The classic Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls series concludes tonight. TrueHoop will be liveblogging the whole thing right here. Game time is 8 p.m. ET.
Henry Abbott: Hope you have limbered up, warmed up, and caffeined up. If recent history is any guide, we're about to watch a 22-hour-long basketball game.
Henry Abbott: You hear all that pre-game talk? No paralysis by analysis? No fatigue? Passionate but not emotional? That all seems like a lot to think about. Wonder if maybe no pre-game talk at all would be a better way to get people playing naturally, which seems to be the main point of all those talks.
Henry Abbott: Ben Gordon has pretty much defined hotness in this series, but he has made just 45 of 111 playoff shots in the first six games. That's a little under 41% (although 34 of those are from 3, and he hit a not bad 13 of those).
Henry Abbott: Joakim Noah averaging more than a rebound per minute. If he keeps that up (a ridiculous long shot, but what the heck) he'll make history.
Henry Abbott: Brad Miller has made five of six 3-point shots in this series. The Celtics know this and don't leave him alone out there. So when he catches out there, he has a bad perimeter defender right up on him. ... So he can put the ball on the floor ... which looks horribly feeble.
Henry Abbott: Rose and Gordon a combined five of six already tonight. Noah six boards. Big Baby two fouls. Doc Rivers is hating all that.
Henry Abbott: Derrick Rose blocks Scalabrine on the break. That'll be on SportsCenter.
Henry Abbott: Something to watch for: David Thorpe points out how often Joakim Noah points to the spot in the offense where the ball should be passed.
Henry Abbott: Brian Scalabrine can shoot! All alone downtown, he has to let it rip!
Henry Abbott: Holy cow. The last play of the first quarter was this series in a nutshell. Celtics playing for the last shot. Bulls block. Celtics steal. Bulls steal and final shot. If it had gone in, it would have been about as exciting as the end of first quarters can possibly be.
Henry Abbott: Noah has seven boards in the first 11 minutes. Falling off the pace.
Henry Abbott: Ben Gordon has 17 points on seven shots. WOW.
Henry Abbott: You see that Tyrus Thomas play a minute ago? He takes on little Eddie House, successfully stops the drive, then the Celtics work it around and get a better shot, which Thomas blocks. He has the potential to be a truly elite defender.
Henry Abbott: Thorpe points out that the Celtics are not respecting the big Bulls on ball screens -- meaning there are dunks available if the Bull guards will throw the pass.
Henry Abbott: Rajon Rondo is 0-4 with 0 points. No biggie, he can help a lot without scoring, but at the moment the Celtics are -7 when he's on the floor. He still hasn't turned it over, though, and he's taking away easy Bull buckets with his ball hawking ways.
Henry Abbott: The one part of Boston's box score that looks good is 3-point shooting. Made half of their ten early 3s.
Henry Abbott: I'm going to tell you this now, so I can refer to it later: Mike Moreau, who knows way more than me about basketball, wrote in ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. preview that a major key to this game is the fact that Gordon and John Salmons can get into the paint at will. When the Bulls aren't scoring, I suspect that's the smart call. Also, working towards that forces Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to play D and risk fouls.
Henry Abbott: A Mikki Moore sighting. Doc Rivers has avoided him like the plague. When they signed him the story was they might have had Joe Smith instead. If they had Smith, he would have been in before Perkins for his third.
Henry Abbott: And suddenly, Paul Pierce's right nostril becomes a focal point of the game. I have to say, since Rondo made head-smacking history, slow motion replay reveals the Bulls have gotten in their fair share of face blows.
Henry Abbott: And about Rondo's smacking of Brad Miller's face: Bulls fans couldn't feel more victimized, and feel it cost them a win. Meanwhile, people can't even agree how to talk about what happened. What did Rondo do? Hit? Punch? Smack? Slap? I can solve both problems in one fell swoop. What happened to Brad Miller's face was that it got Rondo'd. Let that word come to mean that, and Bulls fans will have a consolation victory, and we can stop disagreeing about whether or not it was a punch.
Henry Abbott: Hinrich did NOT trip on his own feet. Paul Pierce's leg bumped Hinrich's into his own, and then Hinrich fell. Not a foul, but also not a klutz.
Henry Abbott: As the rebounds go, this game seems to go. Now the Celtics are +4 rebounding, and holding a lead.
Henry Abbott: David Thorpe observation of second quarter: "Bulls' offense has shrunk. No spacing. It's such a primitive look right now. Just dribble drive."
Henry Abbott: Stepping back for a minute: This game is as amped up as the series, for which I am thankful. It also has a little visual treat that harkens to something I learned in a high school art class: Contrasting colors make each other stand out. Red and green are contrasting colors. The Bull unis could not be more red. The Celts, the court, and the stadium, are both dense with green. Makes this a really rich visual.
Henry Abbott: Half-time show at Boston Garden: A balding chubby guy on a trampoline. And he's killing it!
