After losing their last regular season game at home, the Chicago Bulls were slated as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, going up against last year's champions, the Boston Celtics. As you probably know, Celtic's head coach Doc Rivers has said numerous times that Kevin Garnett has not recovered from his injury, and will not be playing in the playoffs. What this means is that it puts a lot more pressure on their two other big stars, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
If you haven't caught any Bulls games this season, then you've missed out on the exciting play of rookie Derrick Rose, but he certainly came to play today. This was the first game of the series between the two teams, but the intensity level felt like it was game seven of the finals. Ben Gordon, Bull's regular season leading scorer, didn't have much impact on the game early on, but neither did Celtic's Allen. This game turned into who could dominate the boards, and a point guard clinic.
Even though this was the first playoff game in Rose's NBA career, he played inspired and flawless basketball. And from the Celtic's side, Rajon Rondo kept the team in the game with his quickness to the hole. Rose was shooting light's out from the field and from the free throw line; he made shots at will, and had no problems quieting Boston's home crowd after their team made a big shot. There were stretches of the game where it was just Rose and Rondo having a "anything you can do, I can do better" battle, and damn was it fun to watch.
In the fourth quarter, Ben Gordon decided to start playing. Gordon started hitting big shots like he had it in him all along, helping his team with 12 points in the fourth. Down the stretch, it was all Gordon and Rose for the Bulls, and all Rondo and Pierce for the Celtics.
With less than a minute to go in the game, Rose hit two HUGE free throws to put the Bulls up a point, which wouldn't usually be note-worthy except that he didn't miss a free throw to this point, he's a rookie, it's his first playoff game, AND his team was visiting last year's champion Celtics. Now the Celtics have to answer. They go to Pierce, who takes a tough jump shot with less than three seconds in the game, and gets bailed out by a terrible foul from Joakim Noah (aside from this blunder, Noah played a hell of a game himself). The Bulls are out of timeouts at this point, so all Pierce has to do is make both of these free throws, and the Celtics would be able to escape. Oops! Pierce missed the second free throw, and we have over time, baby!
There was no let up in overtime. Tyrus Thomas was an unlikely hero for the Bulls, draining mid-range jumpers like he's Bill Laimbeer or something. Pierce had several isolation plays that did not drop for him. As it should have, it came down to the final play with the Celtics down two points. Not sure why the ball went to Ray Allen for the final shot - he couldn't hit shit for four quarters, and he missed this shot too. Surprisingly, the young Bulls stun the Celtics, beating them 105 - 103.
Derrick Rose finished with 36 points and 11 assists. Now we have a series. :)