Chicago Bulls Look for Early Knockout against Boston Celtics: Game Two Preview

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Chicago Bulls Look for Early Knockout against Boston Celtics: Game Two Preview
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The defending champs are on the ropes.

Granted, it is only one game into the postseason but already the Boston Celtics look like a shadow of the team that romped past the L.A. Lakers last June.

On Sunday, the Lakers eased past the Utah Jazz and, in doing so, displayed all the signs that they will be a contender again in the NBA Finals this year, hoping to correct last season's result.

After a home loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, the Celtics look like they will be in a life-and-death scrap just to get out of the first round.

In Game One, shots that dropped last season for the Celtics this time rimmed out. Paul Pierce had a chance to possibly win the game in regulation but missed a free throw. Ray Allen missed a dunk.

That wouldn't have happened a year ago.

More of a concern was the distinct lack of energy the Celtics showed. After their triumph from last year, perhaps a touch of complacency has set in.

The Celtics managed to extend the game to overtime, but they were playing catch up for the majority of the game.

Last year, the Celtics' title was built on defense.

In Game One, the Bulls' Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah called the shots in the paint.

Of course, Boston is missing Kevin Garnett. No matter how much huffing and puffing Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis do to try to fill the void left by the Big Ticket, they are still puppies compared to the rottweiler that is Garnett.

Just ask Derrick Rose. There is no way the Bulls rookie would have been as fearless and confident to continually drive the lane if KG was there snarling and growling away at him.

Rose's confidence must be a major concern for Doc Rivers and the Celtics coaching staff. Even if Garnett had been playing, he wouldn't have been guarding Rose. 

Rajon Rondo, who was primarily charged with defending Rose, seemed more interested in outscoring his opposite number than trying to stop him. It worked to a point. Rondo scored 29 points and had seven assists, but Rose was by far superior on the day.

If it was the Cavs the Celtics were playing, fans could understand Boston's struggles, but it was the Chicago Bulls. The team that went 41-41 through the regular season and lost their last game at home to the lowly Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics didn't start last year's playoffs that well, especially on the road, but at home they were invincible. Fast forward to this year and they are already 0-1 at the TD Garden.

The Celtics are bruised, but the sign of a true champion is how they respond.

They get their first chance tonight.

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