Bulls/Heat Game Three: Sweep?

by April 28, 2007
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The Bulls shorts are back on for Game Three. They’re road shorts, so they’re more appropriate now anyway. I believe I bought them at the Nike Employee Store in Beaverton, OR back in the days of the second three-peat, not that it matters. I refuse to go so far as to wear a jersey or Jordans (tonight, at least), but black socks and the beard are still in E-F-F-E-C-T. We’ll see what happens.

ESPN broadcast tonight, which I’m not terribly happy about, mostly because their pregame and halftime shows suck. But at least the broadcast itself should be OK. Hubie Brown is in the mf’in house, and that’s always a good thing, even though he still looks like Julius Caesar’s grandfather.

Dick Bavetta! Now I’m nervous.

The Rachael Ray Dunkin’ Donuts commercials make me never want to step foot in a Dunkin’ Donuts again. I’m guessing that’s not the effect they wanted. I’m also guessing that those commercials were not filmed with the NBA fan in mind.

FIRST QUARTER

It’s mighty white inside the American Airlines.

Dwyane Wade is way off on his first jumper. Not that it means anything. Luol Deng is pretty off, too. The Heat turn it over and Ben Gordon gets obliterated by Shaq. Yikes.

Luol draws a foul on Kapono, who actually was doing a pretty good job on Deng. Who misses one of two. Jason Williams responds with a three from the corner set up by Wade. Nice shot. 3-1, Heat.

Gordon drives the lane, goes down again, and gets called for a charge. Yeah, this game might get called differently than the ones in Chicago. They don’t call it home court advantage for nothing.

Shaq misses, Ben Gordon comes back with a three. Can’t commit a foul out there. But he can on the other end, where Williams drives into him. Gordon has two fouls less than three minutes in. Bad sign for Chicago. Enter Chris Duhon.

Kirk Hinrich sinks a jumper—he’s gonna have to have a serious first half now.

Kapono fakes at the three-point line, drives in, and hits a contested jumper. Deng responds from what’s becoming his spot, somewhere on the side in between the baseline and the elbow, about 20 feet out.

Shaq plows over Big Ben. Foul. And Deng hits another jumper. He’s ridiculous this series so far.

Shaq is fouled in the paint by P.J. Brown, who looks somewhat incredulous. Shocking, I know. Shaq misses the first, and the second. Wallace gets the rebound, and Hinrich is fouled by Wade on a jumper.

Wade is not wearing the giant shoulder sleeve. He said “I am tired of talking about this injury.” Does that mean it’s gone? It’s not like people are going to forget about it just because he took off the sleeve.

Split-screens for interviews or anything else SUCK. You hear me? LET ME WATCH THE GODDAMN GAME. I hate everyone.

I’d talk about what just happened but I COULDN’T SEE IT BECAUSE WHAT PAT RILEY HAD TO SAY WAS SOOOOOO IMPORTANT. GOD, I’M SO HAPPY I DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL HALFTIME TO HEAR HIS WONDERFUL INSIGHTS.

Duhon, Hinrich—Bulls up 16-11.

Shaq over P.J. Brown. That might be a mismatch. And Luol hits another jumper. He doesn’t miss much. The Heat miss, Hinrich misses a spot-up three in transition, and Kapono fouls Deng on the rebound. And Deng hits a midrange jumper. Shocking. 20-13 with five minutes in the first.

Ben Wallace’s painfully awkward layup is offset by a Heat foul, so now we have to watch him shoot free throws, too. Terrific. BRICK. Hit! And it wasn’t even awful! Wow.

Shaq over Ben Wallace. Andres Nocioni over Shaq. Haslem misses, the Bulls come out with it, miss a quick jumper, and Deng fouls Posey on the rebound.

James Posey rattles home a three. 23-18, Chicago—and they call for time.

Hadn’t really thought about it before, but were it not for fate (and a motorcycle), this series would be Jason Williams versus Jason Williams Part II.

Bulls turnover on a handoff (out of a time out, ugly), but Duhon slaps it away from Wade and makes the Heat start over. And then Shaq commits a second offensive foul, once again on Wallace. To the bench with the Diesel.

Luol Deng, jumper.

