An hour away from tip-off, and I’m already antsy. Guess this is the playoffs.
Despite the outcome of Game One, I’m sticking with the ritual: game shorts, white tee, Perrier Lime* (can I get some kind of endorsement deal?). They were good enough to get me through the first round, and I won’t bail on them just because of one bad game.
*NOTE: The deli across the street from me was inexplicably out of Perrier Lime, so I bought regular Perrier instead. If the Bulls do lose, I’m suing Perrier AND the deli.
The Pistons have to be supremely confident heading into Game Two, though. Not only did they beat the Bulls in the first game, they blew them out without going outside their system. They beat the Bulls at their own game, hustling to rebounds and hitting midrange jumpers.
It’s funny, too—there’s so much talk about the Bulls needing a scoring big, but it was the guard play that killed them against the Pistons in Game One. Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich couldn’t handle Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, and one of them (Gordon this time) once again found himself in early foul trouble. In order for the Bulls to compete in this series, something’s gonna have to change in that department, whether it means Luol Deng switching over to Hamilton, or Thabo Sefolosha putting in some big minutes on either Rip or Chauncey.
The Chicago bench as a whole was embarrassing in the first game—it was like the Heat series never happened. Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas looked every bit like rookies, and Andres Nocioni played what may have been the worst game of his entire life. I expect more from him tonight. Much more.
As for Detroit, they just have to come out and play their game again. I can’t imagine them making too many adjustments after Game One—why mess with success? When you have Chris Webber running the floor for dunks and Jason Maxiell dominating the paint, you must be doing something right. And, at the Palace, it’s a game they’re supposed to win.
Still, as a Bulls fan, I understand that Chicago NEEDS this game. No matter what they say about a series not starting until a team wins on the road, I don’t think the Bulls want to go back to Chicago needing to win four of five to advance. I won’t Dirk myself—this series isn’t necessarily over if the Bulls lose. But a win would sure be nice.
(Hey TNT, can I get a pregame show? I understand that Law & Order reruns are your bread and butter, but damn.)
Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins again. Doug comes right out and says that the Bulls have to win tonight to have a chance in the series. Sweet.
Deng misses his first shot, Detroit rebounds, and Rasheed scores right over Ben in the post. Ben can’t return the favor, and Webber gets a layup and the foul (P.J. Brown). 5-0, Ice.
Gordon misses from the perimeter and the Pistons are back on the attack. Billups misses, Webber gets it back for the Pistons, and Rasheed Wallace dunks all over the Bulls front line. That’s two on P.J., and the Pistons lead 8-0.
Detroit’s gone zone already. Gordon drops a three off a broken play, and the Bulls are on the board. Rasheed gets tagged with an offensive foul (on a classic Nocioni flop), and Ben Wallace gets a layup inside from Hinrich. 8-5. Ben Wallace causes a steal, feeds a cutting Ben Gordon, and he’s fouled hard.
I didn’t mention this in my notes from Game One, but plenty of other people did, and I agree: Detroit fans’s treatment of Ben Wallace has been deplorable. After all he did for that franchise? Not saying you gotta cheer the guy, but booing him resoundingly every time he touches the ball seems like a bit much.
Great. Ben Gordon has to take a seat because his knee is bleeding. I HATE the blood rule. Damn you, Magic Johnson (and you too, Karl Malone). And Rip Hamilton scores on a driving layup. Webber rebounds a Bulls miss, and Prince drops a jumper in the lane. 12-7 Detroit.
Nocioni—who seems to have misplaced his goatee—travels on the perimeter. Gotta take the three, Chapu. Rip bodies up to Kirk and just shoots over the top. 14-7 Detroit with 7:28 to go in the first.
Nocioni misses a three, and BG is back. Tayshaun misses, the Bulls get their first rebound (!) of the game., and promptly turn it over. Tayshaun gets an easy layup on a SICK feed from Mr. Big Shot. Nocioni finally scores, and then tangles up with Prince, causing a Piston turnover. Deng gets a dunk (from Nocioni) and the Bulls are within five, 16-11.
Webber over Ben Wallace. He’s tricky. And Wallace gets fouled underneath by Chauncey and heads to the line. One of two.
Tayshaun hits a jumphook in the lane over Gordon, and the Bulls turn it right back over with a travel. Webber rebounds a miss, scores, and the Pistons are uo 10, 22-12. Until Wallace gets a dunk two seconds later. And Billups hits his first field goal from the corner. Detroit keeps coming at you.
