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Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a fractured right thumb in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics and will be out indefinitely, the team announced Friday.
The Chicago Bulls talked often during the regular season about believing they had the personnel to play as a physically imposing team.
Avoiding the defending champions in the first two rounds is a blessing. Game 3 is Friday in Chicago. He was the first Bulls player to rack up 20 assists and seven steals through the first two games of a playoff series since Scottie Pippen in 1990. In his second National Basketball Association season, Grant started 28 games for the Bulls and averaged 5.9 points.
Meanwhile, Carter-Williams is a very good defender.
Perhaps most importantly, the Bulls lose the element of "we have the Celtics figured out". Houston goes to Oklahoma City with the Rockets holding a 2-0 lead after rallying to win Wednesday night, and the Los Angeles Clippers play at Utah with that series knotted at a game apiece. Dwyane Wade was even surprised by the results but he's gelling at the right time with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. This news could not have come at a worse time for the Bulls who were playing some of the best ball of the season.
But there's a long road ahead.
It showed in game one on Sunday. Without Rondo, Butler will have to take on an increased role in the offense. Butler scored 30 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists as the Bulls defeated the Celtics 106-102.
The most obvious is feeding Butler and Wade higher usage rates and workloads. He still put up some solid numbers but only played in 47 games while dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries. Wade has given Chicago a lift as well, especially in closing stretches in the fourth quarter.
Despite that, the consensus has been that the Bulls would rush to let Rondo go this offseason. They can absolutely still finish off the Celtics. So far this postseason, he's done just that. Back-up guards Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams will be expected to step up in the veteran's absence. And for Ainge, a big part of it is seeing the Celtics loosen up a little.
"We have to continue to go out and play for each other", Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Thursday.
Almost a half-century later, Ainge's Celtics became only the second top-seeded team under the NBA's current seeding format to lose twice at the start of a series. "He messes up your first option, and then he knows your second option".