Williams misses a floater, Hinrich gets the rebound, goes the length of the floor, and charges into James Posey. Familiar tune.

The heat miss a few close shots (Wade, Walker), and the Bulls lose it out of bounds to themselves. Duhon hits a deep two from the corner—they’re 11 of 16 from the floor so far, up nine.

Wade drives, gets fouled by Wallace underneath. This is his first trip to the free throw line of the night, with 1:30 remaining in the first. Misses the first, and the second, but he winds up with the loose ball—and Walker charges into Nocioni. There have been a HELL of a lot of charges in this series, on both ends.

Deng misses some wild runner instead of taking the boring money jumpshot.

James Posey. 27-20, Chicago.

Luol gets swatted by Mourning, takes it right back at him again, misses badly and falls on the floor, and Walker hits a three from up top. Kirk comes right back with an off-balance floater at the end of the quarter to make it 29-23 Bulls after 1.

SECOND QUARTER

Dan Marino! And Scottie Pippen (not wearing white) with lovely wife Larsa. And Gloria Estefan, who I wouldn’t recognize if she punched me in the face.

James Posey snuffs Tyrus Thomas—yikes—but Thomas wins the ensuing jumpball. And Duhon airballs a corner three for a 24-second violation. Ugh.

Wade airballs one off glass over 17 Bulls, and Deng misses in transition. The ball goes out of bounds back to the Bulls, though. Gordon loses the dribble, and Wade goes all the way in for a finger roll. The Bulls lose the ball again, and Tyrus Thomas catches up to block a would-be Eddie Jones dunk. Hits ‘em both. 29-26, Bulls.

Thomas drives the lane, stops underneath, and seems confused as what to do next. Turnover. Posey misses a three, and the Bulls turn it over AGAIN (that’s four in a row). Walker drives in for a layup, it’s a one-point game, and that’s a time out for Chicago. Miami’s veteran unit (led by Walker, Posey and Eddie Jones) is playing tough D, but one has to wonder how long they can sustain it.

Ben Gordon misses a TOUGH shot, and the ball gets batted OOB back to the Bulls. Sefolosha gets called for a charge, and that’s another turnover. Mourning drops in a short shgot, and the Heat have their first lead, 31-29. Ben Wallace misses, and Walker misses a ridiculous layup attempt. Wallace gets another chance, and converts. That’s the first points for the Bulls this quarter. 31-30, Bulls.

Sefolosha picks up his second foul, Hinrich replaces P.J. Brown, and Shaq comes in for Zo. Walker gets another long, open look at a three and hits another one. 33-31 Heat. Kirk gets an open look at a three off the dribble, but can’t convert. Shaq with a short jumphook, Miami up 4. Hinrich misses again, and Shaq gets another short look. 37-31, Heat.

Ben Wallace with a ridiculous fallaway in the paint. He has all of the Bulls four points in the quarter. Sheesh.

I LOVE IT WHEN MICROSOFT WORD CRASHES. I LOVE IT SO MUCH IT HURTS. CAN SOMEONE ELSE COME UP WITH A WORD PROCESSOR SO I CAN GET RID OF EVERYTHING MICROSOFT? THANK YOU. P.S. I HATE YOU BILL GATES.

So, uh, what happened? The Heat keep going, Deng scores, and Hinrich gets an and-one. Time out, somebody. I don’t even know what the score is.

Apparently it’s 42-38, Heat. Williams misses a three, but Nocioni knocks down O’Neal underneath as Lisa Salters jabbers about something. CAN WE JUST WATCH THE DAMN GAME? Goaltend on someone—I’d probably know if any of the announcers were actually talking about what was happening on the floor.

Eddie Jones misses a three, Wallace corrals the rebound, and Gordon misses a ridiculous three. His shot selection is horrific tonight. Wallace rebounds a Williams miss, and Nocioni hits a three to bring the Bulls back within three, 44-41. 3:24 until halftime.

The Diesel scores, and Kirk is fouled by Haslem underneath. And, he instantly gets called for a charge into Jones on the perimeter. I absolutely hate charges called anywhere but under the basket. So lame.

