Winning an NBA Playoff series usually consists of having the best player on the court, smart coaching adjustments, and someone unexpected stepping up. Jimmy Butler has been the best player on the court for a better part of the series, but the real shocker was Rajon Rondo. The mini-Rondo Renaissance was much hyped and short lived. Rondo’s desire to put down the Celtics and talent when he gives his all puts the Bulls up two games going back home to the United Center. Rondo’s fracture of his right thumb was a series-changer for the Celtics who hadn’t had the upper hand at any point in the first two games, but Boston still needed to win four of the next five games.
Replacing Rondo with this horribly constructed Bulls roster is just not possible. Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, and Isaiah Canaan have no chance against Isaiah Thomas or playing mediocre defense, let alone running an offense. Yet Fred Hoiberg immediately went with Jerian Grant in Game 3 and Canaan in Game 4. Hoiberg’s adjustments just consist of going with the hot hand. They do not consider how to improve Butler’s offense nor are they trying to find the best matchups against certain players on the Celtics. They are random choices based on the feeling of who will have the better game. If someone starts out slow, they don’t play the rest of the game, no matter how awful the replacement plays. Playing Bobby Portis in Game 1 worked, switching to Paul Zipser in Game 2 happen to work. You are not going to get lucky with any of the guard replacements.
This would be the moment that everyone who is watching Milwaukee for the first time this season realizing that the Tony Snell for Carter-Williams was just as bad of a trade as the Cameron Payne trade. Playing no point guard and running with Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler, and Dwyane Wade would make since. This type of lineup is still possible by moving Denzel Valentine or Paul Zipser into the random third not-guard role. Even though both of those players have their limitations. Instead, Hoiberg has hoped to get lucky by randomly throwing a guy who cannot play point guard to run the offense for Butler, instead of running everything with Butler. Grant cannot shoot and cannot guard anyone. Canaan can occasionally shoot and cannot guard anyone. Carter-Williams hasn’t looked like an NBA player in months. Playing these point guards, over bigger wings that can hit shots and help Butler has not helped the Bulls.
The front court rotation has not been any better. Bobby Portis hasn’t got as many minutes as he received in Game 1, even though he played well in Game 4; a winnable game. Even though Portis has the ability to stretch the floor for Butler. Zipser saw fewer minutes in Game 4 as well. For some reason, Joffrey Lauvergne has played minutes in both Game 3 and 4 even though he does not bring anything to the court. He cannot play defense, cannot cover the pick and roll, cannot be consistent enough in hitting corner threes, and does nothing to protect the rim. Cristiano Felicio who can switch on defense, runs hard, can stay in front of smaller players, and show well on pick and rolls lost some of his minutes to Lauvergne. These are really inexplicable choices. Playing an eleven-player rotation in a playoff game is never a key to success. Hoiberg has not been able to figure this rotation for 82 regular season games. Rondo's injury has forced Hoiberg to adjust, and there is no chance he figures this out in the next three games.