I have to admit, it was a bit difficult giving the game my full attention when, just hours before, the story of the VDN-Paxson confrontation broke. It didn't help that the TNT telecast spent significant time on it, and we received the bombshell from sideline reporter Craig Sager that Chicago Tribune beat reporter (writing that out to clarify that he does not actually work for the Bulls) KC Johnson actually had this story when it happened and decided to hold it.
But by the 4th quarter I had switched to the radio call, and they were much more focused on the game (and had much much less Reggie Miller). And I was happy to then keep my attention undivided, as it was a great victory by the Bulls tonight. Outside of perhaps limiting KG's minutes some and thus playing more of the truly awful Rasheed Wallace (this happened, and also had a 4th quarter possession throwing a pass directly to the first row, and the 1-7 from the field) the Celtics had their optimal rotation and were certainly playing to win. And the Bulls took it to them.
From the outset it was a bit of a reminder of when these teams met in the playoffs last year. Or when the Bulls of '07 took out the defending champion Heat: an opponent being too old to keep up with the Bulls relentless (if not that efficient) attack. A dynamic always there with Joakim Noah, who had 16 rebounds and led the Bulls in dominating the glass all night. The Celtics lost out on a chance to get the #3 seed, and will now have to face Cleveland in the second round. But after getting a good look at them tonight, if I were a fan of that team I'd be worried about even making it to the second round.
Not that this is unique to them, but they also had nobody to stop Derrick Rose, who had Rondo in foul trouble late, and then abused Nate Robinson when Nate gave guarding him a try. Only 2 TOs in over 45 minutes, and 39 points (10 FTAs!). Great to see Rose not only produce in this (pretty much) must-win game but completely dominate the ball, which is what the Bulls offense should be more times than not. Plus he did this, which would've likely won this year's dunk contest.
Even Kirk Hinrich was able to slice through the slowed Celtics D and get to the rim. That was the story in the first half, anyway. In the second it was: "Kirk Hinrich is hitting everything" (maybe THAT's what reminded me of 2006-07?) Hinrich finished with a season high 30 points, and in the final minutes had 10 points on 3-3 shooting. No doubt his best game of the season, and better late than never. It does re-emphasize how much better this team's offense will be if they get a dependable scorer alongside Derrick Rose, though nearly every game this season was a reminder in showing us what happens when that doesn't happen. But good for Kirk in this game in stepping up, and I even used his real name in this recap.
The Bulls magic number stands at 1 going into tomorrow, a win in Charlotte or a Raptors loss against New York and they're in. No doubt the Org. is really pushing for it now to distract everyone from this latest fiasco with VDN.
That's right, a big win can't have me forget that, as it may be the most entertaining of all the stories to come from this messed-up Org. in the past couple years. In fact, I think the giddiness of following the details (not only the story itself but how it was reported) and reading all the jokes at their expense against the backdrop of a big (and entertaining) Bulls victory made this one of the more memorable nights in BaB history. Can't wait for more details to come out tomorrow. Oh, and that final game too.