By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — For as much as he’s encountered in his 14 years in the NBA, veteran Bulls guard Dwyane Wade was quick to point out Thursday that this is “uncharted waters” for him, just as it is for about everyone else.
The eighth-seeded Bulls back home up 2-0 on the top-seeded Celtics after winning two games in Boston? This type of upstart uprising that hasn’t happened since 1993 in the NBA is a shock to many, Wade included.
“Yeah,” Wade said when asked if he was surprised. “I’m not going to lie. We’re a confident team, but you’re not thinking you’re going to go into Boston and get two. You’re just trying to get one. That’s your focus. But once you got that one, now it’s just another game. Now you have to try to get the next one. But coming, I didn’t say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be up 2-0 on Boston going home.’ No one thought that.”
The Bulls’ complete control of the Celtics early on has been perhaps the biggest storyline in any first-round series. Chicago has asserted its will over Boston with crisp ball movement, defensive aggressiveness on Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and most vividly its physicality — “I credit RoLo for that,” forward Bobby Portis said of starting center Robin Lopez, who has 12 offensive rebounds in two games.
What isn’t a surprise is Wade rising to the occasion in the postseason, which he did in Game 2. Wade showcased more of his top form and better conditioning in a 22-point performance that included an 11-point fourth quarter. He looked to be his usual self after easing his way back in the final three regular-season games as he came back sooner than expected from a small fracture in his right elbow, then scoring 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting in the narrow Game 1 win.
The scoring balance for the Bulls in Game 2 was what Chicago desires, with star Jimmy Butler matching Wade with 22 points and six players reaching double figures.
“I’m a supporting man,” Wade said. “I want to be up for an Oscar in my supporting role. Jimmy’s the leader. He’s the lead actor here. Myself, (Rajon) Rondo and all those guys — it’s our job to support him. When it’s time in these playoffs for me to lead, I’ve done it my whole life. I’m not saying I’m gonna always come through, but I enjoy the moment when it’s time for me to make (plays). Some nights, it won’t be. You’ve got to do other things.”
Wade’s performance was especially encouraging for the Bulls because they believe Celtics adjustments could be coming in defending Butler, who’s averaging 26.0 points in two games. If Boston focuses more attention on Butler, Wade being in top form could serve as a counter to Boston’s counter.
“The other night, it was an opportunity to make some shots, get the ball in the areas that I like,” Wade said.
“That’s a comfort in our team knowing that we have guys that can do it, especially Jimmy (Butler). Because as the series goes on, they’re not just gonna allow Jimmy to do what Jimmy wants to do. It’s gonna change at some point in the series, so we’ve all got to be ready to shine in our lead moments.”
Game 3 is set for Friday evening at the United Center. The pair of off days should bode well for Wade, who was notably more efficient on two days rest this season.
It’s the source of that efficiency for all the Bulls that coach Fred Hoiberg wants them to focus on.
“The biggest thing we have to do is continue to go out there and play unselfish basketball,” Hoiberg said. “We need to go out there and try to follow everything that we’re doing. We need to continue to go out there and make multiple efforts. That’s been one of the things I like most about the first two games is how our guys have played through mistakes. We’ve gotten back in transition, for the most part. We’ve done a good job playing with pace, getting the ball in the right guys’ hands and we’ve had great contributions from our role players.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.