Round 3, Game 5 (Chicago v Miami)

There really are not words for what happened last night in Chicago.  For anyone  who follows this blog, it is no secret my disdain for Lebron, Miami and the SuperFriends, so what I saw last night felt horrible.  With every jumper, layup and bad foul call, something inside me died.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d already consigned myself to the fact that the SuperFriends would win, but seeing them actually dominate crunch-time and sweep Chicago and its vaunted defense out of the way with such ease was sickening.

So what happened.  Well, honestly, the best parallel I can bring is the Thunder collapse in game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against Dallas.  Both cases had similar leads (double-digits), seemingly back-breaking 3-pointers by the leading team, otherworldly performances by superstars, horrible execution (fouls and turnovers) by the leading team, and comebacks by acknowledged superior teams.  Chicago fell into the same trap that OKC had just a few days before, settling for running the clock out and forcing something late in the 24 seconds.  The problems with this strategy is so many-fold that I don’t know where to begin.  First, it is asking for turnovers and poor shots, as most teams use about 17 seconds to get a regular shot in a game.  If you’re running 17 seconds off the clock standing around, how can you get a good shot in just 7 seconds?  You can’t and your offense sputters.  Nothing kills your momentum like makes by the opposing team sandwiched by poor possessions on your end.  And conversely, nothing kills opposing momentum after their makes than retuning the favor.

Second, it knocks a team off its rhythm.  Offense, as well as defense, are based as much on timing and repetition as much as talent and heart.  This is something that defenses and offenses in the NFL have figured out (think Peyton Manning’s no-huddle offense).  What knocks out a team’s rhythm worse than anything else is changing that rhythm – you cannot easily go back.  The Bulls weren’t playing pretty offense all night, but they were hustling, setting picks, running plays.  Then they stopped all that to run time off the clock.  And when they tried to set up their offense again in the late going, everyone was dazed.  I dare say I don’t remember a single pass inside the three-point line in the final few possessions by Chicago that wasn’t stolen.

Finally, the delay offense takes the pressure off the other team.  Instead of having to defend for 24 seconds, the Heat could just stand around and wait for 17 seconds before the Bulls decided to make a move.  It is so much significantly easier to defend hard for 7 seconds than 24.

However, this is the part of the story that bothered me the most: the officiating.  I get why the foul on Lebron was a flagrant (Boozer chopped him in the head), but the point is that you can’t stop Lebron without fouling him hard.  My impact with a nerf ball flying thrown by my brother is going to be a lot different than my save of an Ovechkin slap-shot (folks, that’s why one of them has padding).  Sure the foul was hard, I dare say it was harder than Bynum’s elbow to Barea, but that’s my point – it’s relative.  Boozer was clearly going to try to stop Lebron from scoring by swiping at the ball… hard.  He missed and hit Lebron in the face, accidentally (and of course his Quitness had already earned a cheap foul on a flop, faking a swipe to the face earlier in the game).  So call it a flagrant, but understand that the penalty is huge for an accident.

Next, the late call on the Noah foul directly after the flagrant was frustrating, but correct.  However, the technical on Gibson was ridiculous.  Every time down, stars like Lebron, Wade, Rose, Nowitzki, etc, all show some sort of disgust when they fail to get calls.  I’m sorry that Gibson opened his wide mouth expressing frustration with the call, but he did nothing more (in fact, significantly less) than Boozer, Bosh, James, Wade and Rose had been doing all game.  That technical was given under the new “respect for the game” rules, but, honestly, that call was a disgrace to the game.

Finally, the two and 1’s near the end of the game in favor of the Heat were complete garbage and there’s no question about it.  Wade hardly got touched on either play and the contact both times in no way affected the shot.  Especially on the three-pointer, Wade’s own follow-through landed him on Rose, whose close-out was far more passive than a sloth on depressants (maybe a reason Wade hit the 3 in the first place).  Even Reggie Miller would have been hard-pressed to get that call.  I’m not saying the Bulls would have won if not for these calls, but I am saying that the game was ridiculously officiated and gave the Bulls, who were still sensationally bad in the final few minutes, an added disadvantage.

The turning point in the game was James’ 3-pointer to tie the game.  When that three went in, there wasn’t a chance that Chicago was winning the game.  The Bulls couldn’t score and Miami knew it.  Even if the game had gone into overtime (like game 4) both teams understood that in the end, Miami would prevail.  They just had too much firepower for Chicago’s exhausted legs.

The player of the game was Lebron simply because he almost single-handedly won the game for the team.  Wade, for his 4-point play and 3-point play just minutes before, was just making up for his horrific 9 TOs and (to that point) miserable field goal percentage.  Lebron meanwhile, threw up a 28-11-6-3-2 with two clutch threes and a long go-ahead 2-pointer that ended up being the game-winner.  Oh, and he crushed Rose for most of the 4th, including a block of his game-tying three at the end of regulation.  Another unsung star for Miami was Bosh.  As the seemingly half-brother of the SuperFriends (yeah, the analogy breaks down fast), Bosh has often been criticized for shooting, not playing good defense, and being an overall bust compared to his all-pro counterparts.  But last night – and in the series in general – he was not just good, he was great.  The numbers won’t all show it, but Bosh averaged 23 ppg on just 14 shots per game (60%from field, 91% from line).  Throw in 7.4 board and the fact that he helped hold Boozer to a putrid 14 ppg on 40% from the field.

Going forward, the Heat go home and prepare for the visiting Mavs.  Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ll do a full series preview in a couple days, outlining what I see happening in the Finals.  A brief note, though, it will be very interesting to see if and how Wade’s injury affects his play.

For Chicago, the biggest problem about being so thoroughly outplayed in this series is that Miami isn’t going anywhere.  Miami had a hurt Mike Miller, almost no point guard to speak of, a 75% Haslem and unbelievable pressure – and they still won.  This version of the Heat are going to be around for a long, long time – at least the next 5 years – and if Chicago has any hope of defeating this foe, it has to improve somewhere.  However, it’s big free-agent signings from the summer really didn’t pan out.  Korver, Boozer, Brewer (all former Jazz for those of you keeping score at home), were not the impact that Chicago needed.  How they’re going to find another scoring threat without giving up too much in return is going to be critical to their success.  Like I said about the Thunder, but even more so, this series really told me that the current version of these Chicago Bulls is not championship material.  Yes, Rose will improve, but he needs help and right now the team doesn’t have any help.

So I’ve got two blogs coming up soon that might be of interest – one on “the Decision” and a preview of the finals that includes my pick.

Yours Truly,

Basketblogger

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    • Dad
    • May 28th, 2011

    we can’t get tv via kaztelecom because our phone number starts with 388 and not 97 like it used to so i haven’t seen any sports since we left the US a year ago

    well, we did see a bit of soccer while in turkey

    boo hoo

    boo boozer – drinks too much i guess

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