Chicago Bulls (0-0) at Boston Celtics (0-0)
Saturday, April 18
12:30 PM ET
Postseason Game 1, Home Game 1
TV: ESPN, CSN-HD
TD Banknorth Garden
The Celtics open the defense of their title against a young and hungry Chicago Bulls team. All along Doc was positive that the team would have KG back for the first round. That was all along until Thursday when he announced that KG may miss the entire playoffs. Now that they know that KG won't be walking through that door in uniform, they must prepare for the playoffs without him. They have been playing without him for the past 24 games and so it shouldn't be that big of a shock to them.
The Celtics received a boost when both Tony Allen and Leon Powe returned from their injuries and they expect Scal to return sometime in the first round. The team held it together with not only KG out, but Leon, Tony, and Scal out as well. With 3 of the 4 returning and Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore settling into their roles on the team, the Celtics are confident that they can still repeat as champions, even with out KG in the lineup.
The Celtics game notes have Leon starting at power forward but the Herald and Celtics.com previews have Big Baby starting. Big Baby gives up a little in height to Thomas but is stronger than Thomas. These two are college teammates and there could be some personal pride on the line in this matchup.
The Celtics won the series 2-1 in the regular season. The Bulls won their final meeting in Chicago, which was their only meeting after the Bulls brought in Salmons and Miller after the trade deadline. The Bulls were 13-28 on the road in the regular season and so weren't a great road team. But they were 14-2 at home after the All Star break so could be tough on their own court.
Defense is going to be the key in this series. Chicago was 8-26 this season in games that they didn't reach 100 points. This was the worst among all the playoff teams. The Bulls aren't a really strong defensive team and depend on their scoring to win games. When they are held to below 100 points, their chances of winning go way down. Even though the Celtics will be missing last year's defensive player of the year, they must commit to defense in order to win again this year.
Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Derrick Rose
Ray Allen vs Ben Gordon
Paul Pierce vs John Salmons
Big Baby Davis vs Tyrus Thomas
Kendrick Perkins vs Joakim Noah
Average Age: 26.7
Average Height: 6-6
Average Weight: 222
Kevin Garnett (knee) out
Average Age: 26.0
Average Height: 6-7
Average Weight: 219
Luol Deng (shin) out
Jerome James (Achilles) out
Celtics assistant coach Clifford Ray played for the Bulls from 1971-74
Ben Gordon and Ray Allen are former UConn Huskies
Paul Pierce and Kirk Hinrich are former Kansas Jayhawks
Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas were teammates at LSU
Mikki Moore, Brad Miller, and John Salmons were teammates in Sacramento
Rajon Rondo PPG 11.9 RPG 5.20 APG 8.2 EFF + 18.84
Derrick Rose PPG 16.8 RPG 3.90 APG 6.3 EFF + 17.10
The Bulls' #1 draft pick has been playing very well for them and is near the top of many rookie stat categories. In their first two meetings, they played fairly evenly. In the first game, Rose had 18 points but just one assist while Rondo had 14 points and 6 assists. In the second meeting, Rose had 14 points and 5 assists while Rondo scored just 4 points but had 15 assists. Most importantly, the Celtics won both games. In the third matchup between these teams, Rondo clearly had the edge with 26 points and 10 assists to just 11 points and 8 assists from Rose. This is a matchup of two of the brightest young point guards in the league and it should be a fun one to watch. Most of the previews I have seen give the Bulls the advantage in this matchup, but I am not so sure about that. Rondo's been here before and Rose isn't and that experience will be the difference.
John Salmons PPG 18.3 RPG 4.20 APG 3.2 EFF + 16.89
Ray Allen PPG 18.2 RPG 3.50 APG 2.8 EFF + 16.77
Ben Gordon PPG 20.7 RPG 3.50 APG 3.4 EFF + 16.89
This will be a battle between two sharpshooters. Both players are able to change the course of a game by hitting a volley of 3 point shots. Ray will need to limit Gordon's shots while trying to get his own shots off effectively. Without KG in the middle, each player will have to step up his defensive intensity and Ray will need to stay with Gordon and keep him from bombing away from beyond the arc.
Doc Rivers vs Vinny Del Negro
Doc has a big experience advantage over Del Negro who is in his first year of head coaching. This could make a difference down the stretch in this series.
Keys to the Game
Play Team Ball
Determination and Tougness
The Celtics received a big blow when they learned that KG wouldn't be back for this series. But, they still have 2 future hall of famers and a very deep team. The Celtics are a very determined and tough team and if they play like they are capable of, they should win this game.
We Not Me.... Ubuntu