Sweet Home, Chicago

by April 25, 2007
14

By Russ Bengtson

Bulls game shorts. Check.

Air Jordans (black XI lows). Check.

Playoff beard. Check.

(I might add that I’m a six-foot white guy with a shaved head, so I probably look like Dragan Tarlac’s mini-me.)

Large bottle of Perrier Lime. Check.

Solid pro-Bulls bias. Check. (Sorry Cheryl and whit hot eboy—I’ll try and be fair anyway.)

I believe I’m ready for this Game Two, other than the vicious head cold slash sinus infection combo that may cause me to occasionally hallucinate. Although the TNT crew will probably say things that I couldn’t even make up.

Lots of talk about Dwyane Wade pregame, most of it centering around his inability (or unwillingness) to guard Luol Deng. What? Isn’t Luol a small forward who’s like three inches taller than Dwyane? (Actually it’s five.) Doesn’t Dwyane already have his hands full with either Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon? Isn’t he already battling injuries? And what the heck is James Posey for then? I’m all for the best player stepping up on both ends of the floor, but that’s just stupid.

Hey, it’s Marv and Steve pulling double duty. Thank God. I assume they’re holding Kevin Harlan for the Laker game, which is appropriate enough. Hopefully they have someone standing behind him with a fire extinguisher throughout the broadcast.

Hey, it’s Steve Javie and Ken Mauer. Great.

FIRST QUARTER

Steve Kerr, Shaq apologist.

Late whistle on Ben Wallace trying to defend Shaq on the blocks. You want to talk about questionable calls? There’s one. “Miami was on the short end of the stick the first game,” says Kerr, “so maybe a few’ll fall their way.” (Something like that anyway.) Um, Steve? Kirk Hinrich played 19 minutes in game one because of fouls. Were those all legit?

The Bulls rebound better than any team without a seven-footer ever. Mainly because there probably hasn’t been another team without an active seven-footer since 1955.

Shaq, offensive foul. Was that legit? And Hinrich drops a J, which is a better start than last game, and then Ben Gordon comes down with a long two off the break. Rebounding advantage, shmebounding advantage.

Shaq travels. No dunk for you. “Good call by Kenny Mauer.” Wow, there’s a first time for everything. And Gordon travels on the other end. Is it just me, or are traveling and palming almost ALWAYS called in pairs?

“The Bulls are all about energy and beating their opponent to the punch.” Thanks, Steve. Luol Deng is fouled by Haslem and gets to the line. Hits ‘em both, and the Bulls lead 8-2. Time out, Miami.

Elevator held me up (I needed the aforementioned Perrier) and now it’s 15-11 Bulls with 5:20 left. Hinrich hit a three right when I walked back in the door, so he’s already having his best game of the series.

Jason Williams to Eddie Jones (!) ties things at 15, and Ben Gordon unties it. Maybe I wouldn’t want to include BG in a Gasol trade.

Nice pass, Udonis. To his credit, Riles was wide open.

Enter Andres Nocioni and Alonzo Mourning (Zomentarily).

Great pass from Hinrich to Wallace for a layup after a very contested Wade miss. Then again, if D. Wade never gets another call again it’ll be too soon for Dallas fans.

Ben Gordon three, 22-17 Bulls with just over two minutes to go in the quarter. He’ll take those whenever, wherever. Which makes him like a little Tracy McGrady, only more accurate.

So of course he misses his next shot. And Wade hits—plus the foul—over Hinrich. “The hack on Hinrich,” as Marv eloquently puts it.

Tyrus Thomas with a nice pass in to Ben Wallace, for another layup. Who says the Bulls have no low-post scoring? (Sefolosha’s in the game, too.)

Andres Nocioni tries to draw a charge on Wade with predictable results. Free throws for Wade. Walker and Posey enter the game with a minute left.

Andres Nocioni is a menace to all.

