I ain’t superstitious, but I don’t want to take chances, either. So for Bulls/Pistons Game One, I’m keeping things the same. Bulls road shorts, black NBA socks, fresh 750ml bottle of Perrier Lime (and there’s a 24-ounce Modelo Especial in the fridge—Cinco de Mayo!). Same spot on the couch, even.
I know I didn’t do a preview for this series, so this paragraph’ll have to do. I think the Bulls win in six, and the game they get at the Palace is this one. Game One on the road is a no-lose situation. You lose, you get another shot in Game Two. You win, you change the whole perception of the series. These are the games I love. Ones where the team I favor basically has nothing to lose. I think Luol Deng is still being underestimated. I think Ben Wallace is going to make a huge impact. I think Chauncey Billups will have a difficult time with Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. I think Andres Nocioni will be the X factor. (I also think I have no idea who’s going to guard Rasheed Wallace, but that’s OK—let him get his.)
Kind of cool that Doug Collins is doing the color for this game, seeing that he coached both teams. I still hate Kevin Harlan, though.
Neither Kenny or Charles seem to think the Bulls have a chance. That’s fine. Haters.
Deng misses over Tayshaun Prince, and Billups scores two straight over Gordon (bracketing a Gordon miss)—but Gordon comes back and buries a three. “He’s so streaky,” Collins says. Yeah, he’s been on a hot streak since, like, April. Hater. Billups adds another from the line and leads the Bulls 5-3.
Ben Wallace ties it with a textbook fallaway over Webber in the paint, and P.J. Brown fouls Prince as he gets to the rim off a curl. Good foul—no layups!. Prince hits a pair. P.J. ties it back up at 7.
Ben Wallace with a steal, leads the break, and puts up a terrible pass that is out of Deng’s reach—Gordon has to foul Billups off the turnover, and that’s a quick two on Ben. Costly play. Pistons can’t convert, and Hinrich scores on a jumper. And Richard Hamilton answers with a jumper of his own. 9-all.
Ben Wallace is getting vehemently booed whenever he touches the ball. This time it intimidates him into an absolute brick off the glass that misses everything—oh wait, he just shoots like that.
Billups hits a three, and the Bulls can’t convert despite several opportunities. On the other end, Duhon and Hinrich both pick up fouls, and Skiles is T’ed up for vocally defending his backcourt. Adrian Griffin might get some burn tonight. Hamilton goes to the line for the tech and a pair, hits all three, and the Pistons lead 15-9.
Deng comes off a P.J. Brown screen, sloughs Rasheed, and is fouled by Webber—who exclaims loudly—as he hits off glass. He misses the free throw, and Brown commits his second on the rebound. Enter Nocioni. The Bulls are over the limit with seven minutes left in the quarter. Webber to the line, hits both.
Deng gets stripped coming across the lane, Rasheed buries a deep three in transition, and the Bulls need a timeout. The Palace is going bonkers, steam whistles are going off, and the Pistons lead 20-11. God, I hate Detroit. But I love Rasheed. Isn’t it ironic?
Ben Wallace gets a dunk out of the time out, which means it was a worthwhile one. The fans don’t even have time to boo him. The Bulls force a quick turnover on top of it, but can’t convert. The Pistons get it back, and Ben Wallace blocks the hell out of Rasheed. The Bulls get it, Noc gets knocked on his ass—no call—and Rip gets a transition layup. And Nocioni turns it over again. AND AGAIN. He’s the X-factor all right—for the Pistons.
A couple of misses on both ends, and Deng hits a pullup midrange jumper in transition. On a one-on-four break. Not exactly textbook, but they needed a score. Timeout, Pistons. 22-15, Pistons.
Tyrus Thomas checks in and fouls Chris Webber immediately. One of two. Duhon drives the lane, and is fouled by Billups. Both. 23-17. Billups takes Duhon baseline and hits the jumper, and Thomas feeds Deng in the post for an awkward turnaround that drops. And Billups hits AGAIN over Duhon. He’s got a dozen. Tyrus Thomas misses, Hamilton takes it right at Hinrich and misses, and Thomas goes down the lane and is fouled by Rasheed. One of two. And McDyess gets an open jumper from Billups, 29-20 Pistons.
