Just as they were looking like perhaps the worst one seed ever and on the verge of getting rolled by 8th seeded Chicago, the Bulls lose Rajon Rondo, and come back home where they proceed to lose two in a row and are suddenly in big trouble against the Celtics tied at two games apiece.
So, if you’re Bulls head coach, Fred Hoiberg, what do you do? What kind of adjustments do you make? You blame the officials, of course. Hoiberg admits Isaiah Thomas is a great player. But he’s even better when the refs let him get away with carrying the ball:
I see you working, Mayor. And if I were in your shoes, up two games to none, coming home with a chance finish only to see them do you twice in a row on your home, floor, I might say and do the same thing you are.
But this isn’t about Thomas carrying the ball; it’s about your team being in position to choke out the top seed only to see Boston storm back and take control of the series. That’s what this is about.
Of course, Thomas carries the ball. And he gets away with it. But that’s not the reason you’ve lost two in a row. Your inability to replace Rajon Rondo is the reason you’re in the position you’re in now.
The series changed right when Rondo went down. Not when Thomas started palming the ball; he’s always done that. And Hoiberg is doing what all coaches do; he’s trying to get an edge with the refs, while at the same time letting his team know he has their back and hasn’t lost confidence in them. But Thomas getting away with carrying isn’t the reason they’re in this position, losing Rondo and not having anyone else step up in his absence is.