Just as I write that (for getting an offensive board over Zo), he hits a corner three over Posey, AND draws the foul (which looks like it came after the shot). Chapu! “His name should be Grabowski or something because he represents what Chicago is all about.” Steve Kerr with the Polish joke.

Nocioni hits the free throw, Thomas strips Wade, and Nocioni hits ANOTHER three at the end of the quarter. That’s 31-21 Bulls after 1, and maybe Noc should change his name to Miller instead.

This is not how the Heat wanted to start Game Two.

SECOND QUARTER

Shaq is fouled by Thomas, and actually hits his first free throw. And his second! Shocking. That’s five in a row for the Diesel, actually.

Now it’s Ben Wallace’s turn, and I somehow doubt he hits both. Nope. He does hit the second, at least, and the first wasn’t an airball. Moral victory.

Sefolosha with an absurd free-throw line jumper.

Kapono from 20 feet. The Heat guards have to make the Bulls pay for collapsing on Shaq, which they haven’t really done yet in the series.

Tyrus Thomas is fouled by Shaq—his second—on a drop-off from Sefolosha. Shaq takes a seat. The Bulls rookies are handling themselves quite well.

Wade’s back in. He and Shaq haven’t gotten to play together much.

Kapono with his first three of the series. 35-28, Chicago. Hinrich comes back with a layup, his seventh point.

Tyrus Thomas tries to dunk on Mourning and goes down in a heap (mean block by Zo, by the way) and Wade gets an and-one on the other end as Thomas tries to remember who he is. Best sequence of the night for the Heat.

Ah, taped interviews. Dwyane Wade, thank you for that cliché-ridden lack of insight.

And the missed free throw.

Deng with his first field goal of the day.

Ben Wallace dribbling makes me nervous.

Kapono hits an elbow jumper and brings the Heat to within 5, and Big Ben actually SCORES off the dribble (I’ll shut up now) to get it back to seven.

The Heat have 10 turnovers with six minutes left in the second.

Hinrich with a runner in the lane that pushes it to nine, Mourning misses inside—oops, that’s Shaq—and it goes back to the Bulls.

Travel, Kapono miss (Wallace rebound), Deng falls (and thus misses a Hinrich pass) and Walker gets hacked underneath. Free throws are hit, and the Bulls commit their seventh turnover. Sloppy play, as Steve Kerr so helpfully points out.

Shaq puts a few shots up below the rim to pad his rebounding stats before dunking it home, Nocioni misses, and Posey hits a three. 43-41, Bulls, before BG stops the 7-0 Heat run. Then Posey hits another three (cue boos). 45-44, Bulls, 2:52 to go in the half.

Yes, leave Noc open on the perimeter, please.

Chris Duhon charge, after a Wade-to-Zo bucket. And Kapono scores inside during the unnecessary split-screen with Ernie Johnson. Can’t the in-game updates happen during time outs or free throws? Tied up. Until Deng unties it.

Wade throws a pass over Haslem’s outstretched hand—another Heat turnover—and Gordon scores his 13th point. Haslem gets it next time down, and scores on a nice jump hook off glass. And Gordon responds with a three. He’s seven of 10. The Heat hold for the last shot, and Duhon picks up the foul (non-shooting) with 3.6 seconds. Kapono hits a jumper off the inbounds, and that’s it for the first half. Bulls 55, Heat 52.

The Bulls lead, which is good for them, but they allowed the Heat to score 31 points in the quarter. Advantage, Heat.

THIRD QUARTER

Hinrich opens things up with a running one-hander—nice—and Wade responds with an absolute brick. P.J. Brown hits a wide-open jumper, the Bulls are back up seven, and Miami calls a quick time out.

Nice ball movement from the Heat (some of it risky) ends with an emphatic block of Haslem by Ben Wallace with one tick left on the shot clock. The ball comes back out to Haslem, he’s blocked by Wallace again, and that’s a 24-second violation. Luol hits a jumper, and it’s back to nine. So much for that Heat advantage.

