This game had everything. Huge performances from superstars, huge shots from two of the best pure shooters in the game, drama, technical fouls, flawless execution at some points and desperation shots at others. But when the dust cleared, the defending champion Celtics found themselves heading back to Boston in a tied series with the seventh seed after a double overtime loss.
And how we got there is quite a story.
Bulls 121, Celtics 118: Recap | Box Score | Scoreboard
Series Tied at 2-2 | Next Game: Tuesday, 7 PM ET @ Boston
It starts with a Chicago club that had its most even performance team-wide in this series, for better and for worse. They had three players with double doubles, but gave up 14 offensive rebounds.Derrick Rose finished one assist shy of a triple double with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, but had seven turnovers, and made several crucial mistakes on defense. Ben Gordon continuously became a black hole on offense, opting to go one-on-three against the Celtics down the stretch resulting in poor possessions and heavily contested shots. Which of course, he knocked down down the stretch to the tune of 22 points.
This was part of the high drama that enveloped the game for its entirety, and reached fever pitch in the fourth quarter. With the Celtics down three with 9.8 seconds in regulation, Ray Allen ran a play eerily similar to the one he ran in Game 2 to win the game. He came through a screen from Glen Davis on an inbounds play, then came back under the screen to nail a three to tie the game. Derrick Rose would then a miss a jumper to win the game.
From there, the Celtics came out in overtime looking like the champs, ready to dispatch this team. Enough of the silliness, we need the rest for our aching bones. Behind Paul Pierce and Allen, they popped out to a five point lead. From there, things got a little nuts.
John Salmons, who has had a terrible series offensively, though has done a good job on Paul Pierce, nailed a three. Then three possessions later, the Bulls stole the ball and Kirk Hinrich raced out to score, down only two. Brian Scalabrine showed why he's Brian Scalabrine, and committed a clear path foul, which sent Hinrich to the line. A career 81% free throw shooter then shot only 1-2, leaving the Bulls down one with the ball. They failed to convert, the Celtics gained possession, and Paul Pierce, the Truth, headed to the line to ice the game.
Pierce hit only 1-2.
The Bulls inbounded to John Salmons in the block. The Celtics elected not to foul, and Salmons kicked it to Gordon, who peeled around a perimeter screen, got past Paul Pierce, and nailed a pull-up three to tie the game. The Celtics would have another possession to win the game. They elected not to go to Ray Allen. They elected not to go to Paul Pierce. Instead they turned to Rajon Rondo.
Rajon Rondo had been brilliant all game, as he has been throughout the series. But instead of pushing the ball to the basket and drawing a foul, Rondo opted for a pull-up jumper, which Boston fans have been very vocal about saying he's improved on. And he has. Rondo missed. Double overtime.
In double overtime, the Bulls knew they had the momentum, and the Celtics legs started to give out. You saw less lift on jumpers. Glen Davis, who had played well all game, failed to finish on layups and finally started missing jumpers. Still, thanks to some offensive rebounding, the Celtics had a chance to tie. With no timeouts, they inbounded the ball down three after a pair of clutch Salmons free throws. They spread the ball to their man, the Finals MVP, the Truth, Paul Pierce for a game tying three. John Salmons blocked Paul Pierce's game winner.
So the Bulls have the formula. Get Ben Gordon to knock down ridiculous shots. Get Derrick Rose to penetrate the defense. Get Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons to harrass Paul Pierce into 9-24 shooting (but he's NOT hurt). Get Brian Scalabrine to make a terrible foul, and Rajon Rondo to go away from his best (only) offensive move, driving to the basket. Create turnovers and get timely clutch plays. Throw in some better free throw shooting (26-35 today) and this is a cake walk, right? Um. Yeah.
But for Boston, say that you're able to lean on homecourt and veteran savvy to get out of this series in six or seven, which is the most likely outcome still. You're an older team that's not healthy. You've played two overtime games out of four, and you've got a tense three game series against a team that's proven they can win on your floor. This is a series the Celtics needd to dispatch. They've certainly got the guns to fight back against anything. But the barrel certainly looks lower than it did two months ago, even after you factor in the Kevin Garnett injury. Though they do like they could have professional wrestling careers later on.
What a game. What a series. Best of three, boys and girls. Show us more.