BOSTON (NBA.com exclusive) -- If anyone was wondering what the complete opposite of a classic playoff series looked like, they got it.
Until the opening buzzer, this game was less about tonight and more about evoking the memory of one spectacular playoff series last April. But the Boston Celtics' 118-90 win over the Chicago Bulls was but a speck on the memory of their seven-overtime first-round barnburner. It was, simply, an October beatdown.
And, surprise, surprise: it was over long before the regulation buzzer.
"It's an early test and we didn't respond real well," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Home teams are supposed to provide tests in their own building, but through two games the Celtics have done more than that, leaving opponents in deep halftime holes and then erasing all hope with third-quarter runs.
With the Bulls facing a 15-point halftime deficit, Paul Pierce led off the third with five consecutive points, followed by eight from Ray Allen that were all part of a five-minute, 22-10 run which was capped off by back-to-back triples from Pierce. The Bulls were forced to call timeout, the fans remained on their feet, and that was that.
"Against Boston you better bring it every night," Del Negro said. "We couldn't score enough to put pressure on them and we couldn't slow them down."
The Celtics weren't slowing themselves down either. Boston coach Doc Rivers was unhappy with his team's early offense Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, saying then, "the ball stuck". Friday, the glue came off, as the Celtics assisted on their first seven buckets of the game and on 15-of-19 first-half baskets.
"The balance is going to happen," Rivers said. "But our defense has to, will always carry us."
Rondo -- who Rivers called, "the most dominant player on the floor" -- set the tone early, finding Kevin Garnett, Allen and Kendrick Perkins for jumpers in the opening minutes. That rhythm carried him throughout the game and to his final line: 29 minutes, 16 assists, eight rebounds and two points on two shots.
The field-goal attempts, in particular, was a sign of growth for Rondo, who in the past has been guilty of "picking and choosing" his nights, as Rivers put it.
"He took two shots and someone who will read the stats say, 'Wow, he only scored two points,'" Rivers said. "If you didn't see the game you wouldn't know the impact he had on our team.
"He's just playing now. He's not [thinking] 'Tonight I have Rose'. It doesn't matter the opponent."
The story of Boston's season, though, has been its bench. After injuries left them depleted down the stretch last year, Boston general manager Danny Ainge acquired front-court depth in Rasheed Wallace and Shelden Williams while adding another ballhandler in Marquis Daniels. Each move has been paying dividends as the three players combined for 17 points and 15 boards, joined by Eddie House and his 22 points in as many minutes off the bench. Most importantly in the long-term, the scoring punch provided by the subs allows Rivers to conserve the minutes of his starters.
"That's really important, to give those guys a lot of rest," House said. "They don't have to play as many minutes in the fourth quarter. It gives us the opportunity as the second unit to get a better rhythm."
The Bulls never got the chance to find out who could replace the former leader of their bench attack, current Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, as their fourth-quarter knife thrower. But with his 20-point third quarter, the Celtics were reassured for the umpteenth time that Pierce can, and will, take possession of a game. Allen, meanwhile, took a foothold in history, his 20 points leading him past John Stockton to become 33rd on the NBA All-Time scoring list with 19,712 career points.
The working line this time of year is "It's Early". And that's true. Too early to say this team is this or that; too early to know what any team really is. But Friday night, if anything, the Celtics proved that it's too late to think about last season.