Haslem misses, Deng rebounds, Nocioni misses and Wade rebounds, then hits a contested jumper off the glass. Tough shot. Miami up seven. Another Bulls turnover, and Wade misses a layup. Deng hits on the other end, and it’s back to five. Could be much worse for the Bulls—they’ve had a horrific offensive quarter. Haslem is fouled underneath, hits both. 50-43, Heat. Minute left in the half.

A Nocioni three is blocked by Posey, and Noc recovers in time to block Haslem’s would-be dunk on the runout. On the other end, Wallace is fouled (non shooting, thank God), and Haslem is called for blocking on Gordon right off the inbounds. Gordon hits both.

Wade dribbles through the entire Chicago defense and dunks with both hands. Guess he was paying attention to those old Barkley highlights. Gordon misses at the buzzer, and it’s 52-45 Miami at the half. Decisive win of the quarter for the Heat. For what that’s worth.

THIRD QUARTER

The Heat have won 26 straight playoff games they’ve led at halftime. Well then. Still, Shaq picks up his third foul, and the Bulls draw first blood. Wade responds with a TOUGH baseline fallaway. Great screen and roll with Hinrich and Ben Wallace, who gets a wide-open dunk. Brown fouls Shaq underneath, who decides to act out his favorite scene from Beat Street. Misses both, Deng rebounds, and P.J. Brown travels underneath. Oogly.

Wade misses, Deng rebounds, Deng misses, Deng rebounds, Deng hits. DENG!

Wade busts Hinrich with the crossover, spins back into the defense, misses off glass, but Shaq dunks it back with authority. Then Deng turns it over. “That’s a 10-0 turnover run.” Not good. Shaq is DOMINATING underneath, gets fouled again, goes back to the line. Misses again, and again—that’s 0 for 6 on the night, but there’s a Chicago lane violation. One more try. Gets it.

The Bulls turn it over AGAIN, and Williams misses a three in transition. And the Bulls lose it out of bounds. Not sure if they’re shook, but their offense sure has been disgustingly awful since the end of the first quarter. And Posey hits a three, and it’s 60-51 Miami with 8:06 to go in the third.

Gordon with a TOUGH three out of the time out. Off-balance. So ugly, but so necessary. Wade to Shaq for two, and Kirk misses a jumper, no second chance, and Nocioni fouls Posey. Wade loses his dribble inside, but it goes straight to Shaq for a dunk. Gordon comes back on the other end, and it’s 64-56, Heat. Wade misses, gets his own and finishes. Back to 10.

Gordon misses, Shaq rebounds, Williams misses a floater, and Nocioni is fouled by Haslem, his fourth. Enter Walker. The Bulls turn it over, Wade is out front, and Gordon catches Wade around the waist and shoulder to keep him from going up. Flagrant? Nope, an actual playoff foul. Good. Wade misses the first, hits the second.

Bulls 24-second violation, another Bulls turnover. Great defense by the Heat, as all the Bulls could do is keep the ball moving. Never got a good look at a shot. Walker misses, and Deng drives and is fouled by Posey. Pretty much had to take it to the rim hard. Deng hits both, the Heat lead is back to nine.

Wade drive, and 1, foul on…well, somebody. Hard to tell who. Nocioni? Guess that’s not important to our crack broadcast team. Apparently it’s Deng, who heads to the bench. Walker misses, Nocioni rebounds, and Nocioni misses a jumphook of some sort. Shaq is fouled on the other end by Wallace. Hits both while there’s a comparison made of JaMarcus Russell to Shaq. Of course. And Nocioni comes right back with a three, and earns lavish praise from Hubie Brown. 72-63 Heat with 3:21 to go in the third.

The Heat haven’t committed a turnover in 24 minutes. That’s crazy.

Foul on Ben Wallace, Shaq goes back to the line. Misses the first and the second, Nocioni rebounds. Hinrich’s straight-away three goes in and out, Wade misses, Gordon rebounds, and the broadcast feed goes to hell. Gordon hits from 18, 72-65 Heat.

Walker misses, Wallace has Shaq boxed out, and Hinrich finds Nocioni on the baseline for a reverse layup. Five point game, time-out Heat.

Wow, Michael Jordan’s kid is gonna walk on at Illinois. Good luck with that. At least the tuition’ll be in-state, so he shouldn’t need too many loans.

