It didn't take a career night from D.J. Augustin for the Bulls to get past the Celtics this time. In fact, D.J. Augustin shot just 1/9 and seemed bothered by the defense of Phil Pressey for most of his time on the court. Instead, the game was close for a half before the Bulls jumped out to a big lead which they would never relinquish.
Mike Dunleavy Jr went off for 22 points including shooting three of six from beyond the arc to lead the Bulls. The Celtics played Joakim for the pass, spreading out their defense when he got the ball at the top of the key, and Noah took it to the hole over and over to score 19.
Jimmy Butler chipped in 18 points on mostly mid range jumpers while Morten Jensen fooled me with the annual April fools joke using his Denmark time zone to post a link to a fake article that Butler wanted 10 million per season on his extension. Damn you Jensen.
Carlos Boozer contributed 16 to the Bulls strong offensive night before taking his customary seat on the bench in the fourth quarter.
The real difference was the Bulls defense though. Chicago shot well in both games, but this game was a blowout because they held the Celtics down to 40.3% shooting for the game. It didn't start out that way as Boston was closer to 50% at half time, but the Bulls second half defense caused plenty of turnovers and forced Boston into tough shots that weren't falling this time around.
Where's the rebounding?
The Bulls haven't been getting much of an advantage on the glass recently. They aren't getting destroyed frequently either, but they lost rebounding battles to Boston and Philly recently, two teams that don't have mush skilled size. They've broken even against teams you'd think they'd beat too.
There seems to be much less urgency lately for the Bulls grabbing rebounds. Last night, the game was in hand, but Joakim was outfought for rebounds at times and when Taj/Noah play at the same time, frequently one or both will get pulled from the basket on a switch causing the Bulls to have a rebounding deficit.
Carlos Boozer plays a lot less defense than Gibson and his anchoring himself to the paint doesn't help the initial defense, but his bulk and refusal to move five feet from the rim tend to give the Bulls a strong defensive rebounding position.
I'm not suggesting the Bulls play Boozer more, but Taj/Noah need to understand that they can't both roam around the court at the same time, and whomever is playing on the switch needs to step up to help on the glass more.
One of the only ways Chicago will upset a good team, or likely even get out of the first round, is if they can own the glass against their opponents.
Back into a tie
With the win and the Raptors loss to the Heat, the Bulls and Raptors are tied again for third place. With Indiana falling off a cliff in terms of performance, the three seed looks a hell of a lot more enticing than the four seed right now.
Granted to win a title, you've got to go through both Indiana and Miami, but the Pacers look like a team the Bulls would actually stand a shot at picking off in the second round the way they're playing right now.
Hopefully Chicago can pass the Raptors, but it won't be easy as Toronto holds the tiebreaker. Toronto's only got two tough games left on the schedule, both played in Toronto. Their next two, Houston and Indiana. That's probably tougher than what the Bulls face, but Chicago will be playing five of their final eight on the road instead of at home.
It looks like the race for 3rd will go down to the wire.