Bulls 96, Celtics 83: they can play with this team (as long as Garnett isn't there)

Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Chicago 88.0 109.1 46.4% 21.4 33.3 13.6
Boston 94.3 47.9% 21.1 20.5 17.0

disclaimer: I missed the 3rd quarter due to DVR issues.

I laughed earlier this week when Taj Gibson referred to Bulls-Celtics as a 'rivalry' he was now a part of. As far as where both teams are really at, it's more that the Bulls think it's a rivalry...but the Celtics, being much better, don't.

But maybe for that reason alone, the Bulls can play up to the Celtics...as long as Kevin Garnett isn't on the court. Garnett is obviously the anchor of the Celtics world-class defense, but it's even more than that: I think when they see the braying jackass (any surprise he won this designation?) the Bulls completely lose any confidence, thus the many times the Garnett-led Celtics have absolutely destroyed the Bulls in the past couple seasons. I normally don't believe such things make that much of a difference, but there has to be some ancillary reason the Bulls go from being 20 points worse than the Celtics to an even matchup. Or a 13-point victory.

A victory in which the Bulls led nearly the whole game, even with Derrick Rose out much of the first half due to foul trouble. With the Celtics smaller (or Scalabrine-ier) than normal, the Bulls were able to absolutely dominate the offensive glass, as well as exploit Boston's propensity (Garnett or not) to turnovers. Taj Gibson made some great plays in the 4th and finished with 2 steals and 2 blocks, and Tyrus Thomas had 4 steals in 17 minutes (though way too many missed layups). Everyone contributed to a pretty stout defense tonight, and one that's now a top-10 unit in the league.

(Offensive shout-outs: Rose closing in the 4th, Kirk Hinrich hitting two layups to end the first half, Luol Deng got to the line 10 times. Noah was 7-8 from the line - did Davis actually intentionally foul him there like he was some free throw waste like Rondo? - and was showing off the short hook.)

Hopefully tonight  was not just feeling up to playing their 'rivals', but they can get some sustained belief they can win on the road, as after tomorrow's sure-to-be-letdown-game against the messed-up Wizards (it's begging for it, right?) a long road trip awaits. While still getting too many losses to believe they're that much better, being healthy and using the new rotation (whether it contributed to Kirk/Salmons playing better or not) has the team better prepared than the first trip out West.

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