It can’t end like this. I’m sorry, it just can’t.
To win 53 games and earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, only to lose the first two games of the playoffs in your own building is quite embarrassing. But that’s where the Boston Celtics currently stand, down 0-2 in their first round series with the No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls.
The word “embarrassing” certainly sums it up, as they now travel to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday.
And while there are other factors at play — including the sudden and tragic death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister the day before Game 1 — the biggest reason the Celtics are trailing this series the way they are, is because the Bulls have been the better team.
And while, on paper, Chicago’s roster reads to be better than a No. 8 seed that finished the regular season with 41 wins, the Celtics being the worse team through two games in this series says more about the Celtics than it does the Bulls.
Once you get past the stars — Thomas for Boston, and Jimmy Butler for Chicago — the rest of the Celtics’ roster has been a disgrace to No. 1 seeds everywhere. From a lack of secondary scoring, to pathetic rebounding, to questionable effort levels, I’m not seeing a Bulls team that’s dominating, as much as I’m witnessing a Celtics team that just doesn’t want it bad enough.
That said, it is difficult to ignore the emotional impact that Thomas’ sister’s death had on the team. But at the same time, Thomas did score a game-high 33 points while playing 38 minutes in a 106-102 Game 1 loss at the TD Garden. So if he can show up to play with a heavy heart, so can everyone else.
The Celtics clearly need better rebounding and another go-to scorer. I’ve felt strongly about the latter all-season-long. I wanted a Butler trade at the deadline, but Danny Ainge refused to pull the trigger. And while I had a feeling that would come back to haunt them at some point, I didn’t think it would be in the first round against the Bulls.
Still, the lack of another go-to elite scorer shouldn’t be the reason the Celtics are eliminated early. The rest of their roster is talented enough where they should be able to win this series, against this Bulls team. They just aren’t playing like they want that to be the case.
The Celtics are getting pushed around and out-hustled. It’s something we’re not used to seeing from this group. Which is why it can’t end like this. It just can’t.
Having lost home-court advantage and being down 0-2 isn’t the recipe for a successful seven-game series. But even if the Bulls do find a way to win two more before the C’s can win four, I find it hard to believe this Celtics team is just going to roll over without winning a couple games and making it interesting, at the very least.
Games 1 and 2 were tough to watch, for sure. And social-media warriors in Boston already moved on to the NBA Draft by halftime of Game 2. But I’m having a tough time believing this is how the season is actually going to end for the C’s.
Based on what I know about the Bulls this season, they haven’t done a very good job at battling adversity. If the Celtics show up to play in Game 3, they’ll make the Bulls do just that. Win the next one, and it’s a series. Knowing what this Celtics team is capable of, I’m willing to put my money on that.
Because it just can’t end like this.