In their victory in Game 1, the Chicago Bulls got some help from some unlikely sources. It was the usual night from Jimmy Butler, but the Bulls also got contributions from the likes of Robin Lopez on the boards, Bobby Portis shooting lights out, and the two point guards in Jerian Grant and Rajon Rondo.
Rondo had a solid homecoming back to Boston in his first playoff game against his former team. He scored 12 points on 6 of 15 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds, and had 6 assists. This was the Rondo that was seen more in the second half of this season: He was actually playing aggressively, trying to get to the basket and had some decent finishes too. Whenever he caught the ball he was looking to push it in transition and showed some flashes of #PlayoffRondo that the Bulls desperately need. The stat line here doesn’t tell the entire story, but this was a very good performance, especially on the offensive end.
That wasn’t to say that he didn’t do some things wrong in the game as well. He was abysmal from three (0-5) and didn’t even want to attempt a shot that wasn’t inside the paint for much of the game. With Boston totally content with giving him the an open jumper, possessions where the shot clock was winding down with the ball in Rondo’s hands above the free throw line were disastrous.
He also struggled with foul trouble, picking up his fifth foul early in the 4th quarter. That forced Fred Hoiberg to go to the bench. And thankfully, Hoiberg decided to place Jerian Grant ahead of Michael-Carter Williams in the rotation
That move turned out to be a very smart one in the series opener. Like Rondo, Grant’s stat line wasn’t the best (6 points, 4 assists) but Chicago did play very well with him on the court. Grant also hit a very clutch three late in the game, adding another dimension of shooting that Chicago can’t get with Rondo on the court.
Above, it was a pick and roll with Butler and Grant with the main point of it being that the Bulls were going to get Isaiah Thomas on Jimmy. Although the switch didn't happen thanks to Avery Bradley’s great defense and Thomas dropping back to prevent a drive, that did leave some space for Grant. Thomas, not known as a great defender, didn’t step up to contest and gave Grant time to set up and fire away.
Grant has been shooting the ball well in the second half of the season too, and it helps Chicago’s offense when the Bulls go full isolation with either Butler or Dwyane Wade late in games. Defenses will be less willing to help out on Butler and Wade knowing that there is another guard who can hit a three if given enough space. He wasn't that bad defensively either in this game, which is saying a lot considering often he’s usually blown-by.
Both guys played well and showed a lot of effort, but it was clear that the Bulls played better with Grant on the court. When Grant was on the court, the Bulls had a ORTG of 135.9 compared to one of 98.1 while Rondo was playing.
Chicago’s guard play won't be flashy, and it is not a strength by any means. But Game 1 showed exactly what you wanted to see from both guys in terms of their roles on the team. Fred Hoiberg has to figure out how he wants to split the minutes between the two. But one thing is for certain, playing Jerian Grant late in the 4th quarter will certainly help the Bulls offense.