Ben Wallace gets it in deep from Hinrich, goes under the basket and dunks on McDyess. And the foul. He converts, shockingly. Rasheed misses a three, Hamilton rebounds, and the Pistons reset. Billups gets called for an offensive foul on Hinrich, and the Bulls get a last chance with 13.7 seconds. Duhon’s 20-footer rattles out, and the Pistons lead by six after one, 29-23.
Tayshaun Prince starts things off. Jumper. Thomas can’t handle the entry pass from Duhon, Rasheed misses in close, and Nocioni rims out a three. Prince misses a three, gets his own rebound, and scores in close. Pistons up 10. Thomas turns it over again, and McDyess hits another jumper from the top of the key. Time out, Chicago. So far the Pistons have been able to capitalize on every Bulls turnover and blown assignment. 35-23.
The Bulls score out of the timeout again. So maybe they just need to call time after every Pistons score. Detroit miss, another Chicago turnover, and Lindsey Hunter runs over Ben Gordon. He looks slim, though. The Bulls cough it up again, and Webber dunks all over Nocioni. Yowza. Hinrich responds with a layup, and the Bulls trail by nine. Webber travels.
Detroit goes zone, Thabo Sefolosha attacks it, and gets fouled underneath by McDyess. He misses both. Come on, rook. The Pistons turn two offensive rebounds into two points, and P.J. aborts a layup. Rip hits from the corner over Hinrich, and the Pitstons are back up 13. Deng cuts in, and McDyess thinks he ties him up, but is instead called for his third foul. Deng hits one of two. Ugly.
Rip misses a jumper, but Delfino rebounds and dunks. The Bulls turn it over again, and Hamilton gets a layup. 45-29 Pistons with 5:52 to go in the first half. Pretty much everything that could go wrong for the Bulls has. And the Pistons? They’re just playing DEEEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL. Sigh. Another timeout.
The Bulls don’t score out of this time out. So they don’t have that going for them, either. The Pistons miss, and Deng hits in transition on a feed from Hinrich. 45-31. “Navigate through this adversity, that’s what you have to do in the playoffs.” Thanks, Doug. With that bit of advice, Jason Maxiell dunks on 14 people. There’s some more adversity for ya, Chicago. Play wit’ it.
Hunter fouls Gordon, who hits a pair. Maybe this gets him on track.
Rip misses, Sefolosha tears down a rebound in traffic, and Deng is fouled by Delfino in a meeting of the “D”s. Both. He’s got 11, and the Pistons lead is cut to 12. Four minutes left in the quarter. And Maxiell hits a turnaround over a double team? Deng takes Delfino off the dribble and throws a quick and nasty dunk on Maxiell before he has time to react. “He was the sportsman of the year,” Harlan notes. “That wasn’t very sportsmanlike,” Collins shoots back.
Rasheed misses in close, and is called for a loose-ball foul on the rebound. He’s a little heated. Detroit calls time.
Sefolosha back to the line out of the timeout, and the Bulls are down just 10. Not bad all things considered.
Billups misses, Hinrich rebounds, and Gordon hits a midrange jumper in the lane. 49-41, Pistons. And Maxiell hits again from the top of the key. Sefolosha misses a jumper, and Billups hits a three from up top as everyone collapsed down on Prince on the baseline. Gordon loses his dribble, and gets in a jumpball with Prince, who wins it—to Hinrich. But the Bulls can’t convert, and Deng fouls Wallace on the rebound.
Detroit three-second violation. Their sixth turnover. (The Bulls have 10.)
Make that 11—Duhon travels.
Detroit gets another shot with four seconds to go in the half.
Hinrich gets a steal off Billups in the backcourt, goes up for a layup, and loses the handle on the way up. No good. Pistons lead 54-41 at the half.
“It’s gonna be hard for Chicago to win this series because they cannot guard Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton.” Charles Barkley actually has a point there. Oh well, no one ever said it would be easy.
