad Stevens drew up a brilliant out of timeout play to give JB a wide open alley-oop. His defense was solid and the moment didn’t look too big for the rookie, I’d just like to see him playing alongside IT instead of that dreadful bench unit.

Outside of Al Horford, the Celtics starters also didn’t provide IT with much reliable help on the offensive end. Avery Bradley finished 5-13, Jae Crowder went 4-12, and Amir Johnson shot 2-8.

Bradley knocked down two early triples and a mid-range jumper. Then, he went 2-10 for the rest of the game. AB seemed to tweak his leg in the first half, so that might have limited him the rest of the way. Still, after Bradley missed the final five games of the series against the Atlanta Hawks last year due to a hamstring injury, it’s not very encouraging to see him come up lame in another game one. He did record three steals and continued to provide a meaningful contribution against the talented Chicago backcourt.

Jae Crowder simply looked uncomfortable and didn’t get many good looks in game one. Outside of a late three, he was off from three-point range, finishing only 1-5. He did help Boston’s rebounding in the second half as he focused more on boxing out. Crowder pulled down eight rebounds in the contest.

Amir Johnson was just off. His normal array of shots just wasn't falling and he had a couple rim out. He missed his only three and finished 1-3 from the line. All in all, it was a bad outing for Johnson, who had recently been playing pretty well. I’m sure he’s breaking down his game one issues on film and is going to come back and have a solid game.

Horford was quiet early but came along as the game continued. He went on to record 19 points on 8-13 shooting to complement seven rebounds and eight assists. Horford played exactly how the Celtics imagined he would during the playoffs. He made timely shots, dunks, and passes. Defensively, Horford was out physicalized by Robin Lopez early. Lopez had 12 points and eight rebounds in the first half but was limited to only two points and three rebounds over the final 24 minutes.

As a team, the Celtics need to rebound with a lot more intensity and fight. Chicago finished with a 53-36 edge, which is asinine. The Bulls grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and created a ton of second chance opportunities for their team. They finished with 23-second chance points, compared to the Celtics 15 second chance points in game one.

Boston also needs to do a better job of generating offense without Isaiah Thomas on the court. The Celtics finished a combined 4-13 with IT on the bench. Guys are going to need to step up when IT needs a break, but Brad Stevens is going to have to know he can’t let those breaks be as long as they were in the regular season. Stevens is a great coach and I’m sure he has some adjustments based on how things went in game one, it’s gonna be interesting to see what changes the Celtics make.

Game two is crucial, Boston can’t afford to go down 0-2 as they prepare to play Games 3  and 4 in Chicago.


Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on