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Bulls must find way to solve Celtics' trap on Rose
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/25/2009 12:01 AM

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For the past two seasons Boston has been one of the league's best defensive teams, and there is nothing complicated about the Celtics' plan to stop the Bulls in this first-round playoff series.

On most every possession one of their big men - usually center Kendrick Perkins - steps outside to help point guard Rajon Rondo block Derrick Rose's path to the basket.

Basically, Boston has sent the following message loud and clear: They'd rather take their chances with power forward Glen Davis guarding both Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas under the basket than allow Rose to attack Rondo 1-on-1.

The Celtics didn't seem to trap Rose as frequently in Game 1, when the rookie of the year piled up 36 points and 11 assists. But the double-teams were there in Game 2 and also are used when Ben Gordon has the ball against 33-year-old Ray Allen.

Nothing worked well for the Bulls' offense during a humbling 107-86 home loss to the Celtics on Thursday. Now trailing in the series 2-1, the Bulls have two days of practice to figure out what to do differently in Sunday's Game 4.

"The same thing we've been doing all year," offered coach Vinny Del Negro. "We're playing 2-on-1 on the weak side. We have to trust our teammates, get them the basketball. Those guys have got to deliver and make them pay for double-teaming.

"It's nothing that they're doing or nothing that we haven't worked on. We just have to recognize it a little bit better and work through it."

The simple answer would be for Rose to thread a pass inside, where Noah or Thomas could score themselves or dish off to the other for an easy basket.

In reality, though, Thomas and Noah are a couple of young players with limited playoff experience and neither is known as a big scorer.

Thomas doesn't always finish well in traffic and has been collecting more of his points on outside jumpers this season.

"It's going to be important for us to find the open places on the court, because they are trapping D-Rose," Noah said Friday at the Berto Center.

"If we can get that pass across, it will be a 2-on-1. I think our bigs are pretty good passers and we can make plays as well. I don't think we did a great job of that (in Game 3), and it's on us to get a little pressure off the young fella as well."

If there was one obvious thing the Bulls failed to accomplish in Game 3, it was pass the ball around. Del Negro talked about how the Celtics' defense likes to crowd the ball with an extra player.

That means someone is open on the opposite side of the court if the Bulls could just take advantage. On Thursday, the Bulls dribbled into double-teams, tossed bad passes into traffic and piled up 22 turnovers.

"That's not our game," Gordon said. "We have so many offensive weapons, when we move the basketball, it's going to make it tough for them to guard us. We just have to stick to that and we'll be fine."

There is another option besides just moving the ball around, something Rose tried to do during the season but hasn't attempted very often in the playoffs. When he sees Perkins coming at him, put the ball on the floor and head straight for the burly center.

Maybe he'd get all the way to the basket or draw a foul, maybe he'd create an opening for an assist, or maybe the Celtics would have to hold back on the double teams, giving Rose room to launch his outside jumper, which was so effective in Game 1.

Rose did not speak to reporters Friday, but after Game 3 he vowed that Sunday's contest will be different.

"We're not going to make them pay for (double-teams) if you catch the ball and hold it," Del Negro said. "You have to make plays. You have to hit your open teammate and you have to trust that he's going to make the right play.

"There's nothing special either team is doing. They executed better than we did. They played harder. They were mentally and physically tougher than we were and we have to bounce back on Sunday."