Game 6 Preview: Celtics vs. Bulls

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By Game 5 of a series, there aren’t a lot of new things to say about what needs to happen to extend it or to close things out. Game 5 of the Bulls/Celtics series was far and away the tightest and most interesting game of the matchup so far, at least for the first three-and-a-half quarters, but other than the incredibly rare Anthony Morrow sighting, nothing particularly new or groundbreaking happened.

Chicago did make adjustments offensively, forcing Celtics players to switch often enough to get Jimmy Butler the mismatches he hasn’t had for a couple of games now, and Isaiah Canaan gave the Bulls more out of the point guard position than they’ve gotten since Rajon Rondo went down. Robin Lopez, despite some early foul trouble, got right back onto the offensive glass and was as effective as a scorer as he’s been all series. So it wasn’t all bad.

Boston, though, took advantage of a fourth-quarter collapse that just saw the Bulls fold into themselves. Chicago took a ton of bad shots and gave away entirely too many silly turnovers, and the Celtics turned those into fast breaks and three-pointers that broke open a tight game in just the last six minutes of the contest.

As has been the case all series, Boston played good one-on-one defense on Chicago’s best scorers, but they probably moved the ball better than they have this entire postseason. Every time Chicago seemed to collapse on a Celtics scorer, the ball-handler would kick it out to wide-open teammate for an uncontested three-pointer. Every possession was crisp, very few of them were wasted, and that’s how a team finishes a game with 27 team assists.

So what’s left to say in advance of Game 6? For starters, it’s a fair assumption that Rajon Rondo will be in uniform no matter the condition of his thumb. It’s an elimination game and the team needs his toughness and acumen to force a Game 7. That’s a wild card that absolutely could alter the outcome of that game considerably.

Otherwise, Chicago has to continue to rebound the ball well, but they have to take better care of the basketball and do a better job knocking down their three-pointers. Boston, meanwhile, isn’t going to rebound the ball well, but can make up for that by playing the same sort of smart team basketball they did in Game 5.

Who Wins Game 6?

After a surprising start in this series, Chicago has fallen off the map since the Rajon Rondo injury. Getting Rondo back in Game 6 would be a boost, but the Bulls have come crashing back to what they were in the regular season. Expect the top-seeded Celtics to close out this series on Friday evening in Chicago, taking them one stop closer to a second-round matchup against the Washington Wizards or Atlanta Hawks. This one’s almost over, folks.