Everyone's eyes were on Bulls rookie Derrick Rose heading into Monday's Game 2, and in hindsight that worked out perfectly for the Celtics. On the heels of his 36-point, 11-assist explosion in Game 1, expectations and accolades had skyrocketed out of control.
How did Rose handle the pressure? On the surface, not very well: he finished with just 10 points and seven assists.
If you watched the game, though, you saw that Rose never had a chance to get into any rhythm: he picked up two fouls in the first three minutes and change, sending him to the bench for much of the first quarter. His replacement, Kirk Hinrich, didn't fare much better, picking up three more fouls over the next seven minutes.
It was almost as if the officials were determined to take the plucky Bulls out of their game and right the balance of power in this series, right? I mean, when's the last time you can recall a playoff team having to turn to their third point guard in the first quarter?
To his credit, Lindsey Hunter actually played well in nearly eight minutes of action, but he was on the court to close out the first three quarters. This is a guy who played in just 28 games in the regular season, and now he's being asked to become the team's closer? Ironically, Rose didn't pick up another foul after returning from his first trip to the bench, though you have to wonder if the early foul trouble made him more tentative the rest of the way.
Conspiracy theories aside, an admittedly more likely scenario is that the Celtics were simply tired of letting the underdog set the tone and decided to be the aggressor and force the referees to make calls. It's what experienced playoff teams do, especially on their home court. It'll be interesting to see whether the Bulls took note for when the series heads back to Chicago for Game 3 on Thursday. No matter what happens, this series has emerged as perhaps the most interesting of the playoffs.
Derrick Rose's underwhelming line aside, the guard play for both teams was absolutely phenomenal in Game 2. Rajon Rondo, who's easily been the best player on the court for Boston for long stretches over the first two games, chipped in a triple-double (19 points, 16 assists and 12 boards).
The battle of former UConn stars down the stretch was a sight to behold, though, as Ben Gordon and Ray Allen traded clutch jumper for clutch jumper. Gordon finished with a game-high 42 points, nailing 6-of-11 3-pointers, while Allen scored 28 of his 30 after halftime, including the game-winner.
For all this talk about the Bulls and Celtics game, there was in fact a game over in the West, too: Tony Parker helped the Spurs even their series with the Mavericks at 1-1 with 38 points on 16-of-22 shooting. To say he was the star of the game would be an understatement: Parker was the only player on either team to score more than 14 points.
And you thought Kobe Bryant and Spike Lee hooking up was big, huh? We've actually known for quite some time that a documentary about LeBron James and his high school teammates was in the pipeline, but here's the official trailer. The film, which debuted to solid reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, is scheduled to hit selected theaters in October.
It looks good and I'm sure I'll end up seeing it at some point, but as Eamonn Brennan notes at MOUTHPIECE Sports, I hope you're not expecting an underdog story: "If this is the story of how five basketball players overcame adversity and won accolades, it's going to fall flat. YOU HAVE LEBRON JAMES ON YOUR HIGH SCHOOL TEAM."
On the Blockquote
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, noting that this has been the playoffs of the point guard:
Nearly half the league's teams have had their point guard either record a double-double, score 25 points, or both. Remarkably, five of the seven are still within their first four years in the league. This might be the tipping point in an evolution that began when the league reinterpreted rules restricting hand-checking on the perimeter, opening the floor up for quick guards.