Celtics 106, Bulls 104 (OT): Another thriller, though this ends in heartbreak

This game would've had a much better narrative if the Bulls won. I thought they did a great job fighting for (and getting lucky on some) loose balls, actually controlled the offensive board battle, and in general overcame poor shooting (especially in the first 3 quarters) from Gordon and Rose to stay in this game. The slack was picked up by Salmons, Thomas, Noah and especially Kirk Hinrich, who had a tremendous first half.

And they looked to have the Celtics on the ropes, leading by as many as 11, though with plenty of time left. Once again Vinny benched Tyrus Thomas in the 4th quarter, sticking first with Brad Miller and then going to the 4-guard-plus-Noah lineup. So in a game where he may have had a couple mistakes (though Miller himself had a terrible 1st half in that department) but was working hard near the rim on both ends, Tyrus only got 27 minutes in an overtime game. I was actually less upset about this than when it happened in previous games, and it could just be a case of Vinny wearing me down. And also that the 4-guard configuration was a success in the first half (though as I recall the Celtics bigs missed some close shots...plus Scalabrine was in some of that time). But, as always: this type of strategy rarely works for an extended duration, and you're putting yourself in a willing disadvantage on defense.

So as the game tightened in 4th, the Bulls best defense was shot making on offense, with Salmons and Gordon hitting a few but Paul Pierce hitting the last one. If Gordon made that final shot in regulation, it would've been a perfect ending: A flawed but effective player overcoming a rough night (upgraded from 'godawful' to merely 'poor' after working his way to the FT line) to lift a flawed but effective team to a commanding series lead. 

But instead Gordon missed, and Paul Pierce took over in overtime, hitting 3 straight nearly identical jumpers in isolation over Salmons. With Ray Allen fouled out of the game and players such as Tony Allen and Stephon Marbury on the court with Pierce, there looked to be ample ways to send Salmons help. But the Bulls stuck with Salmons on an island, and Pierce made them pay. 

Then on the final posession with the Celtics making a hard double-team denying the inbounds pass to Ben Gordon (showing the Bulls D how it's done?) Brad Miller found himself wide open, and while rumbling to the rim got hacked by Rajon Rondo. Could've been called a flagrant (not going for the ball and hitting the head from behind, that's a flagrant, right? The refs had a chance to review it so apparently not), but after missing two free-throws the Bulls would've still needed a miracle shot with only 2 seconds remaining. 

This is a tough recap to write. Instead of a fantastic hard-fought win (again, I can't get over the great effort from nearly everyone tonight) it could easily be the beginning of the end for the Bulls season. But it's also yet another indication that these are two very evenly matched teams. But when so evenly matched, things like coaching matter, and the Bulls rarely look prepared to execute in late-game situations. They rely on the heroics of some gifted shooters, and have little for a fallback plan on offense, and are barely above a 'hoping they miss' strategy on defense.

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