Celtics show Bulls 2009 Playoffs are history


Dec 13

Well, at least they paid back Rajon Rondo.

I know, I know. Who really cares now.

This is the scary part about Saturday’s Bulls’ 106-80 loss to the Boston Celtics, the Bulls 10th in the last 12 games to fall to 8-14.

The Bulls seem OK to not lose not so badly.

“I thought we started the game really well,” said Joakim Noah, who was just one of eight shooting but had 13 rebounds and his usual frenetic effort. “We were making some shots and then they really picked up their intensity and they caused us some problems. We’ve just got to stick together as a group and deal with the adversity. As good as Boston is right now, the way they run their offense, the way they play defense, that’s a completely different team than they were a year ago (in the seven-game playoff series).

“I thought we played hard tonight,” said Noah. “I’m not trying to make excuses, but we’ve played a lot of games over the past few days (fourth in five night, though with three home). Obviously they are better than us, but I thought we competed.”

I agree. I thought the Bulls did compete. That may have been the most discouraging part. I thought they did and they lost by 26 points at home, the 10th loss of the season by double figures, which is exceeded by only the Nets and Timberwolves.

I thought Brad Miller, with 11 points, six rebounds and a flagrant foul on Rondo less than four minutes into the game, has ramped up his effort the last two games after being mostly invisible previously. He banged inside and even tipped a few balls out like Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman did to keep possessions going. I thought Derrick Rose with 19 points, but also 19 shots, played more toward the basket and attacked the defense better, carrying the offense when most everyone began to back off after a big first quarter. I saw Rose diving on the floor to tie up a ball against three Celtics and blowing down court with Noah and Taj Gibson in the kind of fast break, easy points the Bulls have to pursue to be competitive. I thought Gibson, with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, continued to battle in the midst of bigger players as he had to fight off Rasheed Wallace or Kendrick Perkins at times.

I saw some good stuff. But I also saw Rose left out there until 2:27 left with the deep reserves when the game had long gotten away, and Jannero Pargo, who came up with 11 points in the fourth quarter blowout time and the team’s only three of the game in another horrid three-point non shooting game, out until that fourth quarter even as the offense was collapsing and needed some sort of spark after halftime.

“They made shots and we didn’t,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said about the game getting away after trailing 54-46 at halftime. “They made free throws and we turned the ball over too much. Then you start chasing them. Our ball movement was not as good in the second half. Some guys ran out of energy. We had good ball movement in the first half (13 assists on 18 baskets). If you don’t move the ball, they take you out of things. We had some guys who struggled tonight.”

And the Celtics took advantage in something of a message as if to say that playoff series was a fluke.

The Celtics had seven players in double figures with no one but Rondo playing more than 30 minutes in a further message that the Celtics were going to make a point. Rondo led Boston with 16 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds and was all over the court adding three steals and harassing the Bulls.

“He was terrific,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Good pace, knew when to drive. Knew when to keep the pressure in. He also knew when we took too many jump shots and (to get) it down low. Just a great job by him. It’s great where he’s mentally with our team. He understands that. He reads that. If we come down and take three or four shots without running our offense, he’ll slow us down and get us in our set. That’s a sign of a great point guard.”

Sort of a so much for all that Rose hype stuff from last playoffs.

“That was last year, this is this year. It is totally different,” agreed Del Negro. “Everything is predicated off Kevin Garnett clogging up the middle. They are a different team with him. He is a future Hall of Famer. We just need to find ways to be more efficient offensively. When you have turnovers, Boston makes you pay. Rondo runs their team real well. They have a lot of weapons to throw the ball to. I was happy with some of our efforts.”

I guess you could say it was a fun first half, though when the game was over the Bulls had shot 32.6 percent and were one of nine on threes, making it two of 22 the last two games, both at home. The Bulls are 10 of 54 on threes the last four home games. Michael Jordan hated those rims, too.

The Bulls bolted out fast in a back and forth first quarter that included Miler’s repayment hard foul on Rondo from last season’s playoff series Game 5, a nice neck slam that left Rondo sprawled for a time. He got up and made his free throws. Luol Deng, who was terrific in Friday’s overtime win over the Warriors, came out hitting his jumper, though he apparently would tire later and miss four third quarter free throws when the game began to slip from the Bulls. Deng finished with 17 points, but on five and 16 shooting and seven of 12 from the line, showing, at least, he remained aggressive.

“It is our fourth game in five days, so maybe we did get a little bit tired,” said Deng .“They’re a very good team. Right now we know that they are better than us. We’ve just got to go out and play hard and hopefully at some point we can get to where they are.”

Yes, the Celtics were in Chicago waiting and coaches were at Friday’s game watching. But this was Boston’s sixth road game in their last seven games with one home game since Nov. 29. Everyone thinks they have a tough schedule.

Rose moved off the ball some to attack from the wing, and he had a nice score as he faked Eddie House into falling down once, and James Johnson came in early and finished strong for a change with a flying dunk down the lane on a nice give from John Salmons. But on the very next possession, Johnson held the ball and began dribbling between his legs. C’mon rook! So Tony Allen took it away and ran out and scored, leaving the Bulls trailing 29-26 after one.

Del Negro stood up with a look of bewilderment. And a shake of the head. We joined in.

Salmons, who led the Bulls with nine assists, found the aggressive Gibson inside for a dunk, and then Gibson forced Tony Allen into a turnover and ran a nice two on one with Salmons for a dunk.

Rose then kept the Bulls within two midway through the second with three straight short shots, though Rondo picked him clean just after that and scored. Rondo is truly remarkable. I know he has Kevin Garnett and Rose has Taj Gibson. But Rondo’s a relentless buzz of energy and a guy without a shot who, nevertheless, gets to the basket and scores.

The Bulls did fight hard during that quarter, unlike recent efforts like against Toronto last Saturday night. But the ball didn’t drop as Deng missed at the basket and on the rebound. Still, the Bulls were within eight at halftime.

The steady drip of defeat overwhelmed the Bulls in the third as Deng pounded inside, getting to the line for eight free throws but making four. The Bulls would shoot just 26 percent while Garnett and Rondo combined for eight of 10 field goals and the rout was on, the Bulls down 83-63 after three. It became a Celtics clinic as Rondo ran out after a Rose drive with no one covering in the backcourt, Noah with a long errant pass and thus a bad turnover for a House score and Garnett sealing off Gibson and taking a lob to score.

Fighting to keep it under 30 in the fourth quarter, Miller finally tired of being bounced around and earned himself a technical foul and a seat at the end of the bench. There was nothing more to say or do.

Follow me on Twitter at @samsmithhoops

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