Game Notes: Heat at Bulls
A Chi-Town reunion.
by Bryan Crawford
The City of Chicago has produced a lot of basketball talent throughout the years. Sadly, only a handful—or better yet, a thimbleful of the talent here actually makes it out of their neighborhood, or off their block and goes on to make their athletic gifts work for them.
Saturday night in the United Center, three of the best players to ever come out of the city (all from the southside, no less) put their skills on display when the Miami Heat led by Dwyane Wade and Quentin Richardson came to town to face Derrick Rose and the Bulls.
The Bulls, coming off a five-game winning streak the week before now found themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Saturday night’s game would be their fourth in five nights and they really needed a victory against Miami to avoid putting up a donut in the win column for the week.
Miami on the other hand came into Chicago losers of four straight and were looking to get things turned around against the team they’d already beaten back in November.
For the Bulls, the big story of the day was the one game suspension of Tyrus Thomas for “conduct detrimental” to the team although nobody in the organization would go on record about the incident. “It’s an internal matter. Gar [Forman] and myself will handle it… No one player is bigger than the team and there’s a responsibility to do things right,” said coach Vinny Del Negro before the game. Given the contentious relationship that exists between VDN and Thomas, it wasn’t hard to figure out exactly what happened that led to Thomas’ one game dismissal from the team.
Lindsey Hunter, whose locker is right next to Thomas’ (before games you’ll usually see the two talking to one another) had a throng of media asking him questions about the young, enigmatic player before the game. This is out of the norm for the 16-year veteran who hardly ever has the press ask him anything at all anymore.
When asked about Tyrus being out and the impact it’ll have on the shorthanded Bulls frontcourt with Joakim Noah being sidelined with plantar fasciitis (who was at the game wearing a walking boot on his foot), Hunter quipped, “Well, I can do some work at the four position. My shot blocking isn’t there, but everything else I think I can handle.” He took a more serious tone when asked about the maturation of Thomas. “We all have areas in our life we need to grow up in. As long as you realize it and you constantly work on those things, eventually you conquer your own demons. I think that’s a battle within he has to work on.” Those words were spoken like a guy who we’ll probably see on the sidelines in a suit and holding a white board in the near future.
Meanwhile in the Heat locker room, the subject of conversation was ticket requests. With newly acquired Heat guard Rafer Alston ear-hustling nearby, Daequan Cook was talking to Dorell Wright and wondering who had the largest ticket request between Dwyane Wade and Quentin Richardson. As Richardson emerged from a backroom, the conversation went something like this:
Daequan Cook: Yo Q, who had to get more tickets tonight, you or Flash?
Quentin Richardson: [Silent, doesn’t answer]
Daequan Cook: Yo Q! You got a lot of people here tonight?
Quentin Richardson: A couple.
Daequan Cook: [Laughs sarcastically] A couple.
Skip: I had to get 17 tickets.
Daequan Cook: [Looks surprised] Seventeen tickets? You got family here?
Skip: Nah, but all my friends are family.
He’s right too. Back in December when Skip played for the Nets and they came to town, after the game he had at least 20 people waiting for him afterward.
The other thing that caught my eye in the Heat locker room was how much Jermaine O’Neal does before a game just to get ready to play. At one point he had some sort of contraption he was using to massage his thighs and quads. It made a weird vibrating sound and it looked like a pneumatic air tool used by a mechanic to remove lug nuts from tires. It made me realize how long he’s been in the League and how much mileage he actually has on his body, specifically his knees.
I also saw Tom Crean and the entire Indiana University basketball team outside of Miami’s locker room waiting for Dwyane Wade to come out so they could meet him. They were in town to play Northwestern University the following day. Because he’d cut his hair, I almost didn’t recognize Doc Rivers’ son Jeremiah who transferred from Georgetown to play for the Hoosiers.
The United Center hadn’t been packed to capacity since December when the Celtics and the Lakers came to town. When Dwyane Wade emerged from the locker room and took the floor for pre-game layups and the introduction of the starting line-ups, Bulls fans gave him the loudest ovation of any visiting player with the exception of Kobe Bryant. The Bulls couldn’t have asked for a better recruiting tool to try and convince Wade to come home to Chicago this summer.
But it was O’Neal and not Wade who stole the show in the first quarter. For all of the time it took JO to get ready, it was well worth it as he had an impressive quarter with 5 points and 8 rebounds. The Bulls as a team only grabbed 10 rebounds in the quarter.
Wade had 9 points including a baseline jam and Quentin Richardson contributed 8 points, 6 of those coming off of two deep three-point shots.
Meanwhile, Luol Deng continued to do what he’s been quietly doing all season which is playing efficient basketball. He led all scorers with 10 points and Derrick Rose contributed a very quiet 6 points. However the biggest contribution for the Bulls came from Chris Richard who joined the team Friday night in Atlanta and flew back to Chicago with the team.
Richard, who played for the Bulls in the pre-season but was later cut, came in and gave the team maximum hustle and effort on the glass and in help defense situations. His biggest play of the night came off a rebound and put back jam off a Derrick Rose missed floater in the lane.
After one, Miami leads 27-23.
