“Basketball is a game of adjustments.”
Such a euphemism has never rang truer for the Boston Celtics, who, down 2 games against the Chicago Bulls, have rallied back to tie the series after their 104-95 victory Sunday night.
For Celtics coach Brad Stevens that adjustment came in the form of installing Gerald Green into the starting lineup after game No. 2 – going smaller in an attempt to neutralize Chicago’s advantage on the offensive glass. Luckily, it has paid off in dividends, giving the Celtics an indelible tempo that’s allowed them to even the series 2-2. And, with each lead pried out of Chicago’s hands by Boston’s relentless attack, it’s evident that the Celtics are only gathering more and more momentum, despite being outmatched in both depth and experience.
Here’s a four-step guide as to how the Celtics smaller lineup has staved off the fear of elimination:
Money Ball Surge
In an odd sense, the Celtics have become a team that both lives-and-dies by the 3-point shot. Ironically though, the roster doesn’t boast any shooting stalwarts like other three-point oriented teams. With that said, adding Gerald Green and moving Horford to the five-spot maximizes the teams shooting potential, and creates lanes to the basket. More importantly though, it gives Isaiah Thomas more freedom to operate in the pick ‘n roll.
Rhythm and Tempo
In Boston’s first two losses, Chicago dominated the offensive glass and completely controlled the game’s tempo. But, with their improved three-point shooting, the Celtics have recaptured the games tempo – dominating offensive possessions and forcing Chicago to play against their stifling half-court defense.
Maintaining that offensive rhythm will be key in closing out the series, especially if they plan on winning in six games.
Drawing Out the Best of the Bench
Robin Lopez, for lack of a better word, “exposed” the Celtics anemic crop of big men. And, watching the Celtics desperately try to nullify his presence by throwing one inept big men after another at him, only highlighted that fact.
With their small ball lineup however, the Celtics have completely relinquished their fear of Lopez, instead tapping into their wealth of perimeter players and using their roster to the best of its ability. Drawing from a rotation of Thomas, Bradley, Smart, Rozier, Crowder, Green, Olynyk and Horford – as opposed to the likes of Jaylen Brown or Amir Johnson.
The Celtics purely lacked confidence — a reality that manifested itself in shot selection, defensive intensity, body language, and ultimately their performance. However, now that the Celtics have tightened their defense and formulated a more organic offense, they’ve discovered the swagger that a first seed should carry themselves with.