Jan 14, 2012, 2:41 AM EDT
How this story usually goes: the veteran team looks polished if disinterested at times, but when it’s over they finish it off like a contender; the younger team looks overwhelmed early, overcomes its early struggles to make a game of it but falls short.
This was the opposite of that.
The Chicago Bulls pulled away early and looked dominant, never trailed and looked like the contenders when it mattered, while the Celtics mounted a spirited comeback but ultimately fell short. The Bulls won 88-79.
That’s kind of where we are with teams.
The Bulls are a good defensive team, but you need to combine that with an ice-cold Celtics squad to get a start like this — Boston started this game 5-of-27 shooting. They were down 52-33 Bulls at the half, where Chicago shot 54 percent, Boston just 33 percent. It looked like a blowout.
But Boston would not go quietly into that good night. Rajon Rondo — make no mistake, this is his team now — had six points and five assists in the quarter, and finished with 18 and 11. More importantly the Celtics picked up their defensive intensity.
With 10 minutes left it was 67-66 Chicago and it looked like we were in for a close finish. But that’s when the best player on the floor — Derrick Rose — asserted himself. He had 12 points in the fourth quarter and 25 overall. The Bulls got some easy buckets in transition. Luol Deng looked good all night and finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Boston had no good answer for all that, Paul Pierce was 3-for-12 shooting for the game.
This is kind of where we are with these sides right now — the Bulls are clearly title contenders that know how to put teams away. The Celtics have that in them, but there are questions left about the depth of their talent level.