A look back at the legendary 2009 Bulls-Celtics playoff series
The legendary 2009 Bulls-Celtics playoff series
The 2009 playoff series between the Bulls and Celtics will go down as one of the most compelling of the last decade.
The seven-game series featured the Rookie of the Year in Derrick Rose, future Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (Kevin Garnett missed the series with a knee injury), budding stars in Rajon Rondo and Joakim Noah, and, of course, Brian Scalibrine.
The series included seven overtime periods in four different games, five games were decided by three points or less, and the teams alternated wins from Games 3 to 7.
With the Bulls and Celtics beginning their 2017 playoff series Sunday night, we look back at the storylines that made this series so legendary.
Game 1: Bulls 105, Celtics 103 (OT)
The storyline: Derrick Rose, the league’s runaway Rookie of the Year, did something in his playoff debut that Michael Jordan never accomplished in his postseason career: Rose beat the Celtics. He scored 36 points and handed out 11 assists as the Bulls stole Game 1 in Boston. Rose’s 36 points tied Kareem Abudl-Jabbar for the most by a player in his first postseason game, and his 11 helpers led to 23 more Bulls points. It marked the first time the Bulls had beat the Celtics in the playoffs in 11 tries.
The game: With Kevin Garnett ruled out for the series the seventh-seeded Bulls saw an opportunity to steal one from the defending champs. Boston erased an 11-point deficit in the second half, but Paul Pierce missed a free throw that would have given the Celtics the lead with 2.6 seconds left. In overtime Tyrus Thomas scored six of the Bulls' eight points, and John Salmons blocked Paul Pierce's game-tying attempt with 3.7 seconds left. Ray Allen then missed a jumper at the buzzer.
Game 2: Celtics 118, Bulls 115
The storyline: After shooting an unthinkable 1-for-12 in Game 1, Ray Allen opened Game 2 by missing four of his first five shots. The second half was a different story, and one that changed the direction of the series. Allen scored 16 points in the third quarter and then made all four of his 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 2 seconds left. He finished with a game-high 30 points.
The game: A pair of Connecticut alums went back and forth in the second half, as Ben Gordon and Allen traded blows in the tightly contested game. Two late triples from Gordon gave the Bulls a five-point lead, but the Celtics countered with an 8-2 run. In the final minute Gordon and Allen each made consecutive shots, with Allen's 25-foot triple acting as the game-winner to even the series heading back to Chicago. Gordon's 42 points were a playoff career-high.
Game 3: Celtics 107, Bulls 86
The storyline: The United Center was lined with rose petals, but it was Rose’s counterpart who made a statement. Rajon Rondo made it known which point guard was the defending NBA champion, going for 20 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals in 34 minuts. Rondo also held Rose to nine points on 4-for-14 shooting. In the only real blowout of the series, Rondo was at his best.
The game: The Celtics knew they were a better team than they had showed in the first two games of the series, and they looked to take control in Game 3. Rondo didn't let a sprained ankle bother him and Paul Pierce was efficient, needing just 15 shots to score 24 points. Boston took advantage of 22 Bulls tunovers and led by as many as 28 in the blowout victory.
Game 4: Bulls 121, Celtics 118 (2OT)
The storyline: Ben Gordon’s six 3-pointers and 42 points in Game 2 weren’t enough. Two games later, with the season on the line, he made his only triple of the evening count. With the Bulls trailing 110-107 in overtime, Gordon drained a 3-pointer to send the game to a second overtime. Gordon scored the first points of the the extra period to gave the Bulls the lead for good. He finished with 22 points in a whopping 50 minutes.
The game: The clutch shots kept pouring in from both sides in Game 4. Allen's triple sent the game to overtime, and then Gordon responded with a 3-pointer of his own to send the game to double overtime. In the second extra period, John Salmons made four free throws with a Pierce 3-pointer sandwiched in between. Salmons' clamped defense came through in the clutch again as he blocked Pierce's potential game-tying triple at the buzzer. Rose missed a triple-double by a single assist.
Game 5: Celtics 106, Bulls 104 (OT)
The storyline: Rondo posted a massive line with Allen in foul trouble. Kendrick Perkins went for 16 points, 19 rebounds and 7 blocks while an injured Kevin Garnett watched from the bench. But the Game 5 story was Paul Pierce, who hit clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch. The first came on a turnaround 15-footer with 10.5 seconds left to push the game to overtime. He then buried three jumpers in the final 77 seconds in overtime, the last of which gave Boston a two-point lead with 3.4 seconds to go. Pierce finished with 26 points, playing all but 2 minutes in the game.
The game: Controversy struck late in Game 5 when Rondo committed a hard foul on Brad Miller, who was headed toward the basket for a game-tying layup with 2 seconds left in overtime. The foul was deemed to not be flagrant, though it certainly could have been called. This came moments before Pierce buried a long jumper to give the Celtics the lead. Miller, who required stitches in his mouth after the game, missed the first free throw and was forced to miss the second on purpose.
Game 6: Bulls 128, Celtics 127 (3OT)
The storyline: With the Celtics looking to close out the series in Chicago, Allen exploded for 29 points in the first half. Early in the fourth quarter he scored eight points during a 13-2 Celtics run that tied the game at 91 apiece. In the second overtime he connected on a triple to tie the game at 118 and push it to a third overtime. Allen made his only attempt in the third overtime before Joakim Noah’s famous strip of Pierce and transition dunk. The 51 points were the most since Allen Iverson (55) in 2003, and no player has topped that mark since. The 59 minutes he played are fourth most all-time in a playoff game; John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich played 60 minutes in that game, while Kevin Johnson’s 62 minutes against the Bulls in the 1993 Finals is the most all-time.
The game: Let's just go chronologically. The Bulls trailed by eight, 99-91, with 3 minutes to play. A 10-2 run, finished off by a Brad Miller 3-pointer and layup, tied the game with 29 seconds left. In the first overtime, Glen Davis and Salmons traded buckets in the final minute to send it to overtime No. 2. In that frame, Allen buried a triple with 7.6 seconds left to tie the game. In overtime No. 3, Rose blocked a Rondo layup that would have given the Celtics the lead with 7.9 seconds left. And though he missed both free throws after corralling the blocked shot, Rose escaped with the victory to force a Game 7.
7. Celtics 109, Bulls 99
The storyline: In a series with so much firepower, future All-Stars, MVPs and Hall-of-Famers, it was only fitting that Eddie House put the finishing touches on the series for the Celtics. House had scored 24 points on 30 percent shooting in the first six games of the series, but he was unconscious in Boston, going 5-for-5 from the field, including four triples, scoring 16 points and grabbing three steals. Ten of those points came in the final period, including his infamous triple in front of the Bulls’ bench that drew a technical foul in the fourth quarter. In the most unlikely of playoff series, the unlikeliest of players came up biggest in the final game.
The game: The Celtics didn't feel much like another overtime in the final game of the series, outscoring the Bulls 29-11 in the second quarter. And though some Kirk Hinrich heroics pulled the Bulls within a possession with 5:39 to play, Boston finished the game making their last 11 free throws, and House closed the door with 10 points in the final period. It ended one of the most thrilling playoff series in recent memory. Boston would go on to lose in seven games to the Magic, who then defeated the Cavaliers to advance to the NBA Finals.