First round series are not supposed to be this good, especially not when the No. 2 seed plays the No. 7 seed. This is not the NHL, where first round upsets are par for the course. The average NBA first round matchup is supposed to end up like the series between the Cavaliers and the Pistons, where one team beats its opponent into submission, easily moving on to the second round in four or five games.
Many sportswriters thought this series had the potential to be one of the all-time greats. The Celtics’ loss of Kevin Garnett seemed to put the Celtics and the Bulls on the same level competitively.
Additionally, a young, fast team similar to the Bulls in the Hawks dragged the same Boston team into a seven game series last year. However, those same sportswriters questioned Derrick Rose’s leadership ability as a rookie and the veteran expertise of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
Most thought that the Celtics would win in six games, struggling off and on, but ultimately prevailing quite easily.
The first game of the series silenced all of the critics of the Bulls’ inexperience. Although committing five turnovers, Derrick Rose had 36 points and 11 assists and shot 100 percent from the charity stripe, while veteran Paul Pierce missed the potentially game winning free throw.
In the overtime period, youth continued to dominate, as 22-year-old Tyrus Thomas made a jumper to win the game in Boston, while Glen Davis missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation and Ray Allen missed an 18-footer at the buzzer for the win.
Game Two saw another close finish, as Ray Allen and Ben Gordon dueled it out, making shot after shot after shot. In the end, the Celtics redeemed themselves, with Allen making a three pointer with two seconds left to win the game.
The Bulls seemed not only capable of beating the Celtics, but of winning the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The momentum shifted drastically in the third game, as Boston never trailed in the game, winning by 21 points. Paul Pierce made his presence known after being quiet the whole season, scoring 24 on 9-15 shooting.
The momentum and the teams went back to Chicago for Game Four, as the Bulls won in yet another close game (going into two overtime periods), as Ray Allen tied up the game with a three to send it into overtime before Ben Gordon responded with another three in the second OT, only to have John Salmons block Paul Pierce’s shot at a tie with no time remaining on the clock.
Those four games mirrored the next two, as they were packed with cliffhangers and suspense. Both games went into overtime (the second going into three overtimes), and the Bulls and Celtics split the pair, each winning a game. No matter the outcome of Saturday night’s game, after 106 lead changes, 65 ties, and seven overtime periods, NBA commissioner David Stern could not have written a better script to this drama.