Bulls Rout Celtics 111-97 to Take 2-0 Series Lead in 2017 NBA Playoffs

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2017

Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) drives towards the basket past Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the second quarter of a first-round NBA playoff basketball game in Boston, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Since the NBA moved to a 16-team playoff format in 1984, a No. 1 seed has only been eliminated in the first round five times.

The Boston Celtics have their work cut out to avoid becoming the sixth.

Jimmy Butler scored 22 points and Rajon Rondo nearly went for a triple-double, as the Chicago Bulls earned a 111-97 victory in Game 2 Tuesday night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The teams will travel to Chicago for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.

For the second straight game, the Bulls flipped a switch that rarely appeared during their tumultuous regular season.  

Chicago shot a solid 51.1 percent from the floor overall, had all five of its starters (plus Paul Zipser) in double figures and locked down Boston defensively on the perimeter. The Celtics shot 10-of-33 from three-point range, their second straight shaky performance from deep.

The Bulls, meanwhile, feasted offensively despite a shot profile that included a heavy dose of mid-range jumpers. Butler came through with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while making only one three, and Chicago knocked down 10 triples as a team. 

A lot of the Bulls' offensive success came from the unselfish dribble-drive game of Rondo, who was jettisoned from the rotation at multiple points this season. Rondo finished with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds and has undergone a post-All-Star renaissance. He saw all of his splits reach near-prime heights and has been a vital force in both of the Bulls' victories.

Twitter users have been understandably amused with Rondo's breakout:

Robin Lopez was also stellar for his second straight contest, taking advantage of Boston's lack of interior depth to dominate the glass and put back shots near the rim. He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.  

Dwyane Wade saved his best for down the stretch, helping the Bulls stretch their lead to double digits by scoring half of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Playoff Wade was in full force, and ESPN's Cassidy Hubbarth noticed:

Nikola Mirotic (13 points, seven rebounds) and Zipser (16 points) rounded out the double-digit scorers for Chicago.

The Celtics were undone in part by the backcourt that carried them all season. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley combined for just 11-of-30 shooting from the field. Thomas was playing his second game since losing his sister in a car accident and was visibly upset as head coach Brad Stevens pulled him from the game in the waning seconds.

Ballyhooed offseason acquisition Al Horford scored just seven points, 12 less than his solid Game 1 performance. The loss brings Celtics head coach Brad Stevens' playoff record to a disappointing 2-10. 

The Bulls are two wins away from becoming the first No. 8 seed since the 2012 Philadelphia 76ers to win their first-round matchup. Ironically, that win came against a Chicago team that lost Derrick Rose to a franchise-changing torn ACL in Game 1 of that series.