Oh my God, it’s Michael Sweetney. That’s not a moon…it’s a backup center. He makes Jerome James look like Nicole Richie.
Another great feed from Billups into the lane, this time to Hamilton coming off a free-throw line curl, who scores on a leaner. Beautiful. Another Bulls miss, and Webber drops an and-1 in the lane over an overmatched and overfed Sweetney. Yikes. Time out, Chicago. Detroit’s doubled up, 28-14. Make it 29.
Enter Thabo Sefolosha.
Doug Collins helpfully points out that the Pistons are shooting 72 percent. They also have 29 points with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Some defensive effort. Scott Skiles might actually explode soon. Rasheed, for three. 32-16. Gordon misses a three, and the Pistons actually can’t convert and Chicago gets a rebound! Gordon drives the length of the floor and is fouled by Webber. Hits a pair.
Sneakernerdness (with apologies to Peter King): I love that Chris Webber still wears Iversons. He’s been wearing AI’s signature joints since back in the Sac days, actually, so it’s not even an ex-teammate thing. Damn, remember when Webb had signature shoes of his own?
Michael Sweetney puts up an absolutely horrid hook in the paint. He gets the ball again the next time down, and is fouled by Rasheed. He promptly misses the first free throw. And the second. I kind of think Skiles going to Michael Sweetney this early is more of a surrender than Avery Johnson changing his lineup for Game One of the Mavs/Warriors series, but maybe that’s just me. I doubt it, though.
Billups hits a pair of free throws, Hinrich misses a 30-foot runner, and the first quarter ends with the Pistons up 34-18. DEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL
Maxiell and McDyess are in for the first time. Billups buries a three on a second possession, and it’s 37-18 Detroit. And then he hits another one to make it 40-18, and Tyrus Thomas commits an offensive foul, and I’d rather be watching just about anything else.
Billups misses on a long three—sheesh—but McDyess rebounds and gets it to Hamilton who goes to the line. Both. 42-18, Pistons.
Nocioni sinks a nice little shot in the paint that slices the lead to 22. The Bulls get it back, Nocioni misses a step-in 20-footer, Deng rebounds, and gets fouled hard on the putback by Maxiell, who picks up a T to boot. Gordon hits the technical, and Deng hits a pair. Unorthodox three-point play. Rip misses, and Maxiell picks up his second foul on the rebound. Back to the bench, psycho.
Gordon’s fouled by Lindsey Hunter on the perimeter, and Dick Bavetta gives BG a consoling hug. And then Nocioni travels again.
Webber from 18. 44-23, Pistons.
Nocioni turns it over yet again, but Detroit turns it over right back. Time out.
Ah, split screen interviews. David Aldridge plays Jennie Finch except for the blood rule question. And oh, God, more about referee racists. LET IT GO. You’re better than this, DA.
Oh hey, there’s a game going on. Someone on the Bulls scored somehow, and Webber turns it over. Nocioni gives it right back as he misses a three. But the Bulls play some decent defense and cause a 24-second violation. Duhon misses a three from the corner, but Gordon redirects it up top to Nocioni who hits his first three of the series. 44-28, Pistons.
But of course Ben Gordon picks up his third foul (with 6:22 to go in the second) and heads to the bench, and Rasheed finds Prince on a backdoor cut for a nasty left-handed dunk on Big Ben. Tayshaun is long. Deng comes back with a jumper in the lane—where has that been?
ENOUGH OF THE SPLIT SCREEN. LET ME WATCH THE DAMN GAME. I HATE YOU TNT.
Tayshaun hits a J, I think. And Ben Wallace airballs a layup from two feet away. Maybe it was those David Blaine magnets. Rasheed commits his third foul, complains a lot. He angrily takes a seat.
Duhon to Big Ben, who converts and the foul. Nicely done. And he completes the three-point play. 49-33, Pistons.
Hinrich picks up his second foul, which is nice, because otherwise no one would realize he was even out there. Then Deng bumps Tayshaun for his second. Prince goes to the line with 4:27 to go in the half. 51-33. These are NOT the Larry Brown Pistons.
Webber joins the two-foul club, sending Nocioni to the line, One of two. 51-34. Billups tries a behind-the-back pass to a cutting Hamilton—too fancy—the Bulls recover, Hinrich misses a three, but Wallace gets fouled on the rebound. That’s three on Webber. But Big Ben misses both.
