Wednesday, April 26 – Bulls at Celtics
Pregame – Bulls Switch Up Starting Rotation in Game 5
BOSTON – Chicago Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan rarely saw the court this season, but he will see plenty of it tonight when he starts at point guard for his team’s Game 5 matchup with the Boston Celtics.
Canaan registered 46 DNPs over the course of the campaign and played only 19 total minutes from the All-Star break through the end of the regular season. Yet, he has been the one chosen to replace Rajon Rondo (thumb/wrist injury) in tonight’s starting lineup.
So, why would Chicago lean on a player to step into such a critical role in a pivotal Game 5 matchup on the road despite having very few reps under his belt?
The answer is Isaiah – the other Isaiah.
The Bulls are desperately trying to find a way to stop Isaiah Thomas, who torched them with 33 points Sunday night during Boston’s Game 4, series-tying win. Their hope is that Canaan, a small, energetic guard, will be able to wear down Thomas on the offensive end.
“Obviously Isaiah Thomas was having his way with us, so we wanted to put somebody on him that could apply some pressure,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said ahead of Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. tip-off. “We thought Isaiah (Canaan) was our best option with that.
“Jimmy (Butler) has played so many minutes so we didn’t want him to go out there and chase Isaiah (Thomas) around for 48 minutes,” added the coach. “We thought Isaiah Canaan was our best option to at least try to slow him down a little bit.”
Canaan was the team’s third-string point guard entering Game 4, but ended up playing a pivotal role after starter Jerian Grant played poorly during the first quarter and backup Michael Carter-Williams exited the game due to foul trouble.
Canaan ended up being key in Chicago’s third-quarter comeback, and finished with 13 points, three assists and a pair of steals over 34 minutes of play.
“We went into last game not knowing if Isaiah Canaan was going to get the call, but based on what was happening with that first quarter and also with the foul trouble, he got a chance to go out there early, and I thought did a great job,” said Hoiberg. “I thought he was really the guy that was responsible for getting the momentum shifted to our side.”
Fortunately for the Celtics, they were able to regain momentum and pull out the Game 4 win, but Stevens says the team has to be prepared for Canaan’s quickness and active hands tonight.
Boston’s coach has been very aware of Canaan’s abilities long before he entered the NBA.
“He torched a team I coached in 2010 when he was 18 years old so I know all about him,” Stevens said, referring to when Canaan’s 13th-seeded Murray State Racers nearly knocked his fifth-seeded Butler Bulldogs out of the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think ultimately when he became active the other day, we threw [his clips] into the pregame edit right away because it made sense,” added Stevens. “We thought maybe we’d see him in that game. Our guys know what he can do. He came in and played really well last year when he was with Philadelphia. He’s played well against us when he was with Houston in the past. So they’re really aware of what he does and what he does well.”
Boston will need to be aware of Canaan’s quick, pesky presence tonight, as Chicago attempts to mix things up in this pivotal Game 5 matchup.
– Taylor C. Snow