GAME NOTES: Bulls v. Heat, Game One

by April 22, 2007
5

PREGAME

It’s Jon Barry and Mike Breen on the microphones today. Barry has consistently expressed his confidence in the Heat (I actually started to think that he played for them at one point, but apparently not), so I don’t feel so bad openly rooting for the Bulls. Um, not that I did anyway.

The Sprite ad where LeBron (in tuxedo) paintballs a giant tongue STILL creeps me the hell out. Who thought that was a good idea, and how is it still airing?

Dwyane Wade went to the line three times during pre-game shootaround and twice in the layup line.

Hey, what do you know, it’s a Pussycat Dolls remix. How hip and clever.

I hate opening at home during the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, home court advantage is great—and something you hope for all year. But it puts the pressure on from the start. Game One becomes a must-win game. I think it’s better to open on the road as the underdog, especially since Game One always seems to be the most stealable road game. Ask the Nets. (I think I still have nightmares from Game One of the 1991 Finals when a Sam Perkins three gave the Lakers a win in Chicago—and they went on to WIN that series.)

FIRST QUARTER

Luol Deng with the first basket, in the paint. He’s gonna be their best post scorer in the playoffs most likely, for good or bad. And the Heat’s best post scorer responds—um, Shaq. Gordon comes right back with a jumper, and P.J. Brown uses a foul on the Diesel.

Wade misses—does he look tentative?—and Gordon drives all the way to the basket and gets fouled. The Bulls are already being more assertive than they were in the Jersey game the other night. Maybe they actually WANTED to lose and face Miami in the first round? Conspiracy!

Shaq again. There’s no good or easy answer to him. Ben Wallace responds on the other end with a signature awkward shot. Haslem miss, horrific Hinrich three, and Deng is there to clean it up. Shaq misses a tough shot, and BG is fouled by Eddie Jones. A Heat series with Eddie Jones and P.J. Brown starting? Where are the Knicks?

Luol again. He’s got 6, That’s a 12-4 Bulls lead, and the Heat need a time out. So far Dwyane Wade’s best performance has come in the T-Mobile commercials.

And…Wade free throws, a steal, and a Wade assist for a Shaq dunk. Hinrich misses a three, the Heat corral the rebound, and Wade gets a layup. Aaaaand, it’s 12-10. It’s pointed out that the Bulls don’t have a back-to-the-basket post player. WE KNOW.

Ben Wallace goes to the line, and half the sellout crowd closes their eyes. He misses both. And Antoine Walker joins the party to a chorus of boos. “The Bulls fans have been very good at booing early,” Breen notes.

Wade has a dunk attempt partially blocked by P.J. (I thought Dwyane wasn’t dunking anymore?) but Shaq recovers it, dunks himself, and is fouled by Brown. Who goes out for Andres Nocioni. Shaq misses two attempts to get one (thanks to a Chicago lane violation) and we’re tied at 12. Foul on Wade, foul on Hinrich. That’s two on Kirk, and he’s out for Chris Duhon.

Toine in to Shaq for yet another dunk. He’s got 10, the Heat lead 14-12. This could be a problem. Nocioni responds with a layup, Eddie Jones bricks a three, as does Ben Gordon (but not quite as badly). Dwyane Wade is apparently not afraid to go to the basket. He misses the layup, but hits a pair of free throws.

Bulls turnover, Shaq runs over Ben Wallace and comes back upcourt with a broad smile. Yeah, it might have been a flop. Shaq exits for Alonzo Mourning. And James Posey checks in to even more boos than Walker got.

A list of Luol Deng bullets includes: “Taught basketball by Manute Bol.” He came out pretty well all things considered.

Antoine Walker, for three. He shot 27 percent from three for the season, but apparently that doesn’t mean much to him. Um, not that I expected it to. Heat up five, Bulls call time out.

I just lost a few minutes worth of observations because Microsoft Word unexpectedly quit. It does that a lot. Hence why I’m not a Blazer fan.

Duhon draws a second foul on Jason Kapono in as many minutes. And Tyrus Thomas checks in for the first time with a minute and a half to go. Duhon hits one of two. And Walker responds with another three. The Bulls push it, and Gordon earns a trip to the line.

Kapono takes an off-balance sideline three that misses badly, and an ABC mike picks up a fan yelling “NICE SHOT, BUDDY!” Awesome. The Bulls can’t convert, the Heat hold for a last shot, and a Walker floater is erased by a charge. Good play by Duhon—who then finds Big Ben inside for a layup at the buzzer. Assuming it counts—which it definitely will—the Heat lead by one after one.

