Celtics/Bulls Series Preview
Anything is possibull! Probabull? Not so much.
In 1994, the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets defeated the top-ranked Seattle Supersonics in the first round, shocking the world—not to mention the Sonics. It was one of the biggest upsets of all time, and remains the standard by which all playoff upsets are measured. During the regular season, the Sonics had won 21 more games than the Nuggets.
The 2009 Celtics and Bulls have regular-season records separated by the same number of games.
This is not to say a Bulls first-round victory would be anywhere near as shocking—after all, the Celtics aren’t coached by George Karl. It’s just an attempt to give the matchup a little bit of much-needed perspective. Can the Bulls beat the Celtics? Sure. The Bulls won the last matchup, 127-121 (while wearing green, no less). The previous two games were decisive Celtics victories, but those took place before the Bulls re-shaped their roster via two major trades. Meanwhile, the heart and soul of the Celtics is out with a bad knee. What’s that he said once? Oh yeah:
ANYTHING IS POSSSSSIIIIIBBBBBLLLLLLEEEEE!!!!!!!
Rajon Rondo vs. Derrick Rose
Rose, who’s going to run away with the Rookie of the Year, has become the no-doubt leader of the ever-rebuilding Bulls. He’s fast, he’s athletic, he’s a matchup nightmare for any opposing point. He’s no threat from long range (22 percent from three, yikes), but that’s fine, because he’d rather blow by you anyway. Pooh got game.
Rajon Rondo averaged fewer points (11.9 to 16.8) and took fewer threes (48 to 72) than Rose this season, but averaged one more steal and nearly two more assists. There’s also the small fact of his having quarterbacked a championship team last year. There’s a lot of things to be weighed here, but damn that ring is heavy.
Ben Gordon vs. Ray Allen
Ben Gordon put together a nice little season for himself after allegedly turning down an alleged $50 million contract extension this past summer. He averaged 20.7/3.4/3.5, shot over 40 percent from three, and played in all 82 games, starting 76 of them. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at playoff’s end, so this is his last chance to prove to teams that he’s worthy of a gigantic contract. Good luck with all that.
Ray Allen? He actually averaged fewer points and assists than Gordon, and shot a hundredth of a percentage point poorer from 23-9. That said, he’s Ray Allen.
John Salmons vs. Paul Pierce
Salmons actually outdueled Pierce in their last head-to-head matchup, scoring 38 to P-Double’s 37 on St. Paddy’s Day. Considering Luol Deng’s ongoing injury woes and Larry Hughes’s banishment, it’s likely the Bulls would be preparing for the Lottery instead of the playoffs had they not acquired Salmons from the Kings back in February. The scary thing was that he required zero time to adjust—his numbers with the Bulls are nearly identical to those he posted with the going-nowhere Kings. Seems like he’s a pretty great guy as well. Of course he also has a strained groin.
As for Pierce, he’s one of the few stars over 30 who doesn’t appear to be falling apart at the seams. He played in 81 games, averaged 20.5 points, and turned in yet another All-Star season. Ah, the joys of predictability.
Tyrus Thomas vs. Glen Davis
A quick word on Kevin Garnett: I’m an unabashed Bulls fan, but I’ll miss him. Not because I want the Bulls to beat the Celtics at full strength—the Bulls CAN’T beat the Celtics at full-strength—but because his particular brand of complete insanity makes the playoffs more enjoyable.
So instead we get the battle of the LSU forwards. Thomas, a chronic disappointment to Reggie Miller for his failure to average 10 blocks per, seems to finally be coming around. Big Baby once cried on the bench when KG yelled at him.
Joakim Noah vs. Kendrick Perkins
I was hoping to find quotes from Shaq about both of them, but apparently he hasn’t gotten around to dissing them yet. Step up, Diesel! Maybe I’ll Twitter him about it.
Suffice it to say that they’re both annoying in their own special ways. But Perk’s bigger.
Leon Powe, Mikki Moore, Stephon Marbury, Eddie House, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine
Brad Miller, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Gray, Tim Thomas, Linton Johnson, Lindsey Hunter
Wow, do I have to pick just one? Powe was a revelation in the playoffs last season, but Miller has a Scrappy Doo tattoo. Mikki Moore collects snakes, but Lindsey Hunter was there for the whole Garden of Eden eviction party. Stephon Marbury was an All-Star a couple of times, but so was Miller. Marbury was given millions of dollars to go away, but Thomas was banished from Chicago then brought BACK. It’s an embarrassment of embarrassments.
ADVANTAGE: Um, Bulls?
Vinny Del Negro vs. Doc Rivers
UNBELIEVABLY MASSIVE ADVANTAGE: Celtics
Can the Bulls win in Boston? Sure, why not? The C’s got off to a slow start in last year’s playoffs, taking the full seven to beat the lowly Hawks, and the Bulls swept the defending champion Heat back in the first round back in ’07. And with Garnett out, the Celtics just aren’t the Celtics. But the only question that matters is whether the Bulls can beat the Celtics four times out of seven, and I just don’t think that’s happening.
CELTICS in SIX