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Bulls 89, Celtics 80: He's Mike James (and Luol Deng, and the frontcourt)

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The Derrick Rose - Rajon Rondo 'rivalry' (one's MVP, the other's E.T.)* is a nice subplot to any Bulls-Celtics contest. But especially with Rose out, the fun part of playing the Celtics nowadays is seeing the Bulls frontcourt just destroy the same Celtics that seemed so imposing in the 2009 playoffs.

Carlos Boozer had one hiccup with a groan-inducing sad-reminder-he-can't-jump missed layup, but besides that put in a dominating performance: 11-15 from the field for 23 points, and 15 rebounds (all defensive). Joakim Noah didn't shoot the ball nearly as well, but had 16 rebounds of his own. Collectively the Bulls dominated the glass, with an oReb% of 34% to the Celtics paltry 14%. The C's still have talent, but the Bulls are tremendously bigger than them and it showed tonight. Luol Deng didn't accumulate as many rebounds, but had 10 assists and the best 3-point shooting game of his career, going 6-9 and keeping the Bulls near 50% even through (their usual marksman) Kyle Korver's 0-5 night.

As for the smaller guys, Mike James was the best D-League out-of-nowhere story this side of Jeremy Lin (hi Google!). He didn't finish with a great statistical line, but James helmed the point as a part of the Bulls biggest runs of both halves, the team finishing with +15 with him on the floor. James may actually be the best pure distributor and pick-and-roll player on the (healthy) roster, and Thibs went to him in crunch time (after a blown defensive play by John Lucas) through the time he fouled out.

With Derrick and Rip out there isn't that much to learn of this group (and the games are usually defensive struggles like this), so it's fun to get nights where the unexpected can still happen. As long as it's combined with an expected dominating frontcourt performance of course.

*sorry.