How to Beat Celtics in Game 6


Apr 30

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Yeah, that Rajon Rondo, the Bulls have to get him. Knock him down the first time he drives into the lane. Yeah! That will show ‘em! We’ll show ‘em we’re from Chicago. That nobody cheap shots us. Perkins. Give him a nice elbow to the chops. Make them know they’re in our house!

That’s the stuff I keep hearing since the stunning conclusion to Game 5 in this fabulous first round playoff series in which the Celtics now lead 3-2.

Yes, this could be the Bulls final game of the season Thursday in the United Center if they do not win.

And you do not win by changing who you are and being drawn into tactics that don’t fit your team. You win by being smarter and doing what you’ve done.

The Bulls, at least in my opinion, have outplayed the Celtics in this series, except for that Game 3 stinker blowout loss at home.

They haven’t always outthought them, though that’s also close.

Boston’s failure to commit a foul before Ben Gordon’s tying three in the first overtime of Game 4 had to be the rockhead moment of the series.

So, no one is perfect, and there are too many decisions and plays to make for everyone to be perfect. And what fun would it be without the imperfections. Whom would we second guess?

The Bulls have beaten the Celtics with athletic, youthful play, pushing the ball, hustling and avoiding the goon tactics.

Who’s supposed to rough up Perkins and Glen Davis? Joakim Noah, who may not weigh more than Davis’s thighs? Tyrus Thomas? He can jump over you. He doesn’t jump into you.

We hear all the time the new age sports cliché of “You are who you are.” When we don’t hear, “It is what it is.”

You succeed by doing what you do best. You lose by trying to be what you are not. The Celtics play more physically because they want you to do so, also. Do you think Davis, at, what, 350 pounds, feels a hit by Thomas? I’m told when they were kids growing up together not only did Davis used to steal and eat Tyrus’s lunch, he ate Tyrus’ lunchbox and thermos.

OK, Brad Miller can pound someone.

Fine. Feel better? So maybe the refs are watching now after two days of commentary and have been put on notice by the league office, which you can be certain they have. And Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro plays just seven guys. So Miller maybe gets himself ejected. Remember, he almost was in Game 4 and the Bulls benefitted when the refs reviewed it and changed it from an ejection to a technical. See, they’re not trying to knock out the Bulls. That was the game, by the way, when Perkins fouled out with three fouls in a three minute stretch late in the fourth quarter with Boston ahead by three.

The Bulls had an 11-point lead in the crucial Game 5 in Boston in the fourth quarter. When the Bulls were not resorting to the tactics of the Celtics. That was with Ray Allen in foul trouble all game, by the way, and the Bulls shooting more free throws in the game.

Attack the basket. Not the Celtics.

Make them react, which they don’t do as well as the Bulls do with old legs with Allen and Paul Pierce and slow legs in Perkins and Davis. You wondered by the way, where has Tyrus been late in some of these games. He got lifted again in Game 5 when Davis had outrun him down court several times and Tyrus was behind trotting. And you know Scott Skiles was yelling at his TV, “See, see.”

I don’t fully fault Thomas. These Bulls players are being asked to do way too much with Del Negro’s seven-player rotation. Lindsey Hunter can give them a few minutes on the ball, certainly against Eddie House and Stephon Marbury. Heck, Marbury almost went in his pants when they passed him the ball late in the regulation of Game 5 and he handed it to a shocked Rondo.

Marbury’s a loser. Always has been. Now Boston knows, too.

You can’t play Tim Thomas against Brian Scalabrine, the Celtics’ fans’ pet rock? Heck, I’d have had Aaron Gray out there at least to bang around a bit with Perkins. Maybe draw a foul. Wear them down a bit.

The Bulls players truly have been amazing putting in the minutes they have with a record three overtime games already, one a double overtime game.

Gordon, playing on that bad hamstring now, is averaging 45.4 minutes per game. It’s 42.2 each for Rose and John Salmons, the latter on a groin problem. Noah is averaging 39 minutes. He played more than that in games only twice this season.

It’s shocking the high level of play they’ve displayed and that they haven’t made more bad plays or decisions.

Playing his bench hasn’t helped Boston coach Doc Rivers. I thought it was fatal for the Celtics in the second quarter of Game 4 in Chicago when the Celtics led and they played the start of the second quarter with Mikki Moore, Marbury, House and Sacabrine with Pierce and basically went from up seven to down seven. But a series is a long time, and Rivers, with more experience, was betting on the future.

It may be too late now for the Bulls with perhaps a last game to begin delving too deeply into the bench.

It’s probably also too late to develop a defensive system of play.

But it’s not too late to end that switching, which is a soft form of defense. Switching everything tells the player, unconsciously, to relax. The message should be to work.

The Bulls were doing a lot of that switching, which is a form of a zone, midway through the season. It too often was resulting in bad mismatches with the small guards on bigger players. The Bulls abandoned it, but brought it back in this series. We saw Pierce take advantage of it on that last shot in regulation over Rose in Game 5.

The Bulls have got to do two things: They have to aggressively play the pick and roll. Get over the screens and don’t give the Celtics so much room. I know it’s easier said with Davis’ width. But that’s where physical play comes in. Not by knocking someone down. But by being physical in the playing of the game.

You don’t do it for show to pound your chest. You get up on their chest. Do the Bulls have enough left in their legs and head to get the rest of their bodies to follow along?

You also have to get the ball out of the hands of the best players.

The Bulls let Pierce beat them in overtime of Game 5, and he was terrific. He made those shots and they weren’t as easy as they looked that late in a game with so much on the line. Credit him for that.

But it was a major mistake to not trap him harder without Ray Allen on the court. I can understand with Allen because he’s made those shots in this series. But he’d fouled out. I wasn’t sure if there was another Celtics on the floor who even wanted to shoot.

At this point, you’re being beaten by Allen and Pierce.

Let someone else try. If they can do it, fine.

I know Rose has been making some turnovers the last few games, but this is a resilient player. I’d still keep the ball in his hands as much as possible. I still want Ben Gordon shooting, but not handling quite so much, and not on those last shots. Let Rose make the play. I’ll still trust him and he’s shown he can get to the basket and score. No one else among the Bulls really can do that. So the Celtics have to guard against that and get back and react, which should create more space.

Let the fans chant for blood. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s better to show them they haven’t upset you. Because you know you’re better.

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