Wade, who scored 22 points in Game 2, had nothing but strong praise for Rondo in his postgame presser, even saying that he once hated going up against Rondo because of how smart and fiery he is.
But perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Bulls is that the Three Alphas played with chemistry and consistency in Game 2. Lopez is a solid-enough rim protector down low, but many Bulls fans will testify that he frequently played poorly against stretch bigs that required attention on the perimeter throughout the season. "Later in the game, when we cut it to one and they went on another run, that can be dejecting". Maybe it took the turbulence of the 82 game rollercoaster ride for Wade and Butler to understand their best chance to win with the current roster is to let Rondo have the ball and make the right reads.
It's prudent to remember that defensive rebound rate is not the primary indicator of team success. If we see their halfcourt defense set up every play, it's going to be hard to score. "He's trying to get back as quick as he can", Snyder said.
Wade created light-hearted headlines for his missed dunk in Game 1. Yesterday, Game 2 took place.
Butler added eight rebounds and eight assists.
But Rondo is proving the biggest revelation. Rondo recorded 11 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and five steals to lead the Bulls to an 111-97 win on Tuesday night. People can't load up on me and then on top of everything else, [Rondo and Wade] do a lot of that as well - when they're attacking, they're being aggressive and they're getting everybody else involved and especially when we're getting stops...More news: Trump says US-Russia relations may be at "all-time low"
Forward Tyler Zeller said they just want to try to make his basketball world as easy as possible right now. But then a December slump led to Rondo being benched, starting off with five straight games of DNP's-CD, and talk immediately surfaced of a possible contract buyout. "Before the game, Jimmy and DWade kept telling me to shoot the ball and stay aggressive".
DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, Serge Ibaka added 13 of his 16 in the second half and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 5-1 when playing Game 2 of a playoff series on their home court.
"They played with an intensity and level from the beginning of the game", Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "You get three or four days of prep on a team, lock into their game plan". A common scene in the postgame locker room is for Rondo to loudly call to the video coordinator for an iPad filled with clips he needs to study for the next game.
The first thing that needs to be said is that first seed-eighth seed aside, the competitiveness of this series may not be all that surprising. "Hated him competitively. Hated him is a respect".
Whatever we thought we knew about the Bulls no longer applies.
We wish all the best to Thomas and his family. Fred (Hoiberg) gives us a voice.