Billups misses a three, the Bulls run in transition, and Hinrich misses a three, leading to a loose-ball foul on Duhon. Good energy for Chicago, but the shots just aren’t falling. Credit the Detroit defense—and the constant pressure of their offense. Billups hits one of two.
Ben Wallace gets fouled again inside, and that’s three on Maxiell. Wallace hits both. And Billups picks up an offensive foul trying to go around a Dale Davis screen (he pushes Hinrich first). Time out.
Hinrich with a nice feed to Tyrus Thomas, who gets fouled by Davis. He knocks ‘em down. Chicago is chipping away. 52-38, Detroit. McDyess misses, and Ben Wallace hauls in a rebound. Chicago swarms inside, but comes up empty. And Rip goes glass inside over Duhon. Money.
Deng is fouled inside by Carlos Delfino and heads to the line. Both. They trap Billups just across midcourt, and the Pistons call time. McDyess scores off the inbounds. The Bulls almost turn it over, but instead get a corner three from Sefolosha. Big. Well, better than a turnover.
Rip Hamilton again from less than 10 feet. He loses Sefolosha off the dribble and hits over a closing Ben Wallace. Man. Detroit by 15 at the half, 58-43. And Ben Wallace leads the Bulls with 12 points. That’s a problem.
Charles Barkley: “Well, they can’t beat ‘em.”
Prince misses, Gordon doesn’t, and the Bulls have it back to 13. Until Chris Webber hits a jumper. Deng misses a floater off glass, Prince rebounds, and Webber gives the Pistons a second chance that Prince converts. Second-chance points are murdering the Bulls. On the other end, Webber picks up his fourth foul, though, trying to contain P.J. Brown. He misses the first, hits the second. Webber sits for McDyess.
Billups misses a three, Hinrich gets the rebound on the run, but Deng can’t hit, and the Pistons come back down and Prince scores again. Detroit rebounds another Bulls miss, but Gordon and Wallace trap Billups into a travel. And Hinrich drives into Rasheed, tagging Wallace with his fourth as well. Enter Maxiell. Hinrich hits one of two, Brown rebounds the miss, and is fouled by McDyess. He hits a pair.
Prince misses a three, Maxiell gets a man’s rebound and is fouled in the paint by Ben Wallace, his first. One of two. Hinrich misses a runner, then gets drilled by Maxiell right after fouling him. That had to hurt.
The Bulls get it back, Gordon misses a three, and Wallace rebounds and is fouled by Rip. Back to the line. One of two. 65-50, Detroit.
Maxiell gets it down deep, and Wallace blocks it out of bounds. Good play. But Rip hits a jumper anyway. Deng misses, Rip rebounds, and the Pistons get another multiple-shot possession. Time out.
McDyess misses out of the time out, the Bulls rebound, and Gordon is called for a palming violation. Turnover. Collins notes that the Bulls are three of 13 from three, shooting 33 percent overall. And Maxiell scores on the other end, The lead is back to 19.
P.J. Brown bad pass turnover, Rip Hamilton good shot score. On a rebound, of course. Right smack dab in the middle of the paint. 71-50, Detroit.
Hinrich drives, and gets whacked by McDyess. No layups. One of two, out of bounds to Detroit.
Deng, from outside, good.
Deng from the free-throw line, not good.
Sefolosha blankets Prince, who hits a jump hook anyway, and Gordon comes right back down and hits a quick three. Haven’t seen much of that so far. Prince drives straight down the lane and is called for a charge on Ben Wallace. But they get right back on offense, and Hamilton gets an open look at a three on a Billups pass. Bottoms. 76-56 Detroit with 3:25 to go in the third.
The Detroit zone is more effective than the Chicago zone right now. Sefolosha travels. Detroit turns it over right back, but the Bulls can’t capitalize. Another Piston turnover, and Deng gets an easy dunk in transition. And of course Prince comes back with a zone-busting three.
The Bulls get a pair of free throws, Prince misses a three, but McDyess keeps it alive, and Rip hits a three from the corner. The Bulls gets two back, and the Pistons turn it over with six seconds to go. Hinrich gets a look at a three from up top, but can’t hit. 83-62 Detroit after three.
Right out of the gate, Rasheed Wallace picks up his fifth foul, sending Tyrus Thomas to the line. Exit Rasheed. He’s only played 16 minutes tonight. Not that it’s mattered much. One of two for Thomas. Detroit comes up empty, and Hamilton fouls Gordon on the perimeter. And the ball winds up going inside to Thomas, who scores over McDyess and draws the foul. He hits from the line, and it’s 83-66.
