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First-round series off the charts

May 1, 2009 - Neil Rudel

I've enjoyed watching the NBA for many years, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a more competitive, more entertaining series than the current first-round epic of Boston vs. Chicago.

This series -- though, granted, it's a first-round series -- has had more great games, plays and moments than any in memory. While it lacks the drama of the great Celts vs. Lakers/Bird vs. Magic finals matchups through the '80s, it doesn't lack for anything else.

It's seen four games go to overtime, including Thursday night's incredible three-OT classic.

It's seen emerging young stars (Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah) and some older warriors (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce), Vinny Johnson-like shooting (Ben Gordon), star performances from the likes of unheralded John Salmons (35 in Game 6) and impressive resilence (Brad Miller, who missed the game-tying free throws in Game 5, regrouping to be the key player late in Game 6).

It's also featured both teams showing incredible heart, particularly Boston, which has been absent its star, the injured Kevin Garnett.

And BTW: Old pal Larry McAleer, at 53, is absolutely convinced he could force Pierce to go left, where, his keen basketball eye contends, Pierce is ineffective. (McAleer's basketball claim to fame is multi-fold: Starting for John Swogger, allegedly holding Joe Montana to single digits in a PIAA playoff game, picking for and getting out of Mike Iuzzolino's way in the Mansion League and now serving as my Mansion Finals TV analyst on the Altoona Public Access Channel).

But back to this storyline: Though it will be hard, let's hope Game 7 lives up to the rest of the series.

Because the winner -- especially if it's the rising Bulls -- could well land in the Eastern Conference finals and push Cleveland to the limit.



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