Decade’s Best: Playoff Series
Bulls/Celtics memories are still fresh, and will remain that way.
by Nada Taha
While covering the Magic-76ers first round playoffs series, I couldn’t help but turn the TV at my media seat toward me.
I was hooked. I tried to watch the game on the court, but the game on TV was just getting too good. Then, over my shoulder, one by one, fellow writers were trying to get a better view.
We were on edge and standing out of our seats. We were witnessing one of the all-time greatest rookie playoff debuts.
And little did we know that Derrick Rose’s driving layup and a pair of clutch free throws would be the initial spark to a fire that spurred through the first round of the 2009 playoffs like one that even Smokey the Bear would be happy to see.
There’s no question that the Bulls-Celtics series dominated the decade.
There were overtimes, bloody-lipped free throws, and Joakim Noah’s lioness roar.
We saw players of the past, present and future bring in clutch performances and a dirty, rigorous style of play that the NBA has long been lacking.
What made this series great was the fact that no one thought it would be a series in the first place – let alone a historical one.
The Celtics – the defending champs – were expected to pounce on the Bulls like a ravenous animal and not let the young team even get a breath in.
“You didn’t really expect them to come in and play the way they did throughout the whole seven games,” Celtics captain Paul Pierce said after the series finally ended with his team taking home the W.
But Rose and his Bulls had other things in mind. They were looking for blood, literally. And they got it – although it was the Celtics who drew it.
The passion in that series kept the fire alive. The Celtics weren’t going to lose in the first round and the Bulls weren’t going to start their summer that easily.
You know it’s a legendary series if you’re up on your feet for most of the seven games or if you’re losing your voice from screaming or if you feel like you’re watching a pay-per-view fight for free.
There were over 1,500 points scored between the two teams. Six of the seven games were decided by 10 points or less. And now, the word overtime is directly associated with this series.
Everyone from Ben Gordon to Brian Scalabrine played big roles and four games were decided in overtime (with one in double and another in triple).
Taking a trip down memory lane, we see Noah pick-pocket Pierce and go in for the one-man break and slam dunk that ended a dramatic Game 6 in its third overtime. Yes, third. We see Ray Allen hit his infamous game-winning three-pointer in game 2. Then, you have Derrick Rose shutting Rondo down with a block in Game 6.
But the most memorable moments were both revolving around Rondo: His forever-debated, non-flagrant foul swipe at Brad Miller’s head and his scuffle with Kirk Hinrich.
Despite the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers almost always had epic Western Conference matchups – Phoenix, San Antonio and Sacramento – the Bulls-Celtics series trumps all just by the pure NBA Finals intensity in a first round series that both teams brought to the court and the mere fact that Bulls were one sleepy quarter away from upsetting the Big C.
For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.