As the Chicago Bulls welcomed the Boston Celtics into the United Center tonight, fans asked themselves if the Bulls even had a chance to compete in this game. The Bulls have not looked good in their last two games, both losses at New Jersey and at Philadelphia, and entered their fourth game in five nights. The Celtics, on the other hand, had reeled off four straight in a row and are largely considered the early favorite to represent the East in the NBA finals.
However the Celtics were entering their 2nd game in a back-to-back as well. The Bulls are a much younger team, and that could have played a factor in this one.
Bulls fans have been disgruntled by the lack of foul calls MVP Candidate Derrick Rose has received all season. After all, Rose attacks the basket with the aggression more typically associated with a panther pouncing on prey, and averages a meager 5.4 FTA’s a game. But on this night, Rose got the superstar calls he’s so rightly deserved, as well as the obvious foul calls that referees have seemed to miss all season long. Rose went 15-19 from the line, and those free throws were a turning point in the game.
The Bulls defense really showed up tonight as well. Boston came into tonight as the best Field Goal Percentage team in the NBA, sitting at 50.5% from the field. The Bulls held the Celtics to under 38% from the field on this night, and never gave up more than 22 points in a quarter. Considering the Bulls are still without starting Center Joakim Noah, this was quite the feat.
It wasn’t all roses and rainbows, however. The Bulls lost the turnover battle in a bad way, 21-8. Chicago managed to overcome that poor stat by out-rebounding Boston 48-27 (!!!) but the amount of turnovers is still troubling. But you know what they say, moral losses are always better than moral victories.
Enough of the re-cap. On to 3 & 2.
Game Ball #3 – Carlos Boozer (2nd)
Boozer really came to play tonight. I was a bit concerned about how he would handle the size of Shaq O’Neal and Glenn Davis, but with the Boston Bigs in foul-trouble throughout, Boozer made Big Baby cry all night long. I’m not sure I’ve seen Davis play a worse game on both sides of the court in his career. Boozer finished with 22 points 0n 9-15 shooting, and pulled in 10 big rebounds for a double-double. Boozer got pretty much whatever he wanted all night long.
Game Ball #2 – Ronnie Brewer (1st)
For those that did not get to watch the game, enough cannot be said for Ronnie Brewer. Though coming off the bench, Brewer logged over 32 minutes and had a game best +/- ratio of +26. Brewer drew the assignment of Ray Allen for most the night, who finished 7-13 and was largely a non-factor down the stretch. Ronnie definitely made his case for Coach Tom Thibodeau as the Bulls answer to the SG position.
Game Ball #1 – Derrick Rose (3rd)
As mentioned earlier, Rose took advantage of a slower front-court all night long. In what many consider a show-down of elite PGs, Rose clearly had the upper-hand over counterpart Rajon Rondo tonight. Rose finished with 36 points on 10-19 shooting, included the 15-19 from the free throw stripe, and threw in five rebounds and two assists as well. In the 4th quarter, Rose dared players to guard him, hitting shot after shot late in the game.
Strike #1 – Keith Bogans (1st)
Bogans just looks completely lost on the floor. On offense, he floats around the 3-point line and hopes Rose finds him on a drive-and-dish for a wide-open three. Rose does from time-to-time, but Bogans rarely knocks them down. On defense, his help is late, and he’s committing silly fouls. Bogans was a game worst -14 in his +/- ratio, and may have seen himself out of the starting line-up tonight.
Strike #2 – Turnovers (1st)
As mentioned above, the Bulls simply could not hang on to the ball tonight. Beating Boston is impressive enough, but doing it with 13 more turnovers than the Celtics committed is just befuddling. It’s got to be cleaned up, but the Bulls found a way to overcome in the end.
After losing back to back games against the Nets and Sixers, beating Boston was a great sign from a young team that proved they can compete with the league’s best. Rose may have taken over the role of “best point guard in the East”, and Chicago has still gone all season without losing three straight. Tonight was a sign of good things to come my friends.
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