BOSTON (AP) – If words could stop Derrick Rose, the Celtics would be doing better in the playoffs.

“Everybody has their night,” Boston center Kendrick Perkins said Sunday. “I know it won’t happen again. He’ll never have another game like that against us.”

The defending NBA champions need more than strong statements to cool off the 20-year-old rookie. In his playoff debut, the Chicago Bulls’ point guard had 36 points and 11 assists in a 105-103 overtime win at the Celtics home Saturday.

That’s where Game 2 will be Monday night, and the Celtics know exactly what they must do better on defense – hurry back against the speedy Bulls, communicate, stop the pick-and-roll and get the ball out of Rose’s hands as soon as possible.

A tall order, perhaps, but one they must fill to have a better chance of avoiding a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series going into Thursday night’s game in Chicago.

“It wasn’t anything that they did” Perkins said. “It was all on us.”

The Bulls certainly would disagree, although they avoided strong words that the Celtics might use as bulletin-board material.

After all, the top-seeded Celtics are the more skillful team, even without the sidelined Kevin Garnett, although Boston coach Doc Rivers conceded that the eighth-seeded Bulls are more athletic.

“I was just doing anything I could to win that game,” Rose said, speaking like a seasoned veteran wary of stirring up controversy.

He did plenty. The 36 points tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA record for a playoff debut. On Sunday, Rose, a humble, team-oriented player, paid the proper respect.

“I’m honored to be in a category with him,” Rose said. “He’s a great player and a great guy.”

The Celtics know they didn’t have a great game, or even a good one, on Saturday. Yet they still had a chance to win on a day when sharpshooter Ray Allen missed 11 of his 12 shots.

On Sunday, they were angry or hopeful, depending on who was speaking.

“You’ve got to be angry. It’s the playoffs and we were at home,” Perkins said. “I’m going to be mad all the way up until (Monday), until after we get the win.”

Paul Pierce took a more analytical approach: “I was in a pretty good mood because I knew from watching the tape that we didn’t play that well at all and still had a chance to win.”

The Celtics had a long film session – needing that time, perhaps, to watch all their mistakes – and a short practice. The Bulls were pleased with the win but know that’s no indication of how the rest of the series will go now that Boston has seen firsthand that they’re not pushovers.

“There’s a lot of basketball to be played, and we’re going to have to keep raising our level,” Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. But Rose “has got an air of confidence about him. He knows what he can do. He prepares well.”

The Bulls must improve against point guard Rajon Rondo, who had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. The Celtics might be better off if he scored fewer points and had more assists to Pierce and Allen.

But first Boston must do a better job of setting screens to get Allen open and delivering the ball to him at the right time.

“We’re a better defensive team” than they showed in Game 1, Rivers said. “We’re going to win because of our defense and, if we get more stops, Ray will get more shots and he’ll get more shots in rhythm” since the Bulls will have less time to set up their defense.

The Celtics said they won’t change their game plan, just execute it better. The Bulls want to avoid becoming predictable on defense.

“We’re going to mix it up on Pierce and Allen,” Del Negro said. “Obviously, Rondo hurt us a lot, so we have to make some adjustments there, but that’s what playoff basketball is all about.”

He knows that if Pierce had made his free throw at the end of regulation, the Bulls probably would have lost.

But they didn’t, and the Celtics know that whether Garnett is sitting on the bench in a suit, as he did in the first half, or leaving because he gets too worked up watching from there, as he did in the second, they’ll have to go on without him.

They did finish the regular season with an 8-1 record when he sat out the last nine games. And they were 15-7 in the 22 he missed out of the final 26.

“Kevin’s not with us,” Pierce said simply, “so we’re not going to even linger on that.”

The Celtics had more pressing concerns Sunday – emphasizing smart team defense and making the extra pass on offense.

And, of course, working on keeping Rose from an impressive encore now that his teammates have overcome some early-season concerns.

“Early on (they thought) “why should we give this guy the ball and let him run the team?’ ” Rivers said, “and, obviously, now they know why.”

AP-ES-04-19-09 1819EDT


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