SECOND QUARTER

Toine opens the second with ANOTHER three. This is not good for Bulls fans. And even better, Hinrich picks up his third foul on a Payton drive. Back to the bench with Kirk less than a minute into the second quarter. Walker finds Shaq, and BG comes back with an instant response. O’Neal can’t score, and Gordon gets two more. 33-31, Heat.

Walker misses a deep two, and Gordon misses a wide-open three,

Nocioni’s got a pair of blocks in this quarter, and Bulls fan favorite James Posey has a pair of fouls. To the bench with you, James.

Ben Gordon throws an entry pass to an unsuspecting usher. And Thabo Sefolosha is in a playoff game for the first time. The Heat turn it over, and Gordon comes back with a breathtaking Statue of Liberty travel.

There’s a lot of missing going on, stopped by a Ben Gordon stop and pop. Bulls smalls are dropping to double Shaq, and the Heat guards aren’t making them pay. Deng scores again, and it’s all tied up at 37.

P.J. picks up his third foul on one of those patented Wade-to-Shaq alley-oops. Shaq gets one of two. I’m not sure if I can handle an entire series of Shaq and Wallace free throw attempts.

Shaq gets a rebound amongst four Bulls and just goes back up and dunks it. He’s got 17—but gets called for a block on Sefolosha on the other end, and that’s three fouls on the Diesel.

A helpful graphic reveals that Dwyane Wade is the only member of the Heat on the floor who’s scored. He’s got 10. Make that 12 as he goes glass.

Udonis Haslem is on the board.

And James Posey gets a technical as he’s sitting on the bench! One can only assume that this is a Joey Crawford tribute. As Posey’s response is to laugh, hopefully he gets thrown out next.

Wallace blocks Mourning, and a Nocioni three gives the Bulls a one-point lead with 2:42 to go in the first half. The fans respond accordingly.

I think they’ve called Nocioni “one of the most fearless players in the League” twice now.

Deng gets a block on Wade that should have been called a goaltend, the Bulls run out, and a Sefolosha layup with four-tenths left gives them a 49-46 halftime lead. It would be nice to have a bigger lead, but given Hinrich’s foul-limited playing time and the defensive lapses in the first quarter, things could be MUCH worse.

HALFTIME

Following a disgusting segment where Dwyane Wade picks his top five combo guards, Dan Patrick states “and by saying combo guard, we’re saying offense and defense.” Um, Dan? I always thought a combo guard was someone who played both guard spots. But maybe that’s just me.

Nice hat, Tracy.

Gotta run out for a few, so I might miss the start of the third. Hopefully not.

THIRD QUARTER

Or I’ll miss almost ALL of the third. 2:42 left and the Bulls have stretched the lead to 11. Apparently the threes are falling, and Ben Gordon has a career-high 11 assists. Maybe I should go back out just to be safe.

Tyrus Thomas politely escorts a Gary Payton floater off the court, then does the same to Posey—and predictably is on the receiving end of an alley-oop when they go the other way. The lead is back to 11, the joint is jumpin’, and the Heat call for time.

The Heat have three field goals and six turnovers in the quarter. Gordon sinks a long jumper, and Walker comes back with his fourth three.

Big Ben is fouled underneath by Walker with 3.7 seconds left, and the Bulls inbound. All things considered, the Heat would probably rather see Wallace go to the line. Doesn’t matter, as Gordon misfires on a long three to end the quarter. It’s 72-62 Bulls after three. The Chicago D has definitely clamped down, allowing 18 points in the second quarter and 16 in the third.

FOURTH QUARTER

I’m sick of that Pussycat Dolls song already, and it’s only the first day of the playoffs. It’s gonna be a loooooong postseason.

Tyrus Thomas is not a back-to-the-basket post player yet. Shaquille O’Neal is. 72-64. Deng comes back with a pretty reverse layup—that’s 26 for Deng—as Barry and Breen talk about the Heat.

Kirk scores his first basket of the day. Yes, that’s right. And they’re still up 10. Payton shoves Hinrich underneath and picks up a loose ball foul. Wade is back in with four fouls—Shaq has four as well.

Wade almost hands the ball to Hinrich on a bad dribble, collects himself, and sinks the jumper. On the other end Wallace appears to travel, but instead Shaq gets called for the push. That’s five on the Diesel. If Shaq fouls out trying to guard Ben Wallace—well, that’ll be pretty funny.

Right out of the ensuing timeout, Wade picks up his fifth trying to guard Deng. He sits down with almost eight and a half to go, Bulls up eight. Walker is fouled in the post by Thomas. Hits both.

