Bulls Beatdown Showed How They're Just Better Than the Celtics

Bulls Beatdown Showed How They're Just Better Than the Celtics

The #1 Bulls blew out the #2 Celtics 97-81 with defense, rebounding, and all-around efficient shooting.

The matchup between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls (58-20) and Celtics (54-24), proved one thing over all else to me: the Cs are too damn small to beat the Bulls.

"They ran their offense harder than our defense and they ran their defense harder than our offense," Doc Rivers said after the game, later adding: "We retaliated all night. We were never the instigator."
"Harder" implies that the Bulls simply won a battle of will with other things being equal, but the deficiencies of the Cs' personnel was on display for the NBA world to see. Sure, the Bulls had more energy, but the Cs have no components in their street plan to match that energy. Maybe, the Bulls just have too much size and speed for Boston.
"They outplayed us in every aspect -- loose balls, contested shots, they knew our sets better than we knew theirs," Rajon Rondo (seven points on 3-for-10, six assists, five rebounds said after the game.
The Bulls simply couldn't have played better against the Cs, but the Cs really couldn't play all that much better considering the parts in their plan against the Bulls' parts. The Bulls could've closed out on a handful of 3-pointers better, but the Cs neglected the long range when the Bulls began those closeouts. There was a lot of fouling by the Bulls that was just the necessary evil of keeping up with Boston's paper tiger physicality.
The Bulls 97-81 win was a perfect storm of size and speed -- neither with which the Cs could matchup, even at their best. The Bulls not only held Boston to only 21 layup attempts, but the Cs only made eight. The Cs didn't adjust by taking more efficient 3-pointers -- only going 2-for-10 -- but resorting to 41 2-point jumpshot attempts. That never goes well for much of anyone and Thursday night was no different; the Cs only hit 17. "After making three of their first four shots in the third quarter, the Celtics were 9-for-34 (26 percent) the rest of the game," Kent McDill wrote at NBA.com.
The .415 FG% on those 2-point jumpers looks manageably awful with a great defense, but the .439 eFG% on total jumpers is just awful. The .397 eFG% on the entire game is a complete embarrassment handed down by the Tom Thibodeau's defense on his former team.
The Bulls also dominated the glass. Kevin Garnett (10 points on 3-for10, 10 rebounds, two steals) was the only Boston big who could accomplish much of anything and after points in the paint, it's telling in the rebounds. The Bulls out-rebounded the Cs 44-35 with four players grabbing at least 10% of available rebounds -- led by Carlos Boozer (14 points on 6-for-16, 12 rebounds, 20.5% TRR) -- while only two Cs could grab boards as such a rate (KG - 20.1%; Nenad Krstic - 10.3%)
On the offensive end, the Bulls got whatever they wanted, for the most part. They shot 37-for-78 (.474 FG%) and 9-for-22 on 3s (.409 3P%) for a huge .532 eFG% on the night to post one of the most impressive 113.8 ratings you'll see. Derrick Rose (30 points on 9-for-16 -- 2-for-5 on 3s, 10-for-10 FTs -- eight assists, five rebounds, two steals, only three turnovers) played like one of the most unstoppable players in the game against a defense which prides itself on being able to stop anyone.
Toward the end of the first quarter, Rose showed Rondo, Krstic, and Glen Davis they were too small, too weak, and too slow to compete in this game:

Speaking of Rondo's amazing defense:

rose driving rondo bad.jpg


In the second, he tossed up an insane floater on the baseline after a hand check from KG that was intended to just get him tot he line. The refs didn't blow the whistle, but ball don't lie:
In you're not convinced that this kid is one of the most special, incomparable kids in the history of this game, he performed a layup drill on one of the most sophisticated defenses in the history of the game:

Luol Deng (23 points on 9-for-18, 3-for-6 on 3s, six rebounds, two blocks) was isolated to around 12:21 in the first half because the refs were on some bullshit in ways that hurt both teams. The Bulls were only up 48-43 after a first half where the team was a +6 with Deng on the floor and a -1 without him. Deng lit up the Cs for 18 points in the second half on 8-for-13 shooting -- 2-for-4 on 3s -- and almost single-handedly held to Paul Pierce (15 points on 6-for-13) to nine points on only seven shots. He even got kicked in the head with a big lead. Of course, he stayed in the game.
  • Kendrick Perkins is gone; Shaquille O'Neal is on the roster. I haven't bought into the high value of Shaq in the middle for Boston, other than beating up smaller teams with easy buckets early in games and applying hard fouls. The Bulls can take that early paint beating and adjust, while physicality doesn't hinder Rose's dribble penetration or Deng's off-ball cuts in any way. I fail to see how Shaq is a significant factor, whereas Perk's impact was more tangible and perpetual.

    big baby davis sad bench.jpg

    the sadness

    "We're gonna' find out who we are and what we're made of these last couple of games, but we need to get better," KG said after the game.

    kg sad bench.jpg

    the horror

    Boston's fucked up. We won't see it against the Knicks, 76ers, or Heat, but against the Bulls -- let alone the Spurs or Lakers -- in a seven-game series, things will get ugly for them.

