Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bulls-Celtics -- One for the Ages?

Ignoring the Sport's Guy's Boston Homerism, here's a great read from Simmons.

Simmons on the Bulls/C's:

An aging/injured/exhausted/depleted heavyweight (Boston) fights off a hungry young challenger that's clearly coming into its own (Chicago).

I love the last scenario because it happens so rarely anymore: From the past 25 years, I can only remember Detroit-Cleveland (2007), Utah-Dallas (2001), Utah-Sacramento (1999), Los Angeles-Utah (1988), Boston-Atlanta (1988), Boston-Detroit (1987) and Philly-Jersey (1984). It goes to another level if you feel like the young upstarts might be building something special before our eyes.

And, yeah, I feel that way about the Bulls. They are slightly more talented than a depleted Boston team. They can control the boards without Kevin Garnett around. They have just as many options at the end of games. They will be positively frightening at home with their crowd behind them. (I see them winning Game 3 by 20-plus on Thursday night.) And yet, I still think they will lose the series. The playoffs come down to experience and savvy and trust and teamwork and little things like "we ran out of timeouts two games in a row" and "in Game 2, we had the ball up five with 2:30 left and a chance to put Boston away and somehow didn't feed Ben Gordon even though he had an actual fireball shooting out of his butt." These Bulls (not just the players, but the coach as well) haven't had enough playoff reps.

I might be wrong. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter because we're all winners. Games 1 and 2 could have been simulcast on ESPN Classic. This has a chance to be remembered as one of the most exciting Round 1 series ever played.

Simmons on Rose:

2. The Prodigy

Here's what you want from your much-ballyhooed rookie in the playoffs: You want him to raise his game a level, make his teammates better, play without fear, exhibit the requisite competitiveness and have a few "Good God, did you just see that????" moments. Through two games, Derrick Rose nailed all of these checkmarks unlike anyone we've seen since ... (gulp) ... Magic Johnson. You cannot say enough about him.

Of all the remarkable plays Rose made through two games, one stood out for me: With about eight minutes remaining in Game 2, Rose was backpedaling and hoping to foil a modified fast break. Instead of trying to beat Rose off the dribble, Paul Pierce lobbed a pass to Eddie House in the corner. Even though he was backpedaling, Rose sniffed the pass out, whirled around on the foul line, took TWO giant steps, improbably closed out on House's 3-pointer and tipped the shot. Watching it live, I rewound the play on TiVo even though the game was still going -- just for the record, I never, ever, ever rewind plays until the commercial -- and only because I was thinking, "Wait a second, he didn't just take two steps from the foul line and block a corner 3, did he?" Yup. He did.

One thing separates him from other world-class rookies who preceded him on a big stage: As far as pure point guards go, he might be the best athlete we've ever seen. If you built the ideal point guard, like how you can create a player from scratch on "NBA Live," wouldn't you basically create Derrick Rose? Lord help us if he ever learns how to shoot 3-pointers. Regardless, after Games 1 and 2, the ceiling has been removed for Derrick Rose. I am prepared for anything over the next 12 years. Anything.

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