This was the upset within the blowout. While the Celtics were bombarding the Bulls, 122-104, Tuesday to finish their first-round play-off series in three games, Danny Ainge was outscoring Michael Jordan, 20-19.
A pause for dramatic effect follows.
Ainge's 44 points in the last two games (the last three halves, actually) comprise what coach K.C. Jones calls Ainge's best offensive stretch of the season.
"He's driving to the basket," Jones said. "He has that look in his eye, like he's playing the total game -- which he is. His defense has really impressed me this year."
Ainge was probably Boston's best anti-Jordan device throughout the series. Was this his inspiration? "When you're playing against a guy like Michael Jordan, you can't help but be fired up," he said. "You're thinking about playing against him the night before and the day of the game. It's the ultimate challenge."
Yet Ainge isn't so sure his last two games have been atypical. "I feel as good as ever -- I felt this good before," he said. "I don't believe that (he is looking to shoot more). I think I've gone to the line more. I've gone to the line off some fast-break opportunities.
"I have looked to drive a little bit more. I think part of that is because Chicago doesn't have that big shot blocker in there. They were so worried about staying with Robert (Parish) and Kevin (McHale) that the first two times I tried to drive, it was like the parting of the Red Sea. Everybody was just on their man, and all I had to do was beat my man."
Is this lane-piercing phenom the Danny Ainge we will see throughout the play-offs? Or will the glory days end if he looks up and sees Atlanta center Tree Rollins planted in the paint? Ainge's newfound assertiveness certainly helps relieve pressure from Boston's front line.
"If I can become a threat, then other teams will have to respect that," Ainge said. "The way we're moving the ball around, just everybody's involved. I've just always believed we're a much better team when more people are involved in the offense. We're running more plays for the guards. We're getting (Jerry) Sichting involved, and (Scott) Wedman."
Yet Jones claimed little was added to the offense. Asked what's gotten into Ainge, the coach said, "I don't know . . . The guards have had the green light to shoot for as long as I've been here."
"The more people we can have as threats, the better off we are," Ainge said. "Chicago's the perfect example of that. It looks like some of their guys feel guilty about taking a shot. They know they're supposed to be trying to get it to Michael Jordan.
"The best thing I feel about the game Tuesday night was our offense. We ran a clinic in the third quarter (when the Celtics finished off Chicago, 33-19). We were finding the open man, and it didn't seem to matter who was doing the scoring. Whoever was open for the shot took it. It was fun to play. Sidney Green (the Bulls forward) even said to me during the game, 'You guys are an amazing team to watch. It looks like it would be a lot of fun to play for that type of system.' "
The system's enforcers never felt threatened, according to Ainge. "We won by 18 or 20 points the first and third games. The second game was just one of those incredible games.
"In the first game, Michael scored 49 points, but we still won easily. After that, you're thinking your strategy is pretty strong. Then we made some adjustments after that second game when he almost beat us singlehandedly."
The Celtics double-teamed Jordan, who quickly fell deep into foul trouble and scored only five points in the last three quarters.
"We could very easily have lost one game," Ainge said. "But I don't think there was any way they could have won three games from us."
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