BOSTON - The game at the TD Garden between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls played in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 was billed as a rematch of one of the most exciting playoff series in NBA history.
The atmosphere was electric in anticipation of another edge-of-your-seat thriller. But what transpired was complete domination by the Celtics, who have their sights set on reclaiming the NBA title that they feel like they never got a chance to defend because Kevin Garnett got hurt and missed the playoffs.
Boston routed Chicago, 118-90.
Rajon Rondo (16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 points) began the game running the offense to pure perfection, setting the tone by dishing out five assists in the opening six minutes of the game. The second unit put the Bulls on the ropes by outscoring them, 19-9, over the opening six minutes of the second quarter.
By then the Celtics were up, 40-26. They then turned it back over to the first team who delivered the knockout blow with another dominating third quarter performance. The Celtics outscored the Bulls, 38-26, in the third quarter to take a 27 point lead into the final chapter.
Boston's second team did the rest.
Ray Allen showed that he still has a lot left in his 34-year-old legs. Allen put on a shooting clinic, knocking down seven of his first eight shots. His seventh and final basket, a 25-foot 3-pointer that gave him 20 points, gave the Celtics a 64-41 cushion 2:50 into the third quarter.
Allen moved into 33rd place on the NBA all-time scoring list, surpassing John Stockton (19,711) with 19,715 career points.
Then Paul Pierce (22 points, 8 rebounds) got in on the action, sinking back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Celtics up, 72-45. After connecting on just 2-of-10 3-point shots in the first half, the Celtics, well Pierce (5-for-5) and Allen (2-for-2), made their first seven 3-pointers of the second half.
Kevin Garnett proved that he had no lingering effects from his nasty fall on Wednesday by scoring 16 points and grabbing 4 rebounds, while Eddie House (22 points), Marquis Daniels (7 points, 4 rebounds), and Rahseed Wallace (7 points, 3 rebounds) were Boston's go-to guys off of the bench.
Rivers said that the Bulls team they faced last night is better than the one they met in the playoffs last year.
"It's not even close," said Rivers.
But the Celtics were still able to blow them out. That must mean that the Celtics are on another level.
Joakim Noah (16 points, 10 rebounds), Tyrus Thomas (10 points, 8 rebounds), and Derrick Rose (10 points, 2 assists) powered Chicago's attack.
More to come...