There were two themes occurring early and often in today's Game 1 matchup between the Celtics and Bulls: Derrick Rose was hot, Ray Allen was not. Both of those themes proved to be deciding factors that allowed Chicago to sneak out of TD Banknorth Garden with a 105-103 overtime win and a 1-0 lead in the series.
Rose scored a career-high 36 points and dished out 11 assists in a game he dominated from start to finish. Rose tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's performance in 1970 for the highest point total by a rookie in their first playoff game. The rookie point guard was a handful for the Celtics defense with his driving, jump shot and perfect 12-of-12 shooting from the free throw line.
Is this kid really a rookie?
"I just wanted to come out aggressive. I talked to BJ (Armstrong) and he said to just play the way you always play for the first 5 minutes," Rose said. "It's hard playing in the Garden especially with the fans and I just played aggressive and the team followed me"
Ray Allen couldn't find his stroke all night, finishing the game 1-of-12 from the field with only four points.
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While Rose had his way with the Celtics' defense, Allen had the worst full-game performance of his season. He finished with four points on a rough 1-of-12 shooting. On February 11 in New Orleans, he recorded one point in 19 minutes. Allen's one and only field goal came on a floater in the lane with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter.
Boston fans would have been more than happy if Allen had managed to end overtime with two field goals. As the Celtics ran their final possession with 3.7 seconds remaining in OT, Paul Pierce drove and found Allen a few feet inside the three-point line in the corner of the court.
There was a feeling that Allen, at some point, would snap out of his shooting slump and hit a big shot down the stretch, just as he did on April 1 when he lifted the C's to a double-overtime win over Charlotte. But as he took Pierce's pass, rose and fired at the basket, it wasn't meant to be and for the 11th time of the afternoon his shot rattled out of the basket and Boston had let one slip through their hands.
"I thought I never had a good rhythm. I had a couple early that went in and out, but after that they were kind of spotty," said Allen.
The Bulls were provided a second chance when Paul Pierce failed to give the Celtics a lead with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation. After Rose hit two free throws with 9.7 seconds on the clock to give Chicago a 97-96 lead, Pierce came down court and drew a shooting foul on Joakim Noah.
Pierce went to the line and calmly sank the first free throw, tying the game at 97. His second shot, however, didn't want to fall and bounced out, effectively sending the game to overtime. If the free throw had dropped, it's more than likely that the Celtics would currently be in a role reversal with this series.
"Sometimes you've got to get a break, and we got a break," Vinny Del Negro said of the missed free throw. "You never want to see that for any player but it's part of the game. I was glad the way we kind of hung together there in the overtime and made plays."
As Pierce took his free throws, Chicago had no timeouts. That means the Bulls would have needed to either advance the ball the length of the court and score in 2.6 seconds, or make a desperation half court shot to win.
While Rose was having a record night at one end of the court, Rajon Rondo was doing his best to duplicate that performance at the other. He flirted with a triple-double and was the only Boston player to play well from start to finish. He scored 12 points in the first quarter and finished the night with 29 to go along with his nine rebounds and seven assists.
Chicago has now taken away home court advantage from the Celtics and has seemingly shocked the NBA basketball world. Not many expected the Bulls to come into Boston and steal a win, let alone in Game 1.
As admitted by Doc Rivers, Rose had an amazing game and led the Bulls to victory. But at the same time, he believes that this series still lies in his team's hands, not the other way around.
"Well, the playoffs have begun, and we're down 0-1. Put our self in a hole," he said. "And honestly, guys, I thought we did it as much as they did it. But give them credit. (Derrick) Rose tonight was absolutely fantastic."
If Boston can figure out a way to limit Chicago's effectiveness on the fast break, have Allen and Pierce, who finished with 23 points, play consistently from start to finish, there is no doubt that the Celtics will make up for their misstep today.
If the transition defense continues to struggle and ball movement continues to lack, the defending champs will have a tougher fight than anticipated against the young and inexperienced Bulls.
Rivers summed it up nicely by saying, "We can't show up and think because we're the Boston Celtics that everything is going to be good."