As Rondo Duels Rose, Bulls Win the Battle
The box score is going to tell you the story that Game 1 of the Boston Celtics' series with the Chicago Bulls was a duel between two young point guards. Rondo's 29 points, 7 assists and 9 rebounds looked great until you saw rookie Derrick Rose's 36, 11 and 4 in his first playoff game ever, and the thought would be, 'Rose won the battle.'
Truth is, the Bulls won the battle, winning their first playoff game against the Celtics franchise. The team that was labeled young and inexperienced took the court with more energy than the defending champs and left with the 105-103 win. Yes, Rose outpunched Rondo, but that fight can't be the catalyst for this series.
"I don't care about the Rondo/Rose battle honestly," Doc Rivers said. "I care more about the Bulls and the Chicago/Boston battle. The last thing I'm going to do is make this a Rondo/Rose battle. We're going to have to battle all of them. Rose was, like I said, he was unbelievable. So was Rondo."
What Saturday afternoon revealed was that the experience gap was non-existent. Rose tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points by a rookie in his playoff debut and looked every bit the floor leader that Chicago needed him to be.
"Somebody asked me before about him having playoff experience and I said he doesn't need it," Ben Gordon said. "He's poised beyond his years. He already carries himself like a veteran out there."
A veteran who seemed to have an answer every time the Celtics even hinted at stealing momentum with a big play. And in doing so, Rose quieted the crowd, neutralizing -- or close to it -- Boston's home-court advantage. That's the danger of engaging in a back-and-forth fight, particularly with a point guard. It can affect the entire team.
Rose managed to slice into the lane and create for teammates like Joakim Noah (11 points) and Tyrus Thomas (16 points). He also took two fewer shots yet converted the same as Rondo (12), getting to the foul line 12 times as he was fouled in the lane by Boston's bigs. On the other hand, Rondo created just four foul shots for himself.
For now, the rookie's performance deserves a tip of the hat.
"He's one of the toughest point guards to stay in front of," Rondo said. "He's definitely quick, and he also uses his strength to elevate over myself and our bigs tonight. And he finished at the rim tonight extremely well.
"So give him a lot of credit. He played extremely well tonight, especially being his first playoff game."
The temptation to avoid is letting the box score tell the story. Rose might put up similarly impressive numbers in his second playoff game, but if he scores 35 and the Bulls lose, Rondo wins. With point guards especially, the battle is not about them and the numbers, it's about their teams.