Wade scores while I’m still writing the previous sentence, and Gordon hits again for the Bulls. “Dwyane Wade has been complaining to Steve Javie all night,” says Kerr. Of course he has. Kirk is called for the foul on Wade, who misses his first and hits the second.

The Heat are having difficulty getting shots.

Kirk Hinrich hits a three, Bulls by 11, and Riley calls another time out. The Bulls are 7-9 from three-point range. Maybe Kerr can start saying some positive things about THE TEAM HE USED TO PLAY FOR.

Ray Allen’s WNBA commercial is so heartfelt. Maybe THAT’S where the Sonics should go.

Shaq misses a jump hook in the paint, Wallace gets the board, and P.J. Brown hits a baseline jumper. 68-55, Chicago. O’Neal loses the ball underneath—Wallace is doing a surprisingly good job solo—and Gordon buries a corner three to push the Bulls lead to a game-high 16 with 7:32 to go in the third. Time out, Heat.

Shaq finally scores. He then blocks Hinrich on the drive, and Posey gets laid out—and P.J. Brown gets called for a flagrant? Ridiculous. Posey was coming downcourt at speed and fell onto the baseline. Horrible call. (Um, not that P.J. Brown hasn’t flagranted someone before—but if he flagrants someone, they usually know about it.) Posey hits both, but Shaq travels on the ensuing possession. Turnover.

Shaq fouls P.J. for his third foul. Laughs. P.J. hits both. 73-59.

Wallace strips Shaq again, Hinrich misses, but the Bulls retain possession. And Gordon eventually hits a three. 76-59, Chicago, with 5:31 to go.

Walker hits a layup, and Skiles calls time just to yell at Andres Nocioni. Or at least to let him know he’s not happy about what just happened.

TNT reviews James Posey’s greatest hits on Bulls present. All were much worse than P.J. Brown’s alleged “flagrant.” One can’t help but wonder if the call was in part because of the crowd’s general hatred of Posey. Made it look more purposeful, possibly.

The Heat get a steal, and Hinrich catches up to Posey enough to foul him, but not enough to affect the shot. Whoops. That’s four on Kirk.

“Another Chicago turnover!” Thanks Marv. The Heat aren’t hitting shots anyway. Duhon misses an ill-advised 25-footer, and Wallace is right underneath to clean up. Somehow he only has five rebounds? That sounds low.

Duhon and Walker miss threes, Gordon doesn’t. He’s got 27 points and hasn’t missed much of anything. Shaq responds underneath with his 17th point, and Deng gets two chances to hit the same baseline shot, courtesy of Ben Wallace.

Walker bricks from inside five feet on the baseline after bricking from 26 feet on the previous possession. On the Bulls end, Nocioni misses, and Deng cleans up. “They’re younger, they’re quicker, they’re more athletic than Miami.” Thanks Steve. And they’re up 85-68.

Posey’s stripped by P.J., but the Bulls lose it out of bounds. And the Heat immediately turn it back over, their 19th TO of the night. That’s bad.

Gordon turns it over with an ill-advised pass, and Walker pushes it back up and hits a three (his first of the game, I believe) to end the quarter. Bulls lead 85-71 after three, but it’s still a big swing. Um, mentally.

FOURTH QUARTER

Hey, it’s some WNBA cross-promotion with David Aldridge. I’m not paying attention. At all.

Ben Gordon commits his first foul of the night. And he’s shot five of seven from three. That’s a pretty good night.

Wade with a neat finger roll—fully extended to the max—over Nocioni, and Skiles calls time. 85-74, Bulls.

Deng scores out of the time out, and Wade flips up a rather ridiculous spinning one-hander. Bulls miss, Walker gets a layup, and it’s a nine-point game with 10 minutes left. Deng gets it back to 11 by rattling home a jumper over the Heat zone, and Hinrich gets called for an absurd foul, his fifth, on a loose ball. Wade dunks off the inbound, with Kirk back on the bench.