Eddie Jones is fouled by Nocioni—“a little touch foul”—which he protests to no avail. Dick Bavetta is always right. Jones hits a pair. He’s a pro.

Deng misses a tough shot off some decent ball movement, and Mourning fouls Wallace on the loose ball. Deng gets another chance and doesn’t miss. Wade hits a tough jumper inside, and Mourning fouls Ben Gordon while setting a screen up top. Gordon to the line with 54.6 to play in the third. He hits one of two, Mourning rebounds. Wade loses the dribble, Duhon comes out with it, and P.J. gets an open baseline jumper. Four-point game.

Wade misses a contested three at the buzzer, and that’s it. 76-72 Heat after three.

FOURTH QUARTER

No Shaq to start the fourth. No Ben Wallace, either. Although P.J. picks up another foul on Mourning 14 seconds into the quarter. And there’s way too much discussion of Andres Nocioni’s thigh bruise. Mourning hits one of two, and the Heat get the rebound, and Mourning gets the backwards three-point play. Gordon catches the more traditional and-one on the other end. And is compared to Andrew Toney by Hubie, who goes on a riff about the ’82 Sixers.

Heat turnover! Hinrich to Gordon off the curl, who misses an open look, Deng gets it back, and the Bulls get an own goal from Miami (Antoine Walker). Two-point game. Walker misses on his own basket, goes the other way, and Gordon gets fouled by Eddie Jones in the corner while shooting a three. That grammar sucked, but so did the defense. Shaq’s back, and Gordon misses two of three. Disgusting. One-point game. Shaq misses, the Bulls come up with it. Deng turns it over. Wade gets fouled, winds up sleeping with the photographers. Bricks the first, leaves the second short. The heat have missed 15 free throws. But Deng commits an offensive foul and the Bulls have now committed 276 turnovers, which offsets it somewhat.

Shaq gets blocked by Wallace on a hook, Shaq gets it back, misses, and Wallace gets the board while laying in the paint. Kinrich scores on a floater, and the Bulls lead by one. Another rebound, and Deng hits a jumper. Bulls up three, off a 10-0 run. Time out, Miami. 82-79 Bulls with 7:58 to go.

Anything can happen, sure, but the Heat ARE aware that white signals surrender, right?

Haslem misses an open elbow jumper, Shaq misses a point-blank putback, and gets fouled on the follow-up. Brick, brick, Wallace rebound. Shaq’s 3-12 from the line. Duhon misses a three, Wade gets a rebound, and Deng is called for his fifth away from the ball on Haslem. Bad news for the Bulls. Deng takes a seat for Nocioni. Wade hits a ridiculous off-balance shot, Heat within 1. The Bulls counter with Gordon, who’s fouled in the paint by Posey. Both. Back to a three-point Bulls lead.

Wade’s pass is picked off off a Wallace deflection, Hinrich hits a three in transition, the Bulls are up six, and the Heat call time with 6:16 to go in the game.

Mike Tirico reminds us that the Heat were in a deeper hole in Game Three of the Finals last year. Yes, but…

Posey hits the elbow jumper, Nocioni gets swatted by Shaq on an ill-advised shot, and Nocioni fouls Haslem, his fifth. Haslem splits a pair from the line, three-point game. Hinrich comes back with a spinning fallaway in the lane, Bulls lead back to five with five minutes to go.

Wade turns it over on another Wallace deflection, and Gordon scores on a high floater over Shaq to push the Bulls lead back to seven. Wade misses, Wallace rebounds, and there’s another time out with 4:13 to go.

Gordon drives the lane, challenging Posey AND Shaq, and draws the foul on Posey, his third. Gordon heads back to the line. Both. Bulls up nine, under four minutes.

Shaq in the paint, off the front of the rim and in. Bulls walk it back up, burning clock, and Posey flattens Gordon off a roll into the lane. Gordon may be a little shaken up. But he’s already got 25, and he sinks them both. Back to nine, 3:25 to go.

