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Never saw it coming

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  April 24, 2009 07:41 PM

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Maybe you knew. I sure didn't.

I wasn't surprised the Celtics played well in the United Center on Thursday night. I thought there was a pretty good chance they'd play a solid game, but it never entered my mind the Bulls would come up so amazingly small.

Common sense dictated that the Bulls, having played so well in Boston, being so full of confidence, and backed by what was sure to be a boisterous home crowd in what was being billed as the biggest professional basketball game in Chicago since Game 2 of the 1998 Finals, would ride the tide and come out strong.

But this was a wire-to-wire beatdown. The Celtics played better defense, sure, but the Bulls were incredibly tentative and extremely sloppy with the basketball, and the Celtics made them pay. You can't hand the ball over to Rajon Rondo in the open floor and not expect to get burned. The Bulls did not seize the moment. They could win Game 4, but the Celtics have done what they needed to do already.

Paul Pierce earned his money. That was a bravura performance by a star who played like a Star. Big Baby played another sensational game. I was happy when he accompanied Ray Allen from Seattle on that draft night deal, but I certainly didn't think he'd get this good this fast.

But the most interesting development of the evening was the play of Stephon Marbury, who really helped the cause when it was still a game. If this is the way he's going to play ...

We'll see about that.

Meanwhile, I can't tell you how much I admire Gregg Popovich. Yes, I've seen teams come back from 26 in the second half. I've even seen a Sixers team come back from 31 down to beat the Celtics -- in Boston. But Pop knew that particular game against Dallas was over, and he started coaching for Saturday. Pop is the NBA's ultimate pragmatist, and he is also the NBA's best coach, period.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
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Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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