Henry Abbott: Joakim Noah's friend Matt tweeted that today is Joakim Noah's mom's birthday. Heading into the locker room at the half Brian Scalabrine said Happy Birthday Mom. Is there an astrology expert in the house? I'm pretty sure that means Scal and Jo are cosmic twins (or separated at birth, which I'd bet, like, nine of my ten toes is not the case).
Henry Abbott: The talk of the comments in the first half was a Ben Gordon 3 that was ruled a 2. I have not had the ability to watch it again, but have heard from three people who did. All say the same thing: That he was at least a foot behind the line. Hope it's not too late for that to be reviewed on the court. The bad part is that I think they already did review it, which is just strange. Failing a fix, hope this game is decided by more than one point.
Henry Abbott: Thorpe point: Two passes to Bulls bigs, four points.
Henry Abbott: Not that Stephon Marbury has been terrible, but it's interesting to me that Doc Rivers is convinced that Gabe Pruitt deserves zero of these minutes. If he has no chance of being better than this, what can his future be like?
Henry Abbott: Rajon Rondo does some stunningly beautiful things on the basketball court.
Henry Abbott: Thorpe: Bulls are getting killed in the paint, and now they are going small.
Henry Abbott: Celtics, playing at home, have shot far fewer free throws than Chicago. 19-9 edge for the visitors.
Henry Abbott: Joakim Noah tests the theory that just about nothing is a flagrant in the playoffs, by picking up Rajon Rondo, putting him on some kind of nightmare funhouse ride before he hit the floor. And the theory holds ... yup. No flagrant. Bulls haven't been so physical. If they end up winning , this is the kind of thing that can turn the mood of a game, for better or worse.
Henry Abbott: Thorpe makes an interesting point: In the upcoming draft, he doesn't want to hear anyone maligning a point guard prospect on the grounds that he can't guard anyone. The rookie of the year, he points out, is getting killed by Rondo, who can't shoo
t. If Rose is a raging success ... a lack of defense clearly won't keep you from making it. "Rose has not only been scorched," says Thorpe, "but he has only come up with steals in two of seven games. Asleep in the other five."
Henry Abbott: I once was lucky enough to watch a Bulls game sitting with Joakim Noah's friends and family. They have all watched lots of basketball, have total confidence in Noah, and talk happily throughout the game.Except when he goes to the line. And then they all get quiet, and visibly nervous. Noah has this crazy moonball shot. But tonight, he's five of five from the line. I'm sure his people are loving that.
Henry Abbott: Not long ago, the Bulls were down double digits. On the road! To the Celtics! Is it realistic to think this game could close like the others of this series? Hinrich and Gordon hit some shots, and it's a four-point game.
Henry Abbott: Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo both have some of the worst +/- numbers on their team. Makes my brain hurt trying to figure out how that could happen.
Henry Abbott: Taunting technical on Eddie House, Ben Gordon hits the free throw. Now the Bulls have a cheap free point, like the Celtics got from that Ben Gordon ruling.
Henry Abbott: Wow. Paul Pierce did some jujitsu on Joakim Noah there. Had his arm all locked up, knocked him over. Fifth foul on Noah.
Henry Abbott: Derrick Rose has a mini version of a malady that Kobe Bryant has: He can make some VERY tough shots. And he knows it. Which means sometimes he thinks super tough shots are good shots.
Henry Abbott: And the Bulls get that Ben Gordon point back ...
Henry Abbott: Bulls have three field goals in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
Henry Abbott: Ray Allen with a HUGE o-board. Celtics up five with 2:53 left, and shooting free throws, instead of playing defense.
Henry Abbott: Vinny Del Negro: Saving his best rebounder for the second or third overtime, I guess.
Henry Abbott: When Hinrich's shot was in the air, I was thinking this has to go in if we have a hope at an exciting close. Bingo. Don't you think it's about to be Paul Pierce time?
Henry Abbott: Remember what I told you Mike Moreau said about Ben Gordon getting in the paint? Also, I wonder if Boston will wish they hadn't burned a timeout with 1:05 left and eight seconds left in the shot clock.
Henry Abbott: Wow. The key play might be Paul Pierce's second foul drawn on Joakim Noah under the Bulls' basket. Noah fouls out, and the Celtics get a big two points in the final minute. Then Ray Allen seals the deal.
Henry Abbott: As a Blazer fan, I know this means nothing to you Bulls fans: But this kind of experience is super valuable for a young team. Even if you'd WAY rather have the win.
Henry Abbott: Eddie House: 14 points on five shots.
Henry Abbott: Paul Pierce was six of 17 tonight (credit Hinrich, mainly) but his fingerprints were all over this game. He barely sat, got himself in so many big plays, and ended up with a +/- that only some short minute Celtic dudes like House beat.
Henry Abbott: Winning like medicine for Joakim Noah. And losing is like torture. You see him post-game? He hates this as much as he loved the times they were winning.
Henry Abbott: What? NO OVERTIME? I demand an explanation. A tremendously close series ends with a display of championship dignity, through the gritted teeth of injury. The Celtics are so far from firing on all cylinders, but they're not rolling over for anybody.
Henry Abbott: Thanks for hanging out everybody! Have a great night.