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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Explosive Rose Dazzles as Bulls Stun Celtics

In his first career playoff game, Chicago Bulls rookie point guard Derrick Rose provided a performance for the ages: 36 points on 12-19 field goal shooting and 12-12 free throw shooting, 11 assists and four rebounds in a 105-103 overtime victory over the defending champion Boston Celtics. Rose tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 39 year old NBA record for most points by a rookie in his playoff debut, repeatedly blowing by hapless Boston defenders to either finish strongly at the rim or dish to his teammates for easy scores. The only blemishes on Rose's line were his game-high five turnovers and his six fouls (Rose fouled out with 10 seconds remaining in overtime). Ben Gordon shot just 6-17 from the field but he produced 20 points and five assists, including 12 big fourth quarter points; Gordon is the ultimate feast or famine streak shooter and the Bulls definitely feasted on his clutch buckets down the stretch in game one. Joakim Noah (17 rebounds) and Brad Miller (12 rebounds) dominated the glass as Chicago outrebounded Boston 53-45.

Lost in the deserved superlatives already being heaped on Rose's playoff debut is the fact that in a losing effort his young Boston counterpart nearly matched him point for point and assist for assist: Rajon Rondo had 29 points on 12-21 field goal shooting while also accumulating seven assists and nine rebounds. Rondo only committed one turnover. He certainly shouldered more than his share of the load for the Celtics but Rondo could not overcome the total disappearing act by Ray Allen (four points on 1-12 field goal shooting, including missing a potentially tying jumper as time expired in overtime) and the up and down performance of Paul Pierce: "The Truth" only had four first half points and even though he rallied late to finish with 23 points he shot just 8-21 from the field and missed a free throw with two seconds left in regulation that could have won the game (Chicago had no timeouts left and would have had to immediately inbound the ball and traverse the length of the court had he made that shot). Glen "Big Baby" Davis--who self-deprecatingly called himself "the ticket stub" prior to the game--scored 18 points on 6-15 shooting while starting in place of "The Big Ticket," Kevin Garnett, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year who is expected to miss this year's playoffs due to a knee injury.

The significance of winning game one should not be minimized; game one winners advance nearly 80% of the time in the NBA playoffs. That said, there are some mitigating factors that suggest that it is premature to write the Celtics off just yet:

1) The Bulls needed a historic level debut by Rose, Tyrus Thomas' best shooting game in the past three weeks and Noah's second highest rebounding total this season in order to win by two points in overtime.

2) Even though Chicago had the aforementioned great performances by several key players, the Celtics still came within one missed free throw from winning in regulation and one missed midrange jumper from extending the game to a second overtime that would have been contested without the fouled out Rose.

3) If you project a Bulls series victory from this one win then you are saying that it is more likely that the young Bulls can duplicate their high level of play three more times than it is that future Hall of Famers Pierce and Allen will not perform that poorly again versus Chicago.

Game one definitely indicated that this series will be more closely contested than I--and most other observers--expected. However, don't put it past the Celtics to tie the series by winning at home in game two and then retake home court advantage by capturing game three in Chicago.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:48 AM

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