Lindsey Hunter misses a long jumper, Sefolosha rebounds, and Duhon finds Thomas on the run with a long alley-oop. 83-68, and the Pistons call for time.
Tyrus Thomas with a block on a driving Prince, but the Bulls can’t capitalize on the other end as Thomas and Deng both go down hard on the play. But at least Thomas appears to be on track. Welcome to Detroit, Tyrus.
Tayshaun, happy feet on the perimeter. Turnover.
Wow. Some terrific ball movement ending in a Thomas dunk. 83-70. Chicago stays in the zone, Thomas jumps out at McDyess, who draws the foul and knocks down the short baseline jumper. The crafty veteran outfoxes the eager rookie. Old story. Back to 16 with 8:46 to go.
The Bulls go to Thomas again, who’s fouled underneath by McDyess. Back to the line goes Tyrus. One of two. And Webber comes back with a “jump” hook (he doesn’t really jump).
McDyess, fifth foul. Deng to the line. Nocioni checks back in, as does Delfino. Deng hits both, Pistons by 15. And Webber hits another jump hook, then steals it from Nocioni in the corner. Delfino catches a hard foul underneath, hits one of two.
Deng drives straight into the lane and is fouled by Delfino. The Pistons have 247 team fouls in the quarter. Deng is perfect from the line so far, and remains so. Gordon tries to draw a charge on Billups at midcourt and gets laid out for his troubles (and tagged with foul number four).
Webber gets stripped by Thomas, Deng bobbles a fast break layup off the rim, but Thomas is there to dunk it back. But the Pistons come right back, as Webber hits while being fouled. He misses the free throw, and Nocioni comes right down and does the same thing. Webber’s got five fouls. Re-enter Rasheed with his five. 6:44 to go. Nocioni gets the extra—13-point game.
Rasheed, too deep. Dunks all over Thomas. The Bulls turn it over, Billups buries a three in transition, and the Palace is goin’ nuts. 98-80 Detroit with an impossibly long 6:18 to go. The Bulls vaunted defense is getting SHREDDED. I mean, there are actually hamsters living in it. Time out.
A minute passes without much happening.
Nocioni drives the lane and draws the sixth and final foul on Rasheed Wallace with 5:06 to go. Nocioni hits one of two.
Billups pulls up for three and instead fires it in to a cutting Prince, who gets fouled by Thomas (five) underneath. One of two for Tayshaun.
Nocioni shoots a pullup no-dribble three over Delfino that misses badly, and Delfino misses a three right back. Maxiell commits his fifth foul on the rebound. And oh man—Malik Allen, Chris Duhon and Adrian Griffin. Exit Kirk Hinrich, who didn’t hit a field goal all night. 4:21 to go.
Delfino, airball. Malik Allen gets blocked by Webber on the baseline.
The Pistons are stuck on 99.
Under three minutes. And back to 15 points.
Webber gets goaltended by Tyrus Thomas, and the Pistons are in triple digits, 101-84. Thomas misses a free-throw line jumper, Delfino rips down the rebound, and the Pistons call a 20 with 1:54 left.
AG fouls Rip. Showbiz is not available for comment.
Duhon, one of two. Maxiell, layup in traffic. And I’m pretty sure Kevin Harlan just called Adrian Griffin “Eddie Griffin.” The Bulls could actually use him at this point—where is he?
Lindsey Hunter sticks an F-U three. Jerk. Allen scores on the other end, and that’s it. Final score, 108-87. Sheesh. That’s six straight playoff wins for the Pistons, and they’ve barely even been threatened yet. These guys are good.
Um, if you’ve read this far you’re probably pretty tired, so I won’t belabor the obvious. Detroit is the far superior team right now, and they’re playing like it. Chicago can’t stop Detroit’s bigs inside, Billups and Hamilton continue to have their way with Hinrich and Gordon on the perimeter, and the Bulls’s shots just aren’t falling. Oh yeah, and they’re not getting many offensive rebounds.
Other than that, they’re playing awesome.
Positives for the Bulls? They’re going home. And Tyrus Thomas had a bit of a breakout game tonight, even though it didn’t happen until the game was more or less out of reach.
I almost feel like sweeping the Heat was the worst thing the Bulls could have done—it made the Pistons that much more determined to shut the Bulls down in the first two games. And they did exactly that.
Thursday is gonna be huge. I’ll be here for ya.