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Back to reality for Del Negro and Co.
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/24/2009 12:01 AM

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It was pointed out to Vinny Del Negro before Thursday's game that no one expected much from the Bulls when they went to Boston last weekend.

"Why is that?'' Del Negro interrupted, smirking at his interrogator as though he had swatted back in his face a grand insult.

But that was before the Bulls went out and committed nearly as many turnovers as they scored points in the first half, and then returned in the second apparently to run out the clock, as the defending champs handed the Bulls their hats, and a 107-86 Game 3 defeat at the United Center that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

The Celtics lead the series 2-1, and despite looking old, beat up and disinterested for a pair of games out East, they came to Chicago and put on a clinic.

"For two days, all we heard was we couldn't play defense,'' said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "We came out with great defensive focus tonight.''

The Bulls did not.

So they were booed off the court after a first half in which they allowed Boston 59 points on 51 percent shooting, rarely getting a hand in anyone's face.

"We got picked apart tonight,'' Del Negro said, no longer sporting his pregame swagger. "We had a terrible game.''

To say the Bulls were terrible doesn't do justice to a pathetic effort in front of a fired-up crowd that expected the same enthusiasm from the team.

But the Bulls played as though they were in Sacramento for just another game in November.

"Not the home game we would have liked,'' Del Negro said. "We have to raise our effort level to meet theirs.''

To suggest this Bulls team is more than marginally different on the court than it was before the trade deadline is hardly demonstrable.

They have better people, to be sure, and the locker room is a much better place for a kid like Derrick Rose.

But on the floor, all the talk of great progress made by Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas is laughable.

True, they're both athletic big men who expend a lot of effort, but Noah's got hands of stone, and Thomas, well, it's enough to say he thinks he's George Gervin.

"Guys were trying to do too much on their own,'' Del Negro said. "No one in this league is good enough to do it by themselves.''

For all his frenetic behavior, Thomas doesn't remember that, and doesn't follow instructions.

He's a nightmare to coach probably only slightly more than he's a nightmare to watch.

When GM John Paxson speaks so glowingly of the new Thomas, we can only assume he's trying to increase Thomas' trade value.

At least, we hope Paxson isn't once again falling in love with his players, unable to honestly evaluate them.

"We have a long way to go,'' Del Negro said. "We're a work in progress.''

The Bulls never led in Game 3, didn't offer much resistance, and the only drama surrounded Chicago native and Celtics guard Tony Allen, who has a history of trouble in Chicago and had extra security on hand Thursday because of death threats.

But the evening ended quietly, save the cries of joy from the Celtics as they ran to the locker room.

"No let up!'' screamed Kevin Garnett. "No let up at all!''

Simply put, the aging Celtics that supposedly had nothing left, schooled the young Bulls in NBA basketball.

No George Gervin stuff. Just defense, rebounding, screens, and good looks.

They may be old, but even without Garnett, they're the same, old Celtics.

And except for a Rookie of the Year, it's the same, old Bulls.