Rasheed opens the second half with a three from up top, and the Pistons extend their lead to 16. Deng misses, the Pistons rebound, and Billups misses a layup and falls into the baseline. The Bulls take advantage, and Gordon finds Hinrich for a three. 57-44. Rasheed misses a three badly, Webber corrals it, but the Pistons turn the ball over on a 24-second violation. Brown drives, and is fouled underneath by Webber. He hits one of two, but gets his own rebound, and Deng scores underneath—or was it Ben Wallace? Wallace gets the credit. Back to 10.
Pistons miss, and the Bulls commit another turnover. “That’s called high risk, low reward.” Thanks, Doug. Billups scores, and Deng comes back. 60-49, Pistons wuth 8:44 to go. Billups misses inside, Deng drives in and kicks out to Hinrich hits a corner three, and Harlan has a delayed verbal explosion. Bulls cut the lead to eight, Detroit calls time.
Rasheed misses out of the timeout, but is fouled by P.J. Brown, his third. Sheed gets both. Gordon takes a horrific shot, and Brown fouls Rasheed again—off the ball. P.J. sits for Tyrus Thomas. And Rasheed goes right at Tyrus and lays it in over him. Pistons lead is back to 12.
Ben Wallace rattles home a jumper from the elbow (or so) that takes seconds to finally fall through. Hamilton shoots a baseline airball, Deng misses, and Hamilton pushes it back down and hits the shot he just missed. Luol gets a cross-court pass from Hinrich, drives into the lane, and is fouled by Webber. One of two. The Bulls are definitely shaky.
Bulls turnover following a Billups foul. Rip misses from close, Webber rebounds, then charges into Wallace underneath. That’s four on Webber. And on the other end, Thomas commits an offensive foul right back. It seems like every Pistons mistake is negated by a Bulls mistake right back.
Deng turns it over, Gordon tries to draw a charge on Billups in the open court, but is called for a block. That’s three. Bulls are over the limit with just over four minutes to go in the third. Both. Pistons up 13.
Gordon creates an open look at a three, misses, Pistons rebound, and Billups can’t convert on a backdoor cut. Hinrich gets tied up, loses the jumpball to Rip, but the Bulls recover possession. Gordon misses another three, the Pistons recover, and Billups puts an airball out of bounds. No one’s doing much of anything on offense, and the Pistons hold onto that 13-point lead. Time out.
The Bulls don’t get a good play out of this timeout—no one can get loose, and Malik Allen has to take a contested jumper. He misses, the Pistons miss, and the Bulls (Gordon) miss again. The Pistons miss twice more at point-blank range, Deng misses again (they’ve combined to miss 15 straight shots—ugh) and the Bulls inbound. And miss again. Rasheed gets it in deep, and it’s knocked out of bounds with three seconds on the 24. Offensive foul turnover—push on Rip.
And FINALLY someone hits a field goal, Hinrich with the jumper. McDyess answers, and Allen misses from up top. Allen is harassed on the inbounds, the Bulls retain possession—and wind up turning it over anyway. They hold serve on the ensuing possession, but the Pistons still lead by 13 at the end of three—the same as they did at the half—70-57.
I am still tremendously amused by the Dwyane Wade T-Mobile commercials. Not in the way they intended, of course, but still.
Another Chicago turnover. Of course.
How the hell is Andres Nocioni—who’s South American (yeah, I know, it’s a Mexican holiday, but still) AND wears NUMBER 5—not killing it on Cinco de Mayo? Dammit.
Rasheed. Three. 73-57.
Doug Collins helpfully points out that the Bulls have yet to score a bench point. Thanks, Doug. I hope someone replaces your hair dye with Nair.
Rip hits a three over Hinrich, and the Bulls are down 19. They try and get something going inside, but the Detroit D is swarming. Big Ben gets to the line, but, yeah, that’s not gonna help. And Prince gets an open three on the other end, he hits it, and it’s 79-57, and the Bulls are in a whole mess of trouble. Just in case you weren’t sure. Timeout, Chicago.
Am I the only one that can’t figure out what the hell Joe Pesci and Matt Damon say to each other in that commercial for that CIA movie? Pesci says something along the lines of “You’re the ones that scare me, you make big wars,” and Damon responds with something that’s mostly incomprehensible. No wonder why I don’t go to movies anymore.
