When you think of the Bulls and Boston Celtics, you cant help but to remember their epic seven-game first round series that included a total of seven overtime periods.
Luol Deng would miss the entire series as his season was cut short due to injury and has always regretted not being able to be a part of that series.
Celtics small forward Paul Pierce averaged 23 points in that series and without the services of power forward Kevin Garnett -- who was done for the season with a knee injury -- its wouldnt be too far of a stretch to say things would have been different had Deng been available to guard Pierce.
An interesting fact has stood out from the last two seasons the two teams have matched up as Deng has held Pierce under 20 points in six out of the last seven meetings between the Bulls and Celtics.
While Pierce is no spring chicken, these days, hes always been one of the craftier scorers in the league, capable of getting to his spots with hesitation dribbles and pull-up jumpers and also getting himself to the free throw line with head fakes to get his defender in the air, or attacking the rim.
So whats been the key in Dengs success in limiting Pierce?
I got a lot better in just knowing guys are going to hit tough shots but every time down, Im listening to the opposing teams plays; knowing what play is coming helps a lot and if not, just try to get in my best defensive position, says Deng. If he scores, then the next time down the floor Im going to try my best again. Its just staying focused and reminding myself every time he comes down, I have to play my best D.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may be the best in the league when it comes to preparing his team on what to expect from their opposition, from what sets theyre going to run during certain parts of the games to where guys like to get their points and the things they do to get them.
Its also a good thing that -- after spending three seasons in Boston -- he knows their offensive and defensive sets like the back of his hand.
Its good but one thing about that Boston team is its even tougher because we kind of do the same things they do offensively and defensively, Taj Gibson told CSNChicago.
One thing about our team is were able to switch a lot, deny the ball. Luol is really talkative on offense and defense, so when hes on defense, he communicates well and we all help him but hes really active on the defensive end as far as shot-blocking, contesting and hes athletic."
While Dengs defense gets high praise, its important to note any individual recognition for holding Pierce below his averages is more a reflection to the Bulls team defense as finding easy baskets against them is a rarity as all five guys are tied to one another.
We have good vocal leaders and Thibodeau lets the bigs decide on what to do on the defensive end, said Gibson. We call theopponents plays out, we call out the defensive adjustments for the guards to hear us. We call out to the guards and they respond to us and it works in a great way.
After playing under a Thibodeau-instructed defense that helped Boston win a title in 2008 and return to the Finals one season later, Paul Pierce would agree with Gibsons assessment.