This was supposed to be the warm-up series for the Celtics on their way to the inevitable clash with the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Unfortunately, nobody informed the Bulls about that.
The teams split two tight games in Boston. After the game two win the Celtics Paul Pierce stated that the defending champs had yet to play their "best game."
Like many, I took this as pure bravado. Surely anyone could see that the Celtics were trying as hard as the could in this series. They were just being out-worked by a younger, hungrier Bulls team who had had been capitalizing on the absence of one Kevin Garnett.
Then in Game 3, the Celtics blew the doors off the hinges and in effect made the Bulls look every bit their age on the way to a 107-86 win.
Led by Rajon Rando (quickly becoming one of the leagues top point guards) and Pierce himself, the game was never really close. Most gave the Bulls little chance to get up off the mat after such a convincing beat down. The Celtics appeared to be on their way to establishing themselves, after all they had zero road wins in the first round last year.
So the question hanging in the air before Game 4 was whether that blow out was the exception or the rule.
In Game 4 the Bulls provided a clear answer for the world: The defending champions are going to have to earn their chance to move on.
Despite Rajon Rondo collecting his second triple-double of the series (25 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists) and the Pierce/Allen combo dropping in 57 points of their own, the Bulls refused to back down.
In fact every Bulls player who appeared in the game scored in double figures. The balanced attack kept the Celtics from being able to simply force other guys besides the dynamic Rose to make shots, a strategy that worked so well in Game 3.
The true hero in this game may end up being John Salmons, who scored 20 points and also hit four clutch free throws in the final 26 seconds. He also was the one who blocked Paul Pierce's potentially game tying 3-pointer.
The series now shifts back to Boston where the Bulls have proven they can win, and if the C's are not careful they could be coming back to Chicago down 3-2 without their emotional leader to will them to a win.
Coming into this series the Bulls were winless against the Celtics in the post season and that includes the Jordan era. On Tuesday night they get a chance to do what his Airness never could; head back to Chicago with a win and a chance to oust the defending champs.
What was supposed to be a laugher is turning into the first round's most entertaining series so far.
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