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Celtics and Bulls show flip sides of playoff poise coin

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
Truth is, the Celtics showed what overcoming playoff adversity is all about in Game 2. (Getty Images)


Some teams thrive when hit with adversity. Others flounder. Most times, this factors into who winds up winning in the playoffs, and going home early. Tuesday night, we saw prime examples of both sides of that equation.

The Boston Celtics, without Rajon Rondo, without Ray Allen, struggled early against a faster, younger Hawks team. But when the fourth quarter came, with Boston within striking distance, the Celtics closed out with ferocity and poise, watching the Hawks self-destruct into a series of pointless one-one-three attempts which helped Boston create transition opportunities for easy scores. Their long-time star Paul Pierce stepped up and delivered a very Truth-ful performance, and that was that. Tie series.

Flip the channel over to Chicago, where the Bulls, who had looked so tough even without Derrick Rose for much of the year that some had argued they could still win a title without the MVP, fell apart vs. the Sixers. There would be no stepping up for Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, or Joakim Noah (despite a solid shooting night for Noah). The teams are constructed differently, to be sure. And you can't equate losing Rose with losing Rondo. One is for a game, the other a season. One is the playmaker and central component to his team's offense, the other is the biggest and really only game changer his team has. But there's certainly a symmetry to the Bulls falling apart at home in the first game without Rose vs. an inferior opponent with or without him, and the Celtics thriving in the second half on the road against an evenly-matched Hawks team.

The Celtics can control the pace of their attack, can time their runs and manage their bursts. The Bulls simply go as hard as they can each time. If it works, excellent. If it doesn't, the team is stuck in the mire. This would be where Rose would pick them up. But Rose isn't walking onto that court, unfortunately. So if the Bulls are going to surprise everyone, it's going to have to be on savvy and poise. And Tuesday revealed they may not have enough in that area, either.

The Celtics have done this before, have dealt with adversity. The last time they dealt with what the Bulls are going through, though, was 2009, where the loss of Kevin Garnett crippled them as they struggled with... you guessed it, Chicago, on their way to a defeat to the Magic. But all we have is what is in front of us. And the Bulls without Rose were trampled physically, tactically, emotionally by the loss of Rose and a stiff Sixers defense. The Celtics without two of their big four ground the Hawks into dirt and walked away with an even series.

Six weeks ago the Bulls were the best team in basketball and the Celtics still trying to climb back to the division title. Now the Celtics look primed to steal the series from Atlanta and the Bulls look lost without Rose. But this is the playoffs. Who knows what Game 3 will teach us?
 
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