Thursday, September 20, 2012

ESF: Bulls @ Celtics - Game 1

An instant showdown for supremacy erupted in Beantown! The Celtics crashed in their first 9 shots and Chicago nearly did the same. Who would be the first to miss, or lose an edge in just the 1st period? It was to be Chicago, who missed some free throws while Boston continued to pour on the offensive flurry, scoring 40 points before the 2nd quarter began.

This meant a daunting challenge for the Bulls, who were forced to come back, ever slowly, throughout the rest of the highly competitive game. They would trim Boston's lead, only for it to increase again. They cut the lead down to 7 to start the 2nd half, but then let it rise back up to 18. But Chicago wasn't going down without a fight.

Brilliantly, the Bulls went on an 8-0 run late in the nervous 4th quarter that had the Boston crowd cheering in approval of their team's excellent play while also worrying once reasonable but inaccurate shots began to miss from their stars. Luckily, a shot by Paul Pierce stretched Boston's lead back up to 6, until Chicago sliced it down to 2, only to watch Rajon Rondo sink a pair of successful free throws.

The worst part about Chicago's resilient effort tonight was when they practically handed the ball to backup center, Roy Hibbert, after Rondo made his free throws, the ball passing right into the big man's hands, before he made the Bulls pay with 2 more free throws. A missed 3 by Rip Hamilton, then a missed 3 by Derrick Rose sealed the victory for Boston by a 4 point margin after Carlos Boozer rattled in a shot near the rim beforehand.

Rajon Rondo (22 points, 10 assists) celebrated with the crowd, feeling much better after having to sit in the 2nd quarter after getting a second troublesome foul. Having bounced back, and even nailed a couple of three pointers, Rondo had reason to be joyous. And so did Kevin Garnett (16 points, 12 rebounds) who held Joakim Noah in check on the boards, only letting rare offensive rebounds by Derrick Rose slip through his fingers. Kevin Martin (23 pointshelped hold off the hungry Bulls with plenty of offensive flair, finding precious advantages on Chicago and making them count with splashy shots. Josh Howard had a modest showing with 13 points, but a crucial three-pointer in the 4th quarter. Both forwards, Charlie Villanueva and Kenyon Martin, dipped in double figures.

The deciding factor in this first showdown of what promises to be one of many, was Boston's masterful performance on offense, all of its stars shooting above 50%. In the loss, Carlos Boozer devoured 34 monster points and 12 rebounds; Rip Hamilton splashed in 27, Luol Deng had 21 and, of course, Derrick Rose, just came up short of a win but did all he could with 20 points, dishing out 15 assists. To his credit, Joakim Noah pulled in 14 rebounds, but took some arrant shots down the stretch that only hurt Chicago's chances of pulling off a remarkable comeback in Beantown.

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