Michael Beasley is somewhat of a forgotten man in the NBA Draft Class of 2008. I know he’s only in year two but so far he hasn’t projected out anywhere close to the player many people expected him to become since coming out of Kansas State. Especially when you compare him to Rose and what he’s done since being taken ahead of SupercoolBeas two years ago. I knew that all of the focus of the game would be on the Chicago trio, but I decided to give Beasley a hard look since I’ve written some not-so-nice things about him in the past and was adamantly against Chicago taking him with the top pick.
He proved me right in every regard.
For two quarters, Beasley literally gave the Heat nothing. By halftime his line was depressing: 0-6 from the field, 4 rebounds and 1 assist. There was some talk amongst writers if Beasley would actually benefit more from not playing with a guy like Dwyane Wade. I don’t subscribe to that theory at all. If anything, playing with Wade should actually make things easier for Beasley because Dwyane commands so much attention on the floor. All he has to do is rebound and make shots. I know that there’s time for him to get things turned around and his season numbers (16 points and 7 rebounds per game) actually hide the fact that he still seems to be playing well below his potential. This has led me to believe that we might be looking at the biggest No. 2 draft pick bust since Darko Milicic.
I’m probably going to get blasted for saying so but there, I said it.
After two quarters, Chicago leads Miami 49-42.
It may have been boring to watch, but this was a well played quarter by the Heat who were very efficient from the field going 9-16 (56.3 percent). With the exception of Wade who appeared to be coasting and not really playing aggressively (the Bulls would later attribute Wade’s struggles to good defense by Kirk Hinrich) and Quentin Richardson who played ten minutes and didn’t attempt a shot (!), the rest of the Heat players picked up the slack quite nicely.
Jermaine O’Neal continued his strong play scoring 6 points and grabbing 2 rebounds which gave him 15 points and 11 rebounds through three quarters.
The Bulls played a quarter to forget as they shot 6-20 from the field and Miami was able to capitalize, outscoring Chicago 27-20.
After three quarters, the game is tied at 69.
This was the most aggressive offensive quarter of basketball I’d seen Dwyane Wade play all night but it was to no avail as the team defense of Chicago made it difficult for him or the other Heat players to get anything going. He went 1-6 from the field in the final quarter and Miami only made one shot in the final three minutes of play. Jermaine O’Neal continued to do his best to carry his squad as he dropped 9 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, giving him 24 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks on the night but it wouldn’t be enough as the Bulls fought the Heat off at every turn and managed to squeeze out a 95-91 victory.
And back to Michael Beasley for a minute. His line for the night looked like this: 21 minutes, 2-11 from the field, 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block, and 4 turnovers.
For the Bulls it was a well earned victory against a Heat team that in all likelihood they shouldn’t have beaten. The win continues to solidify them as being the most enigmatic team in the League. They win games against teams that they shouldn’t beat and lose to teams that they shouldn’t have a problem with. But still, a win is a win. “We needed this one a lot. We had to win this game I’ll say. We were very focused coming in here…and Chris Richard helped us out a lot,” said Derrick Rose after the game.
He also seemed to be lobbying for an endorsement deal from Benadryl as well.
After Monday night’s loss against the Clippers, I saw Rose go into the shower area and come back out with a few tabs of Benadryl. I thought he wasn’t feeling well so I didn’t bother to ask him about it, but Friday night he explained what he had them for. When asked how he deals with having to play four games in five nights and the fatigue that comes from it, in a lighthearted moment Rose said, “All I gotta say is Benadryl. You find yourself getting off the plane and you’re up all night and trying to go to sleep but you can’t. Now every time I get off the plane, right when I get home I take a Benadryl and go right to sleep… Benadryl has helped me out a lot these past four games.”
When asked if he had an endorsement deal with the antihistamine maker Rose said, “Nah, nah…but they need to endorse me though. I’m putting them out there.”
For the Heat and being on the losing end of five straight games, their frustration was evident. “We’ve lost our way,” said Coach Erik Spoelstra. “We’ll find our way again. It doesn’t seem like it sometimes when you’re in a streak like this but our focus now has to be staying together, purity, a commitment to each other and the team and hold our ground until we turn the tide again. It was a tough loss tonight.”
His players agreed. Said Michael Beasley after the game, “First of all, I don’t think we should be anywhere under .500…we’ve taken our eyes off the big prize. We’ve just got to come in here and play together. The talent is there.”
The frustration of losing was clearly on the mind of Dwyane Wade as well. “Everyone who comes in has to give 110 percent. We are having too many lows. You can get away with that at home, but not when you’re on the road. Everybody, when they’re in there, has to carry their own weight. We can’t be a team that everybody knows what we’re going to do.”
Translation; the days of just get the ball to Flash and get out of the way are long gone. Teams are more focused on him now and they’re daring other guys to make plays. So far Miami hasn’t been able to do that on a consistent enough basis.
With the season and the future of their superstar guard hanging in the balance, it’s time for other guys on the team to step it up if the Miami Heat are going to go anywhere in the East and convince Wade to re-up for another four or five years in the process.
Mike Beasley, I’m talking to you.