CHICAGO – While Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was scrambling to adjust to point guard Rajon Rondo’s sudden absence from his starting lineup, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was creating an opening by design.
Veteran swingman Gerald Green would start Game 3 at United Center Friday night, Steven said, in place of big man Amir Johnson.
Why, exactly? “Shooting, length and athleticism,” Stevens said.
Johnson, a 6-foot-9 veteran in his 12th season who started 77 of 82 games for Boston this season, had dipped to 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 36.4 percent in the Celtics’ two losses to start this first-round series. The Celtics had been outrebounded 97-74 while allowing Chicago to shoot 46.7 percent.
Green had logged only six minutes to Johnson’s 27, and the Boston coach sounded eager to see the impact Green might make.
We want to be able to spread ‘em on offense and shoot the ball,” Stevens said. “And then on defense, I think we need — if we’re not going to play two bigs — we have to be long and athletic on the perimeter. And we’ve got to go help each other rebound.
“Just because a guy starts doesn’t mean he’s gonna play 40 minutes. But when you have a chance to put a guy in who hasn’t been playing that much, a good time to do it is with that first group.”
Hoiberg will do that with backup Jerian Grant, elevating him to Rondo’s spot in the starting lineup. Rondo is out indefinitely with a right thumb fracture, the Bulls announced earlier Friday. Depending how Grant plays, Michael Carter-Williams will be next in line. Rondo was vital to the Bulls’ two victories, averaging 11.5 points, 10.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds, orchestrating the team’s offense while providing defense against dangerous Celtics scorer Isaiah Thomas.
“Obviously to lose anybody in the playoffs at that position [hurts], as far as what he’s done offensively, defensively, just his overall game, versatility,” Hoiberg said.
“Everybody’s got to be ready to fill in. It’s not going to be one guy that gives us everything that Rajon does. It’s got to be a group.”