Game Notes: Celtics at Bulls
Rivalry? What rivalry?
by Quinn Peterson
After last season’s epic playoff series, one would expect and hope for some of the same theatrics; maybe see some sparks fly, right? Not quite.
“Last year was last year. This year is this year. Everything’s predicated off Kevin [Garnett]…you add one of those guys to your lineup you’re gonna be better. We’re a different team from last year,” said Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro.
And different it was. Instead of the high energy, high intensity games that we witnessed last April, it was business as usual for Boston, who methodically beat down the Bulls.
Things were pretty even in the 1st quarter. Luol Deng, who led the Bulls with 8 early points, came out solid, as did Joakim Noah, who hauled in 6 rebounds in the first 12 minutes of action. The Celtics seemed to still be getting warmed up, going through the motions — Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers said they, “came out flat.” Paul Pierce and KG matched Deng and Noah, with 8 points and 6 rebounds of their own, respectively.
The highlight of the quarter — and the game for Bulls fans at the UC — came at the 8:32 mark, when Brad Miller took the first opportunity he had to clobber Rajon Rondo, the same way Rondo did him in Game 6 of last year’s playoffs.
“The hit was actually softer than expected. I knew I was gonna get hit going back to what happened last year,” said Rondo. “I think he tried to hit me in my face, but he hit me in my nose. I’ve been hit harder…I wasn’t mad or anything.”
Miller was assessed a flagrant foul for the play, which bred the loudest applause of the night from Bulls fans.
Celtics 29, Bulls 26. End of the 1st.
Given the Bulls showings in the past month, and comparing that to the Celtics’, who came into the game winners of nine straight, most expected an outright demolition. But, to the surprise of many, the Bulls hung in there in the through 2nd quarter, too, though things were gradually taking a turn for the worse. The Bulls shooting percentage dropped from 44 percent in the first to 35 in the second. Deng led the way on that one too, following up a quality first quarter with an 0-7 performance in the 2nd. Taj Gibson had 9 off the bench for the Bulls, while ‘Sheed had 8 for the Celtics.
Derrick Rose looked great, ringing off 6 points in less than a minute, and igniting a battle between him and Rondo that would persist for the rest of the night. A battle that essentially decided the game.
“[It was] fun. Especially in the stretch when he scored like 6 or 7 points straight….he made some tough shots. But I like playing against him. We don’t talk trash, we just go out there and play,” said Rondo.
Rose led the Bulls with 11 at the half, while Boston had 10 apiece from ‘Sheed and Pierce. Rondo had 7 points, 5 assists and 3 boards.
For a moment it looked like the Celtics would pull away, going on a 7-0 run, but the Bulls called a timeout and used a 5-1 run of their own to reel Boston back in.
Celtics 54, Bulls 46. Halftime.
And here’s where it began. It became clear that the game would come down to whose PG could be more effective. Both teams’ best offense came via the penetration of their respective point guard. But while Rose was limited to penetrating and hoping to score, Rondo had the luxury of finding open men and did so often. Rondo played the entire 3rd quarter, scoring 8 points on 4-6 shooting, in addition to 6 assists, 3 boards and 2 steals. He led the Celtics break time and time again and played a marquee role in a 16-4 Celtics run that bolstered the lead from 8 to 20.
“I think we did a great job defensively. Tonight was the challenge of accepting the one on one challenge. They spread the floor against us and try to attack us off the dribble.,” said Rondo. “It started with stops. Doc kept telling me to push it out there in transition. [...]I’m trying to get as far as I can up the court without time going off the clock.”
“It’s great where he’s at mentally with our team,” said Rivers. “He reads that. We can come down and take three or four shots without running our offense, [then] slow it down and get us in our set.”
Jimmy Dykes claimed John Wall may be faster than Rondo — well not the way Rondo looked Saturday against the Bulls. He better be the starting PG in the East.
On top of all this Rondo greatness, the Bulls had another “Jarret Jack moment.” This time, with 3.9 seconds left on the clock, Boston rolled it into to Rondo, obviously to preserve the time on the clock. Commonplace. What’s not commonplace is the opposing team applying so little pressure that the offense is able to let the ball roll 60 feet down the court, pick it up, take two dribbles, and hit a mid-range jumper.
That’s how the 3rd quarter ended.
Celtics 83, Bulls 63. End of the 3rd.
The 4th quarter was more of the same bashing. Eddie House was Eddie House, dropping threes, talking s***. He had 9 points — all on threes — to put the nail in the coffin, and was one of seven Celtics to finish in double figures in their typical balanced effort. Rondo led the way with 16 points, 14 assists and 7 boards. Rose led the Bulls 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. The Bulls shot a dismal 33 percent.
“They scored at a high pace and high level last year. I give ourselves credit, but I think maybe their struggling offensively. I’m not a coach, but that’s just my opinion,” said Rondo. “I think we’re a better defensive team this year. I’m sure they’re missing Gordon, he was a great scorer for them. He was a guy that made plays…especially in the series we played them.”
The Bulls made just one three-pointer, and John Salmons, who was expected to fill Gordon’s role finished with 4 points on 2-7 shooting (to his credit he did have 9 assists).
Celtics 106, Bulls 80. Final Score.
The Celtics, who extended their win streak to 10, will just keep rolling. The Bulls will continue to search for offensive answers that have plagued them since early November.
Rivers said it could be injuries that have slowed the Bulls. “They just have a ton of injuries, it’s tough. We went through it last year…you’re not winning with injuries,” he said. “That’s our league. Go down the list, any team.”
Whatever the problem is, a solution must be found. Quickly.
Sidenote: Kendrick Perkins has still never committed a foul in his NBA career.