AP Photo/Charles Krupa
One thought kept going through my mind over and over again while watching the Chicago v Boston game today: these Bulls always respond. In an incredibly hostile environment where games are often blown open in minutes, an environment conducive to bouts of Celtics heroism, these Bulls responded every time they needed to. All of them. Gordon, Rose, Miller, Thomas, Salmons, Hinrich, Noah – at one point or another, each of them was called upon to make a big play in this game and they delivered, whether it was a defensive stop, hustling for an offensive rebound, or nailing a three. They delivered when the Celtics threatened to make a run, they delivered when the Boston crowd starting getting rowdy, and they delivered down the stretch of another epic closely-fought playoff game.
And yet they lost.
They lost, not because Ray Allen hit a freaky three with two seconds left, but because they didn’t get the chance to respond. And no, a Tyrus Thomas 50-foot heave does not count. The way Ben Gordon was shooting, I would have almost bet my house on him making a game-tying three if the Bulls had a decent possession to work with. But as it played out, they ran out of time and Ray Allen stole the show.
Does Ray Allen purposefully stink it up for stretches of games just to heighten the impact when he does start making shots? It seems like it. He was so mediocre in game 1 and the first half of game 2 that I assumed he would play no part in deciding the outcome of this game. But of course, that was just Ray pulling the wool over my eyes. He did the exact same thing in last year’s playoffs, struggling mightily against Atlanta and Cleveland before turning in a couple of game-winning performances against Detroit in the Conference Finals. You ain’t fooling me anymore Ray.
The Celtics should still be very concerned of course. They allowed the Bulls to put up 115 points and shoot 50% from the field, they had to rely on Glen Davis scoring 26 points (simply not sustainable), and Derrick Rose didn’t play a lot of the first half because of foul trouble. There were more positives to take from today’s game for Chicago than Boston. While I still like the Celtics to win this series, if the Bulls win games 3 and 4 at home I would very much like to change that prediction. This young brash Bulls team has done the hard bit and stolen a game in Boston – can they do the easy bit and take care of business at home? I’ll be watching eagerly to find out, in what has undoubtedly become the most fascinating series of this playoffs.
PLAYOFF MVP VOTES
3 votes – Tony Parker. Had 18 points in a blitzing first quarter. Made it look like a training drill out there. Tony Parker finding his stroke, historically does not bode well for opposing teams.
2 votes – Ray Allen. Wasn’t as good as Ben Gordon, but had the last laugh.
1 votes – Ben Gordon. Ridiculous clutch shooting, not only because he hit big shots, but because they were really tough contested shots. The last one he had two guys in his face. How a guy can be this good and this clutch but remain largely unnoticed throughout the regular season only adds to the mystery that is Ben Gordon.