  • Joakim Noah (two points, four rebounds, 23 minutes) played like shit. KG just kills Noah every time and I'm wondering if the energy boost has gotten too personally emotional on Jo's end. Despite being benched the final 15 minutes of the game for Kurt Thomas (two points, five rebounds, four fouls), who added the physicality Jo wasn't applying, all of KG's ten points and nine of his rebounds were with Jo on the floor -- 3-for-3 from the floor, 4-for-4 on FTs in the first half.
  • Thomas was EVERYWHERE! He was switching on screens, closing out on shots, crashing the boards, pushing back twice when a Celtic starting pushing on a teammate. Speaking of pushing back, Ray Allen (seven points on 3-for-11, 0-for-3 on 3s, six rebounds) wanted to play rough with Keith Bogans (six points on 2-for-3 -- all 3s -- and four rebounds) and give refs the "I'm a nice guy and he's picking on me" look, but the refs didn't have any of it and let Ray take the beating for which he was asking and Bogans took Allen out fo the game with physicality.  
  • Starters played late because Thibs was clearly not confident in keeping the large lead. He didn't candy coat that one bit in his comments after the game.

    "I've worked for that team before and I've seen their comebacks," Thibs said. "And I know the way they can shoot 3s. So, once a game gets inside ten with theat team, they can make up ground real quick. I didn't feel the lead was safe."

    Normally, I'm critical of Thibs playing starters too late or too much with large leads, but I buy this.

  • Omer Asik was benched, too. He made no appearance in the box score other than his 5:07 of PT for a 5.12 trillion. It's only his third trillion of the season -- a 2.5T on opening night in OKC and a 0.4T against the Clippers in Dec. when Thomas was a better matchup to get physical in Jo's first game out with the broken hand. Omer played well, making Davis and Krstic just look like little boys afraid to enter a room, but Thomas was a better way to kill Davis without needing Taj Gibson (six points on 3-for-5, three steals, three rebounds in 13:20) to take Boozer off the floor.
  • Jeff Green is too small. boozer didn't exploit the mismatch much, only going back to the basket on him twice and only finishing strong once, but if Boston wants to do this, bring it on. That said, Krstic and Davis are too slow to defend Booz. Booz's issue was too much shooting and not enough attacking.
  • This wasn't just a bad game by the Cs. the deficiencies are real. Very real. They've lost nine of their last 17. Sure, they closed out last season badly, but that didn't make them better, just as this doesn't. Also, they had Perk in the deciding game of every playoff series last year. (Just sayin'.)
  • Oh yeah, #FuckRondo. (h/t: jose3030)
    rondo rose 1H 5711.png


The Bulls' magic number is now one. That means the Bulls clinch the Eastern Conference with by winning one more game or the Cs losing one more. Next, they play the over-achieving Cavs (17-61) in Cleveland on Friday. In other words, get ready to celebrate.
Worst case scenario for Friday night, they fall asleep, but the Bulls get the Magic (50-29) on Sunday without Dwight Howard (suspension). Noah isn't healthy. He spent the last 15 minutes of the game with his ankles iced up. I say sit him for the weekend if the swelling and inflammation is giving him hell. Earl Clark doesn't scare me; and Cleveland, well, you know.
Advanced Stats via Basketball-Reference.

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  • By several accounts, Noah is still hurting badly. Sam Smith said his ankle looked quite ugly after their game against Phoenix Tuesday. Might be a good idea to sit him until the playoffs begin. I'll take health over a bit of rust.

    It seems rather obvious that the key to beating the Celtics is staying as close as possible to Allen and Pierce. It helps if you can slow Rondo down but even if he gets space, you're better off letting him try to score than collapsing on him. This makes Bogans, Brewer and Deng the keys to that matchup.

  • In reply to borg:

    At the risk of being trite, on the court with the Bulls, the Cs are small and slow. Am I wrong?

    The key, then, is to be physical and stay in motion. Trailing Allen and Pierce isn't so easy. A large part of the PNR D is the switch, the closeout, the recovery and knowing who's being left with a good look. Slow-ness makes that easier.

  • In reply to borg:

    This dumb coach wil lnever sit NOah .. He wants 1st place in the entire NBA .. Self gratifying.
    Well Thibdodummy The Pacers kicked the bulls butt last game. Their bigs are getting better Hibbert and Hanborough killed NOah BOOZER and Taj. Our bigs NOah and ASik need to start shooting a little . Especially ASik needs to try a 3 ft hook or a 4ft bank shot. Thibs has him so scared he never tries anything but a dunk..ASik is the best interior defender and Noah and Thomas a close second. BOOZer the looser cant play any D and will be intimidated by taller bigs in the playoffs. He looked sick against the Celtics . what was Boozer 6-16 from only a few feet away. Intimated.. Well wait for Shaq and the other Oneal to get healthy , then watch the intimidation.. BOozer cant cover any of them including Garnett. We need Asik and Noah to show some scoring ability like Thomas does, I see Thomas playing alot more in the playoffs and BOozer less. The Pacers beat the bulls last game quite easily and I think Rose scored like 40+/ You cant ask more of him Boozer is the weak link that will cause the bulls to loose . Maybe the 1st series too.

  • In reply to mikem:

    That last game against Indiana was the Bulls' 3rd game in 4 days and 2nd consecutive on the road. Boozer didn't even play in it. It was Noah and Thomas' lack of quickness that got burned by Hansbrough that night.

    As for Asik, all NBA rims said they will strike if he aims anymore shots at them.

  • In reply to mikem:

    Ya Boozer didnt even play in that game.Plus we will have homecourt plus the Pacers are a young team, i dont see them knocking us out. By the way, i think Boozer deserves some credit for last night, i thought he played defense pretty well for a change lol. I would sit Noah tonight...start Kurt or Asik, we should be able to win without Noah tonight.

    Anybody else see Big Baby intentionally try to land on Kurt Thomas last night? A-hole

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