Duhon gets a wide-open three out of the timeout. 79-60. Woo-hoo. AND THE BULLS BENCH IS ON THE BOARD.
Tayshaun Prince over Malik Allen. Thomas is ripped by McDyess, and Pricne thankfully misses a three. “This is just one loss,” Collins says. That’s great to hear with 8:37 left. And to punctuate it, Maxiell throws down a two-handed hammer on every Bulls player ever. And tacks on the free throw. 24-point Detroit lead. Nocioni misses again, and the Pistons push it ahead and pull it out. And Prince hits a VERY tough jumper, and Rip Hamilton draws a charge on the baseline. Up 26. If I didn’t have to blog this series I’d probably just give up and kill myself, so thank you SLAM for saving my life. Jerks.
McDyess blocks a shot and then misses a jumper, and Malik Allen picks up his third foul. The fact that Malik Allen has been in the game long enough to pick up three fouls should be a sign.
Maxiell puts a playoff foul on Tyrus Thomas on an alley-oop attempt. He hits both free throws, which is nice. Detroit calls a 20 after their lead is slashed to 24.
God, there’s still six and a half minutes left.
McDyess misses a dunk putback, Sefolosha can’t do anything, and Rip scores. And Tyrus Thomas commits an offensive foul, Chicago’s 429,952,873rd turnover of the night. Headed into the commercial, Harlan refers to the Game One victory for the Detroit Pistons in the past tense. Keep rubbing it in, fellas.
I’m gonna go ahead and crack that Modelo now. I need it.
Kevin Harlan actually says “bad pass, saved by Dumars.” I believe he’s actually stopped watching this game and is watching tape of the ’89 Finals. Collins calls him on it, thank God.
Nocioni misses a three by 72 miles.
Doug Collins compares himself to Red Klotz. Yes, the game is that bad. (Chicago turns it over yet again. If I knew what the infinity symbol key was, I’d use it.) Detroit has emptied their bench. It even sounds like they’re letting a fan do the P.A.
“Chicago is gonna come back and compete, now. They’re not gonna go away.” Thanks for the mea culpa, Doug. I still hate you.
Under four minutes. Come on, time.
Nocioni misses his 45th shot in a row. He’s more of an X-File than an X-factor.
46. Although Thomas is there to dunk it back. Delfino misses a corner three, the Bulls rebound and throw it away. At least they’re consistent.
Carlos Delfino. 91-64 Pistons. 2:18 left.
Dale Davis fouls Sefolosha, who hits one of two. Collins on what Skiles should say to the Bulls: “Remember the feeling, but forget the game.” Easier said than done, I’d think.
We’re kind of beyond garbage time, here, although Nocioni finally DOES hit a field goal—a shaky layup. And Delfino comes back and scores again. He only has six? Seems like more. Malik Allen misses from the baseline, making the Bulls bench 3-30 from the floor. Criminy.
It’s over. Thank God. Final score, 95-69 Detroit.
Well, it was a slaughter. The Bulls bench was entirely ineffective, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups diced up the Bulls perimeter defense, and Detroit hit every big three. And after swinging a wrecking ball through the Heat, the Bulls played a lot like the Baby Bulls they once were—committing countless turnovers, missing free throws and looking generally lost. They managed to keep things somewhat respectable in the first half despite the mistakes, then got their doors blown off down the stretch. It’s hard to pick out a single Chicago positive from this game, other than it’s hard to imagine them playing worse.
I stand by my original prediction, however. I typed this whole thing in real time, and don’t believe in going back. I still believe that the Bulls can pull this thing together and win the series (despite the televised fact that 79 percent of teams that win Game One go on to win the series).
As it stands, if the Bulls DO go on to lose this series, it’ll be because they don’t have the size on the perimeter to contend with Billups and Hamilton. So I ask you this—if they DO lose, does that still mean they made a bad decision in bringing in Ben Wallace? I don’t think so. I feel like Ben Wallace brought the Bulls more than numbers, and his impact will be felt in Chicago even after he retires.
Or maybe I’m just grasping at anything right now. Game Two can’t come soon enough. (I just need to figure out whether the shorts will come back for it.)