Celtics hope road of success winds its way home


CHICAGO -- Home court in this Boston-Chicago playoff series has been nothing close to an advantage for either team. 
Four games into this series and we’re still waiting for a team to win a game on their home floor. 
Boston, which tied the series up at 2-2 with a 104-95 Game 4 win at Chicago on Sunday, hopes to break that trend on Wednesday with Game 5 at the TD Garden. 

About 24 hours before Game 1, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas learned of his 22-year-old sister Chyna J. Thomas being killed in a one-car accident. To Thomas’ credit, the grieving he has been through and continues to deal with, seemed to only make his focus all that more laser-sharp. 
In the four playoff games, Thomas has averaged 25.5 points along with 6.0 assists while shooting a career playoff-high 45.8 percent from the field. 
While he has stepped his game up in the face of adversity home and on the road, the same hasn’t been true for his teammates. 
They have had their share of ups and downs in this series, but have been particularly bad when it comes to their play at the TD Garden. 
Among the 16 -- make that 15 after the Indiana Pacers were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers -- playoff teams, the Celtics rank among the bottom five in most categories and, not surprisingly, are dead-last in rebounding percentage (.433).

But they seemed to have found their stride in Chicago by finding success in several categories. 
In Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, Boston’s defensive rating in those games was 98.8, which ranks second among playoff teams. When factoring in their offensive rating of 110.2, which ranks sixth among playoff teams, the Celtics have a net rating of 11.3 -- tops among road teams in the playoffs. 
Meanwhile, as the Celtics begin to find their stride, the Bulls’ struggles set in courtesy of an unexpected setback. 
Former Celtic Rajon Rondo, arguably the most important player for the Bulls in their two upsets of the Celtics, suffered a broken right thumb injury in Game 2 and was ruled out indefinitely afterwards. There’s some fluidity with the timetable for his return. But if Rondo’s assessment of this injury keeping him out “a couple weeks” is true, then he’s done for this series even if head coach Fred Hoiberg refuses to consider him out for the series. 
Without him, the Bulls haven’t been the same team on the floor. 
A significant amount of the play-calling done during Chicago’s end-of-the-season run to get into the playoffs, was done by Rondo. 
Without him, Hoiberg has had to call out most of the sets which haven’t worked nearly as well.
Is it a personnel thing, or a playing calling thing? 
No one knows the answer to that. 
But what we do know is the Bulls are a different, tougher team to deal with when they had a healthy Rondo on the court rather than watching from the sideline. 
Just as Rondo’s absence has hurt the Bulls, the presence of Gerald Green in Boston’s lineup has provided a major jolt to the Celtics’ play. 
In both Games 3 and 4, Boston opened the game with a 14-4 run with Green’s scoring being pivotal to the fast start. 
And his shot-making has opened things up for his teammates, who have made the most of the increased spacing. 
In his two starts, Green is averaging 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 50 percent (6-for-12) from 3-point range.
Because the Celtics are a smaller, quicker, more athletic team to start games, they do more gang-rebounding which has to some degree given them a better shot at not getting totally smashed on the glass like we saw in Games 1 and 2 when they were out-rebounded by an average of 11.0 boards per game compared to 9.0 in Games 3 and 4. 
It all adds up to a Boston team that has done a lot of positive things in Games 3 and 4, and now face what has been the ultimate challenge in this series -- playing well at home.

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