Wade scores AGAIN. He’s on a roll. (He also falls down once, gets up once.) Deng answers. Williams misses a three, and Deng gets called for an offensive foul as he runs into Williams off the ball. “That’s the kind of foul that Miami was complaining about after Game One,” Kerr points out.

Wade misses, but still falls down (and gets up). And the Bulls turn it over again with a lousy pass from Gordon to Sefolosha. And then Thabo fouls Wade off the ball.

Walker misses a layup (after faking a 28-foot three, haha), P.J. is fouled by Posey The “Po-sey Sucks” chant starts, and Shaq checks in. Deng scores his 18th, and the Bulls are up 11.

Shaq gets by Brown but comes up short, and Sefolosha hits a jumper off the dribble—and over a double team. Who does he think he is, Kobe Bryant? 95-82 Bulls with six minutes to go.

A minute passes.

There’s the Ben Wallace airball I was waiting for. And he’s limping. Perfect.

Kapono misses a contested three, and Posey hacks Deng on the rebound. Call me crazy, but maybe you go into Shaq when the guy guarding him is 6-9 and limping?

Wade steal, Toine dunk. 95-84 with four minutes remaining.

Sefolosha makes a nice move to the basket, but loses the ball underneath. But the Heat don’t capitalize.

Marv notes that, in seven game series, when the home team wins the first two, that team wins 95 percent of the time. But Kerr is quick to point out that one of those teams that went on to lose were these same Bulls just two years ago (to the Wizards). Thanks, Steve.

In the meantime, Deng hits two more shots, has 24, and the Bulls lead 99-84 with 2:24 to go.

Walker misses a three by a hell of a lot. On the other end, Gordon finds Deng (who’s scored 16 of the Bulls last 18) underneath, who’s hacked by Toine. That’s 100. 101.

Williams misses a long three, Sefolosha rebounds, and you get the feeling that the Heat have pretty much given up. Well, I do. And Sefolosha responds with a three to make it a 20-point lead with 1:18 to go, so I suppose it’s a moot point. Deng, Gordon and Hinrich check out, with Big Ben already on the bench. Adrian Griffin, Malik Allen, Tyrus, Thabo and Duhon will finish this out.

Sefolosha scores again, as Posey fouls Tyrus Thomas off the ball. Because not enough people in Chicago hate him yet. “POS-EY SUCKS” starts again.

Malik Allen strips Alonzo Mourning, who sulks. Turnover.

Williams hits a three that won’t matter in the least.

Game over. Final score, 107-89 Bulls. Shaq finishes with an Eddy Curry like 17 points and eight rebounds (OK, that’s not fair—Eddy Curry would have scored more points).

Wow, when was the last time Gary Payton got a DNP-CD in a playoff game?

POSTGAME ANALYSIS

The Heat aren’t in big trouble. Not yet. Someone once said that a series doesn’t really begin until the home team loses, which means this series hasn’t started yet. (Of course by that logic, if a series goes seven and the home team wins every game, how can it end when it hasn’t started?) Essentially, the Bulls just did what they were supposed to do.

But the Heat have to be worried. The Bulls have made the Heat look old so far, skipping passes over the top or penetrating and dishing and hitting jumpers before defenders can react. Shaq hasn’t been able to dominate when he’s single-covered, and the Heat’s guards have similarly not been able to take advantage when the defense collapses in on Shaq. About the only positive the Heat can take back from Chicago is that Dwyane Wade (who historically hasn’t played all that well in his sort-of hometown anyway) didn’t seem to be shying away from contact much. Meanwhile, the Bulls shot the lights out, and their rookies (Sefolosha and Thomas) have been impressive in their first run through the postseason. And Game Two really wasn’t in doubt in the second half.

Things can—and probably will—change in Miami. Playing in front of their white-clad hometown fans, it’s unlikely the Heat will see any brooms. But it’s equally hard to believe that the aging champions (four regular contributors are 35 or older) will be able to take four of the next five against the confident young upstarts. The Bulls learned their lesson playing Miami in the first round last year. So far this year they’re the ones doing the teaching.