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News » Nothing like the playoffs

Nothing like the playoffs

Nothing like the playoffs BOSTON ? Kevin Garnett?s knee injury might have been the best thing that happened to the NBA last season.

If Friday?s game was any indication, the full-strength Celtics might have swept the Bulls out of the 2009 playoffs like a push broom.

Instead of an exciting first-round series that riveted the nation and drew record television ratings, this matchup could have had fans reaching for the remote before the second quarter ended.

The Bulls were that bad in Friday?s playoff rematch at the Garden. They lost 118-90 in a runaway that was never in doubt after the Celtics (3-0) opened the second half with a ridiculous display of marksmanship.

Granted, if this was a playoff game, the Bulls wouldn?t have been playing San Antonio at the United Center the previous night. But playing on consecutive days shouldn?t explain their complete lack of competitiveness.

"I guess that?s an easy excuse, but we just didn?t play the same

way we did in the opener," guard Kirk Hinrich said. "Defensively, we weren?t helping each other. It didn?t seem like the intensity was there and then offensively, we didn?t play together. We tended to go off on our own and we struggled as a result of it."

Realistically, this result doesn?t mean much to the Bulls , who expect to get better as the season progresses. At the same time, they won?t win many games if John Salmons and Luol Deng can?t provide consistent scoring.

Salmons has struggled badly in the first two games, knocking down just 5 of 29 shots (17 percent). The Celtics play excellent defense, as evidenced by the Bulls collecting more turnovers in the first half Friday (10) than they did in the full game against San Antonio (9).

Still, Salmons got plenty of open looks. He had time to wind up from 3-point land and tossed up some of his trademark lean-back fadeaways.

"I?ll look at some film, see what the defense is doing, see what I?m doing wrong and try to adjust to it," Salmons said quietly in the locker room. "Most of the time, I always feel like it?s more me than anything."

It took Salmons six NBA seasons to average in double figures and he finally broke out by reaching 18 points per game last year.

"I came a long way, been through a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I?ll stick with it."

Deng had a nice opening game against San Antonio, scoring a team-high 17 points. Against Boston, Deng had a quiet night. He picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and didn?t score his first point until a dunk at the 2:21 mark of the third.

"I tried to look for shots, but I didn?t have that many shots in the first half," Deng said. "I tried to be patient. I came out in the second half and committed my fourth foul, sat out and never could catch a rhythm."

The Bulls were actually at their best Friday taking it inside, where Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas have younger legs than Garnett. Noah finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Thomas (10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) would have had a nice first half if not for 5 missed free throws.

Early in the second quarter, Boston used a 14-2 run to break open a close game and led 50-35 at halftime. The third quarter was a different kind of nightmare for the Bulls as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to knock down 5 straight 3-pointers in the opening five minutes. Pierce finished the quarter with 20 points while hitting all 7 of his shots, including 5 threes.

"When you?ve got a team on its back when we?re up 15 points at the half, you don?t want to give them any confidence in that third quarter," Pierce said.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 3, 2009


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