|Final: Gabe Pruitt time||04.23.09 at 10:36 pm ET|
In a final result that had to catch everyone by surprise, the Celtics demolished (and there really is no other word) the Bulls, 107-86 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Paul Pierce rebounded from a pair of subpar games to score 24 points in just 28 minutes of action and on just 15 shots.
The Celtics performance was so dominating that the United Center was a sea of empty seats and the hometown Bulls were serenaded by a chorus of boos as they walked off the floor.
|Third quarter update: Starbury in flight||04.23.09 at 10:05 pm ET|
The Celtics managed to extend their lead in the third quarter, but in an even better turn of events for them, Stephon Marbury finally broke out of his shell and contributed offensively. After Rajon Rondo left the game with his fourth foul, Marbury was decidedly more aggressive with his jumper, and while he is only 3-of-8 from the floor, he is taking the “right” kind of shots for the Celtics.
It’s 83-58 after three and the Bulls are as stunned as the crowd.
|Halftime update: The perfect road game||04.23.09 at 9:33 pm ET|
Playing on the road in the playoffs is the toughest thing an NBA team can do. There’s the crowd, of course, which has been known to influence a call or two. But there’s also the travel, the break in the normal routine, and the purely anecdotal but mainly factual notion that role players perform better at home than on the road.
The flip side to all that is if a team can walk into another’s building, completely dominate the action and turn the home crowd against its team. That’s what the Celtics have done to Chicago in the first half. The C’s shot 51 percent in the first half in building a 59-37 lead, but more impressively committed just four turnovers and held the Bulls to 32 percent shooting.
Additionally, Paul Pierce managed to sqaush those “Paul is hurt” rumors, by dropping in 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. The only major concern for the C’s are fouls. Every starter but Glen Davis has two fouls and Mikki Moore picked up three quick personals.
|Simmons: 12 Celtics-Bulls Subplots||04.23.09 at 2:27 pm ET|
Two games in, Bill Simmons is already dubbing the 2009 Celtics-Bulls matchup as one of the best first round series ever played. In his most recent column he explored the scenario of ‘An aging/injured/exhausted/depleted heavyweight (Boston) fights off a hungry young challenger that’s clearly coming into its own (Chicago).’ Simmons examined 12 subplots of the series, ultimately resting it all in the hands of Ray Allen. (But not before sneaking in a jab against Joakim Noah.) Click here to read the column.
|All eyes on Paul Pierce||04.23.09 at 10:17 am ET|
The general consensus courtside Monday night was that something is up with Paul Pierce. “He looks old,” one scribe said. “He looks tired,” another offered. Longtime Chicago writer Sam Smith suggested that Pierce is hurt, not that there is any proof of any of those assertions.
This is what we do know about Pierce. After two games in this series he has played 87 of a possible 101 minutes and is shooting just 40 percent from the floor, and his efficiency numbers are dreadful.
He had a chance to win Game 1 with two late free throws, but missed the second and he has not “taken over” as he has so well throughout the season. We also know this: Pierce has outplayed his Chicago counterpart John Salmons, who definitely is hurt (strained groin), holding Salmons to 36 percent shooting.
This was Pierce after Game 2:
‘I just got to be patient. Let the game come to me. Sometimes I’m taking shots that aren’t there, but I’ll figure this thing out. At the end of the day it’s not about Paul Pierce. It’s about the Boston Celtics. I’ll do anything I can to help the ballclub win.’
There is no question the Celtics, and Pierce especially, made a concerted effort to get Ray Allen the ball in the second half of Game 2. For good reason, as it turns out. So now we have seen Allen take over. We have seen Rajon Rondo take over. We have seen Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins have monster games.
What we haven’t seen, not yet anyway, is Pierce do his thing. That concerns Salmons who told reporters yesterday:
“My mentality is always that this is an All-Star player, a Finals MVP player, who is one of those guys who can go off for 40 at any time. We have to continue to keep a hand in his face, try to make him take as many contested shots as possible. For the most part, we’ve been doing that.”
If the Celtics are going to survive this postseason, they are going to need the cold-eyed death stare Pierce to re-emerge. Game 3 wouldn’t be a bad time for it to return.
|Bulls mystique gone for Celtics?||04.23.09 at 12:40 am ET|
The Boston Celtics pride themselves on having one of the best home crowds in the league. Each game thousands of fans make sure the opposing team takes notice of the 17 banners hanging in the rafters, while memories of Bird, Parish, and McHale are never far from their minds.
But when the Celtics travel to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs against the Bulls, they will be met by a United Center crowd who wants them to acknowledge their own collection of banners. It has been just over ten years since Michael Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA Championships in eight seasons, and their fans are eager to see a first round upset.
So what do the Celtics expect from the Bulls crowd?
‘It’s really hard to answer that question because I know there was a Jordan era in Chicago and then there’s a post-Jordan era. Those are two different eras,’ said Ray Allen. ‘Playing when he played, it was one atmosphere that was uncomparable. Now people are supportive and there’s a lot of basketball fans in that city, but the mystique when he was there was totally different.’
Like Allen, Stephon Marbury played against Jordan early in his career. While he agrees that Bulls fans still show their support, there is no replacing Jordan’s presence.
‘They have a really good system as far as how they get the crowd into the game. I think after Michael Jordan, they stayed consistent with exactly what they do. So it’s going to be a nice atmosphere,’ Marbury said. ‘They try to continue with that same mystique. But he’s not there.’
Journeyman Mikki Moore has experienced eight different home crowds. Even so, he still ranks the Bulls crowd (one of the few teams he never played for) as one of the best.
‘It’s a pretty good crowd,’ he said. ‘It’s a lot like here (in Boston). It’s one of the top ten arena crowds because of the traditional Bulls. From Scottie (Pippen) and Jordan, it’s a basketball city so they’re going to come out and support their team regardless.’
For those who played against the Bulls during their dynasty, the memories will still linger in the building. However the younger members of the Celtics cannot relate as their veteran teammates do.
‘It’s alright. It’s no different than any other NBA team,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘You don’t [notice a mystique]. You really don’t. I’ve never played there in a playoff game but when we go there in the regular season, most people are all about the Celtics.’
The Celtics and Bulls will face off in Chicago on Thursday at 8pm EST for Game 3 and Sunday at 1pm EST for Game 4.
|Derrick Rose wins rookie honors||04.22.09 at 10:10 am ET|
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but the Chicago Tribune is reporting this morning that Derrick Rose will be named NBA Rookie of the Year.
Rose joins Michael Jordan and Elton Brand as the other Bulls who have won the award, and despite the play of Russell Westbrook, the already-overrated OJ Mayo and New Jersey center Brook Lopez (see Kevin Pelton’s ballot), Rose was an absolute lock to win the award.
Here’s what else is happening in Chicago:
“People are going to second-guess and first-guess,” Del Negro said. “So what? I don’t care. I’m the coach. I will make the decisions. That’s the way it is.”
The always-awesome Kelly Dwyer broke down Game 2. Good stuff here.
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