Celts Will Try To Tame Bulls in Game 3

By Stephen Alford
Updated: April 22, 2009

2009 NBA Playoffs BOSTON — The Boston Celtics will travel to Chicago to face the Bulls in Game Three of the NBA playoffs Thursday at 8 pm ET (TNT). With the series tied at one game apiece, the young Bulls are approaching Thursday’s game with a lot more confidence than when the series started.

After beating the Cs 105-103 in overtime in the series’ opener, and then losing to them in Game Two 118-115, the Bulls have to believe that they can take the next two home games, and return to Boston with a 3-1 advantage — especially since Boston’s valuable reserve Leon Powe will join Kevin Garnett (right knee injury) on the “shut down for the rest of the playoffs” list with a torn ligament in his left knee.

On the flip side, the Green were a Paul Pierce made free throw away from taking a 2-0 lead to Chicago. In order for the Cs to dodge a deficit upon their return to the Bean, coach Doc Rivers and staff will have to make sure his team does the following:

Keep the ball in Rajon Rondo’s hands. And Rondo must continue to play the way he’s played in the first two games of the series. Captain Pierce said it best following Game 2: “I think as Rondo goes, we go.”

Meaning if the third-year veteran has one bad game, the Celtics are sure to lose that game. However, with two outstanding games under his belt while being matched up against newly crowned Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, Chicago should not place their hopes on a subpar performance by the Celtics’ starting point guard.

In Saturday’s 105-103 overtime loss, Rondo kept pace with Rose’s 36 point effort by scoring 29 points on 12-for-21 from the field. Boston’s playmaker managed Game 1 well and only committed one turnover to go with his seven assists, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in 43 minutes of action.

His Game Two performance was just as impressive, as he finished the game with a triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists). After injuring his ankle with 5:03 remaining in the first half, Rondo bounced back and finished Game 2 with only two turnovers in 40 minutes of action. Fearing that resting the ankle would cause it to swell, Doc Rivers was forced to play Rondo for most of the second half.

Celtics Nation is hopeful that the two days rest will do a lot for the ankle because the Cs would surely struggle without their floor general on the court.

The Celtics are also going to need that ankle to be as close to 100 % as possible if they expect Rondo to run the team with the efficiency he displayed in the first two games…and if they expect him to keep up with the lightning quick Derrick Rose.

One more item to add about Rondo: Seven of his 12 rebounds in Game 2 were from the offensive end, as the Celtics outrebounded the Bulls 21-8 on the offensive glass, which leads me to my second thing the Celtics must do to gain the lead in this series:

Continue to keep the Bulls off the glass. Chicago might be taller, but Boston is wider and they have been able to get themselves in a better position to grab the caroms on both ends of the court, outboarding the Bulls 50-36 (21-8 offensive rebounds) on the glass in Game 2 and 53-45 (both teams had 10 offensive rebounds) in the opener.

And in order to keep the Bulls off the glass, Kendrick Perkins must continue to be a dominant force in the trenches. In the Game 1 loss, Perk had 14 points (7-for-11 from the field), eight rebounds (three from the offensive end), two blocks and a steal. But later admitted that he couldn’t sleep that night after Joekim Noah ripped down 17 rebounds.

In the Game 2 victory, Big Perk shot 7-for-9 from the field and finished the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds (seven from the offensive end). He also added two blocked shots and a steal.

He may be a little gun shy when he’s matched up against the long arms of Tyrus Thomas and/or Son of Yannick Noah, but Perkins has produced some solid games thus far.

Once he gets into double-digits in scoring, anything extra that he gives on the offensive end is gravy. But Perk will have to come up as big as he is if the Celts hope to return to Boston with an advantage.

Now that Leon Powe is sidelined for the rest of the playoffs, Glen Big Baby Davis will have an even more important role. His Game 2 stats (26 points, 12-for-21 from the field, nine rebounds, four offensive rebounds) were comparable to numbers that KG would put up.

But he’s not the Big Ticket. And he knows it. In fact, Big Baby recently dubbed himself the Ticket Stub.

But with no KG and Powe, it is going to be important for Big Baby to stay on the court and not get into foul trouble like he did when he fouled out of Game 1 when he finished with 18 points (6-for-15 from the field) and only three rebounds.

Pierce cannot be tentative like he was in Game 2 and Doc is going to have to find some time to rest Pierce so he can be fresh in the fourth quarter. He got his shot blocked by rookie Derrick Rose late in Game 2 and also struggled to get clean shots off of John Salmons.

I attributed his 8-for-19 performance and four turnovers in Game 2 to fatigue. The captain played 44 minutes that night. Doc is going to have to find a way to rest The Truth in the third quarter so he can be fresh to take over the final frame if need be. And if it’s a close game, Pierce is going to have to step up and hit his free throws. His Game 1 performance (23 points, 8-for-21 from the field, 2-for-5 from the deep end, seven rebounds) was all but forgotten when he missed that free throw with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation that would have iced the game.

Ray Allen cannot, I repeat, cannot have another shooting slump like he did in Game 1. Allen did not look like He Got Game in Game 1 when he finished 1-for-12 from the field, including no-for-six from the deep end. His lackluster performance had Celtics Nation thinking back to last year’s playoffs.

Boston is going to look for Sugar Ray to have another hot shooting night like he did in Game 2 when he scored 30 points in a shootout with fellow UConn alum Ben Gordon. Allen connected on an amazing 6-for-10 from beyond the arc (9-for-18 from the field) that game, including the game-winning three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Son of Yannick with 2.6 seconds left in regulation.

Eddie House and Stephon Marbury are going to have to step up some time during the series. House scored just five points in Game 1 on 2-for-8 from the field. Marbury was no-for-2 in Game 1.

Although Doc said after Game 1 that he should’ve played Marbury more, Steph played the same amount of minutes, and was 1-for-4 in Game 2. House was also 1-for-4 in his 14 minutes of action in Game 2.

Doc is going to have to figure out a way to work them into the rotation and the two of them are going to have to produce when they are on the court. Same goes for Tony Allen. Now that Boston is without three big men (KG, Powe, and Brian Scalabrine) the Cs are going to have to play small ball, which means one of those players are going to have to start making shots.

The Cs are also going to have to defend better and not let the crowd get into the game Thursday night, which means they are going to have to find a way to stop the Bulls’ backcourt — a task that is easier said than done.

The Green cannot allow Gordon to heat up for another 42-point performance like he did in Game 2. He shot 14-for-24, including 6-for-11 from way downtown, and nailed all of his shots during the closing minutes of Game 2.

If he repeats that performance with the Chicago crowd behind him, the Cs are going to be in trouble. Same goes for the rookie sensation Rose. He followed up his stellar playoff debut with 10 points, seven assists, two blocked shots (including one on Pierce), and only two turnovers.

Look for Rose to take more than the 11 attempts he took in Game Two. Now that the Chi-town native will make his playoff debut in his hometown, look for Rose to try to clone his Game 1 night when he scored the most points by a rookie’s playoff debut since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor.

Rondo and possibly Tony Allen will have their hands full as they try to stop Rose from getting to the lane, and someone is going to have to put Rose on the floor and not let him get to the basket so easily without consequence.

If he shoots 12-for-19 from the field and a perfect 12 from the charity stripe, and dishes out another 11 assists in Chicago, the Cs may be playing with their backs against the wall when they return to Boston next week.