Kirk swats Walker, and Eddie Jones runs over Ben Gordon. That’s four team fouls on Miami. Nocioni checks back in for Thomas. Deng gets fouled on a drive by Posey, his third. The Bulls get their first free throws of the SECOND HALF, and as the Heat are over the limit, they should go back again soon. A chant of “PO-SEY SUCKS!” (he committed the foul) is audible on the telecast.

Walker misses a three, so does Nocioni. So does Posey. Next! Hinrich, apparently. No more threes!

Nope. Haslem gets ahead, dunks. Six point game with 6:20 to play.

I’ve definitely seen Dwyane Wade more in commercials than I have in the game.

Jason Williams hits his first shot of the day and comes down wincing. The Bulls fail to convert, Walker earns another trip to the line, and the Heat have cut the Bulls lead to two with 5:17 to go and Wade and Shaq on the bench. This, as they say, is not good for the Bulls.

Eddie Jones, charge. And here comes the Diesel (and Wade) with 4:58 to go. Ben Gordon puts the Bulls up five with a runner, and Nocioni hits a three in transition to push it back to eight. Dwyane Wade, your five is not hot.

Worth noting that Ben Gordon has 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. I don’t know for sure who the last Bull to get a triple-double in the playoffs was, but his name probably starts with “Michael” and ends with “Jordan.” Or maybe it was Pippen. I’ll have to look it up. (Couldn’t find any relevant records—other than the fact that Pippen and Jordan did post multiple playoff triple-doubles.)

Jason Williams for three.

Nocioni drive, O’Neal stands in to take the charge, but is in the circle. That’s six on the Diesel, AND the basket counts. Shaq attaqed. 87-79 Bulls, 3:09.

Wade with a SICK floater off glass. And BG with an offensive foul, only his second. And Wade hits again, a fallaway. 87-83, Bulls. Deng responds with a corner jumper, his 30th point of the day.

Wade breaks Kirk with a crossover, but loses the ball to Deng, who goes two-on-one with Nocioni, gete the ball back from Noc, gets hit hard, and still hits the layup. And 1. That’s 33 for Deng, and the Bulls are back up nine. They haven’t been able to put the Heat away—as Barry helpfully points out again and again—but every time the Heat draw close, they pull away again.

“A complete team effort by the Chicago Bulls and they look like they’re in good shape to win Game One.” Thanks, Jon.

And of course Williams hits a three, and Hinrich commits an offensive foul (his fifth). And Wade hits ANOTHER floater high off the glass, plus the foul by Sefolosha (who’s done a pretty good job on Wade all game). 92-89 Bulls with 1:22 to go. Yeah, I’m a little nervous. More Luol Deng, please.

Oh boy. Wade with a terrific assist to Haslem, One-point game with under a minute. Nocioni misses, but Wallace keeps the possession alive (something he’s excelled at all year), getting the rebound to Deng, Gordon is fouled with 18.9 left, and hits both. 94-91, Bulls. Time out, Heat.

Wade catches the inbound, fires up a deep three early in the shot clock that bounces off the rim and off the shot clock (apparently after the game both Riley and Wade claimed that he was trying to bank it in on purpose). Hinrich was right in his face—tough shot. The Heat foul Nocioni with 9.8 seconds to go, and he hits the first. Two-possession game. He rattles home the second, too.

The Heat push it up, but not fast enough. Kapono’s three attempt from the corner rattles out, and Game One goes to the Bulls, 96-91.

POSTGAME

Not on ABC. They cut away roughly 27 seconds after the game ends to get to the network swill already in progress.

24 HOURS LATER

Figured I’d give these notes some time to marinate before I made any assessments (not that I’m gonna go back and read them again).

The Bulls have to feel pretty good right now. Despite the fact that they lost Hinrich for much of the game due to foul trouble, they handled their business at home. The rookies (Sefolosha and Thomas) played exceptionally well as first-timers in the postseason—and Sefolosha particularly is a look that Wade has never seen before. His length will definitely make things interesting. And obviously Gordon and Deng were more than ready to get the postseason started. Ditto for Ben Wallace, who kept countless balls alive to get his team extra possessions.

The Heat? They’re kind of old. Wade doesn’t seem to be favoring anything much—he still throws himself headlong into the paint—and Walker shot better than he did in most of the regular season. It’s probably safe to say that Shaq won’t be taking too many more charges. (What’s a guy as big as Shaq trying to do taking charges anyway?) The funny part is that the Heat made their best run with Shaq and Wade on the bench due to foul trouble.

Speaking about fouls, the officiating? Not so good.

Anyway, there’s nothing I saw that made me want to change my mind about the series outcome. I’m still riding with the Bulls. Running with the Bulls? Something, anyway.