Game one set the tone for the series, proving the series would be back and forth. The Bulls came into Boston and went punch for punch, forcing overtime and ultimately taking game one. It was a duel between point guards, with Rajon Rondo and Rose taking control of the game in all aspects. Rose would finish with 36 points and 11 assists, and Rondo would put up 29 points, 7 assists, and 9 rebounds. I remember watching this game during the middle of the day on a Saturday, glued to the couch, enthralled by what was going on in front of me. But it was just a taste test of the duel to come in game two.
Game two was an absolute shootout between Ray Allen and Ben Gordon. Ben Gordon was literally a man on fire. I will link the highlights of his game because there is no way I can capture just how Les Grossman scorched earth he went on the Celtics that game. He hit shots from all angles, scored over double teams, and got that sweet floater going. Gordon was always fearless, and when he got going, he could score with anybody. The shot he hits to give him 42 on the game, and tie it at 115 is by all means an awful shot. He elevates over Allen and Glen Davis at the right elbow, and somehow still manages to hit the shot. But his counterpart, Allen, would get the last laugh. He hit a three over the outstretched arms of Joakim Noah with two seconds left to even the series at one game apiece.
Game three was a blowout, with the Celtics squashing the Bulls 107-86. The Celtics were up 22 at the half, and the Bulls never stood a chance. The trio of Allen, Pierce, and Rondo combined for 62 points, and all finished with plus/minuses of above 20.
Game four would go to double overtime, and featured some more heroics from Ben Gordon. Down three with nine seconds to go, Vinny Del Negro drew up a play to get Gordon a good look at a three. Gordon proceeded to hit the three, and bust out a questionable big balls celebration. The Bulls would win the game in the second overtime, tying the series at 2.
Game five would also go to overtime, with the Celtics winning by two 106-104. This put the Celtics up 3-2 in the series, and put all the pressure on the Bulls as they came back to Chicago for game six. And somehow, just somehow, my father managed to conjure up two tickets for us. I remember telling all my friends about getting to go to the game, and could not think about anything in school that whole day. I was already on cloud nine the whole day, but then the game started. And what I got to watch is by far the best basketball game I have ever been to.
The game saw Kirk Hinrich and Rondo get into it at the end of the first quarter, which lit a fire under the crowd at the United Center that would not dissipate the rest of the game. Ray Allen had 51!!!!! points in the game, hitting nine threes. Brad Miller went 8-9 from the field for 23 points, combining with John Salmons to form the most unlikely killer duo I have seen. Salmons had 35 points, and he and Miller hit a majority of the Bulls’ big shots down the stretch. Ray Allen scored five straight points to force the third overtime. Which led to the magic of Joakim Noah going on full display. With 40 seconds left he stole the ball from Pierce at the foul line, then proceeded to ramble his way down the court and dunk it on Pierce all while getting fouled. And he hit the free throw to complete the and-1.
It was beautiful for so many reasons. Mainly because Noah was the heart and soul of the Bulls, the guy who was always out there, putting everything on the line each time he stepped foot on the court. He was already the emotional leader of the team, and the city of Chicago had already fallen in love with his defense first, hustle mentality. Watching him dribble down the court at me (our seats were located in the 200 level behind the basket) was simultaneously the ugliest and prettiest thing I had ever watched, and I do not know how that is possible. The Bulls would hang on to win the game, and thinking about how I felt walking out of the United Center that night still brings a huge smile to my face. Sure the Celtics would win game seven, but I had come to appreciate the Bulls in a whole new way.