Shaq knocks down Ben Wallace (flop, perhaps) and lays it in. No call. Posey fouls Kirk Hinrich in the backcourt—an odd move—with 3:10 to go. Hirk hits a pair. Posey misses a long jumper, Gordon comes up with it, and misses a corner three. Shaq gets it, and Wade hits a contested jumper from up top. And it’s hack-a-Ben time for the next 27 seconds. He hits the first, and not the second. Good enough.

Wade scores on the putback of his own shot, and the Heat foul Wallace again with 2:14 to go. Misses the first badly, hits the second. Wade puts up a three, is fouled by Hinrich (four) and goes to the line for three. He misses the first, and is 2 of 8 from the line. Astounding. Somewhere, Dirk Nowitzki is shaking his leonine head. He hits the second, and the third. 99-94 with two minutes left.

Gordon misses from up top, Duhon gets the rebound, and they reset. Wade forces a backcourt violation with 1:35 to go. Wade with a turnaround from the elbow, splash. 99-96 with 1:25 to go. Time out, Chicago.

No Ben Wallace, no Shaq, no Zo.

Gordon called for a charge running into Walker, Bulls turnover with 1:07 to go. Fourth on BG.

Wade misses a tough shot, Nocioni comes down with it, and Wade fouls Hinrich in the backcourt with 51.4 seconds left. Bulls are the first to 100, as Hinrich hits both. Five-point Bulls lead. Wade comes back, misses over Deng, and the ball goes out of bounds to Miami. And Walker charges through Nocioni with a return offensive foul.

Bulls play keep-away, and Deng is finally hammered with five on the shot clock and 18.7 on the game clock—a flagrant foul on Antoine Walker. Two shots and the ball for the Bulls, and that’s probably the game and the series. Deng makes one of two, and the Bulls inbound to Deng, who’s immediately fouled again. Back to the line up six with 18 seconds even. Both. And time out, Heat. Down eight, with 18 seconds.

Wade misses a three, Deng rebounds, and that’s a wrap. Ballgame. Final score, 104-96. The Heat hadn’t lost in 26 straight games when leading at the half in the playoffs, now they have. and now they’re down 3-0, a deficit no team has ever come back from. One hesitates to declare the series over, as it IS the defending champs, but it’s hard to accept any other conclusion.

POSTGAME ANALYSIS

Can’t say I expected this. I knew the Heat were aging, slow and perhaps motivationally challenged, but I figured the sea of white-shirted fans (and friendlier grey-shirted refs)—oh, and Shaquille O’Neal—wouldn’t let them lose Game Three. Because teams don’t climb out of 3-0 holes (70-something tries and counting), even if they’re the defending champs.

But there were things I didn’t count on—namely the Bulls’s resiliency (after an ugly turnover-filled stretch in the second and third quarters, they were able to bounce back without deviating from their game plan) and the Heat’s shocking inability to hit a free throw (whatever Shaq has must be contagious, he went 3-12 and Wade went 4-10—they missed 19 as a team).

It’s still hard to imagine a Bulls sweep, but here it is, just one game away from becoming a reality. I thing the Heat—mainly Shaq—have too much pride to fall in four. Wade won’t be that bad from the line again, and you can pretty much count on James Posey flagranting the hell out of someone.

But either way, this series is over, and Pat Riley’s decision to come back with the same team to try again was obviously a sentimental move gone tremendously wrong. One only needs to look at 38-year-old Gary Payton, recipient of two consecutive DNP-CDs—the first ever in his long playoff experience—even as the Bulls guards continue to chop up the Heat defense. Once the premier perimeter defender in the game, the Glove has been discarded. And guys like Alonzo Mourning and Eddie Jones can only deliver in short spurts.

Meanwhile, the Bulls continue to bounce back. This time it was Ben Gordon who took an early seat due to foul trouble, but he got back on track to help stick the dagger in at the end. Luol Deng continues to get open for easy 20-footers. And they were able to withstand a near-perfect Miami stretch where the Heat didn’t turn the ball over for over 24 minutes of play.

This is also where Ben Wallace’s value has become apparent. He’s made every key deflection, grabbed rebounds from the floor, defended Shaq in the post about as well as one man can. He’s even made the Heat pay when he’s been allowed to drive to the basket, and shot no worse than expected from the free throw line (although that’s pretty bad).

Bring on Detroit.