LeBron really should hide his face after what Kyle Korver did to him...
The Cleveland Cavaliers: It just figures that the Jazz -- the West's leading candidate for Bipolar Girlfriend Team of the Year -- would be involved in one of this season's craziest games. I know I'm guilty of bouts of hyperbole pretty much always, but this game was a bigger mind fuck than finding out Rick Deckard was also a replicant. Especially the final 12 minutes. The Jazz scored almost half of their total points (42 of 97) in the fourth quarter, but King Crab countered by dropping 20 of his 36 thanks to some heat-seeking threes and, ahem, assistance from the zebras. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me try to break down the major events of the final stanza:
First, the Jazz lost Deron Williams, who aggravated his sprained right wrist after getting tangled up with Mo Williams. The Jazz, whose playmaking was now in the hands of Ronnie Price and Sundiata "The 10-Day Contract Man" Gaines, promptly scored 15 straight points to jumpstart a 21-2 run that seemed to finish the Crabs off.
Too bad nobody told King Crab, who bitchslapped the Jazz with an 11-1 run. LeBron got fouled on a drive and converted a three-point play. He drove again a minute later and earned another foul. James made the first and missed the second, but he got his own rebound and nailed a three to put Cleveland up by a point (86-85) with 1:10 to go. The Crabs forced a turnover and 'Bron drilled another trey with 40 ticks left. C.J. Miles missed a three on the other end, Lebron got the board and drew Carlos Boozer's sixth foul. James sank both freebies to put the Crabs up six points (91-85) with 32.5 seconds on the clock.
That probably should have been the game, but Anthony Parker missed one of two from the line on consecutive trips in the final 22 seconds, which gave the Jazz new life. (Cheater's proof, perhaps?) Then Kyle Korver tossed on a flat-out stupid baseline jumper from behind the friggin' backboard to bring Utah to within a point (95-94) with six seconds left.
The Jazz quickly fouled Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who, like Parker, bricked one of two. In the ensuing madcap scramble, the ball ended up in the hands of Gains, who showed true Balls of Steel by Gains:
Said Sundiata: "I knew if I caught the ball I was going for the win. Once it left my hand it felt good. Just to beat Cleveland, this was a big game."
Like I said: Balls of Steel.
Of course, for some addes perspective, Basketbawful reader BW in Cleveland weighed in on the first three quarters:
Sure the ending was awesome (even for a Cav fan like myself), but lets not get carried away. The first 47 minutes of that shitfest were borderline unwatchable. Utah was jacking up bricks left and right but Cleveland couldnt extend the lead through the 3rd quarter because of turnovers. Theres much more suck to this game but It can be summed up with this:
Start of 4th: 60-55 Cavs 5:58 left: 66-76 Jazz 0:00 left: 96-97 on a desperation 3
Way to go guys, you'de think Mike Brown was coaching that offen...errr wait what?
LeBron James: Yes, he was awesome with 36 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, and several uncalled traveling violations. But he also had a shot swatted by Kyle Korver, who's best known at Basketbawful for his gay elf defense.
Said LeBron: "We lost the ballgame. Me individually means nothing. Everything I did as an individual goes out the window." Just like that Korver block.
But I shouldn't rag too much on 'Bron. His teammates are just...lousy this season. Like, seriously. Are they trying to drive him out of Cleveland or something? What happened to all the crazy-ass chemistry they had last season? Is Shaq that bad of an influence? Or is he just washed up (see the lacktion report for details)? Or is LeBron's vague future acting as a distraction?
The "Boston Celtics": Okay, let me get the extenuating circumstances out of the way. The "Boston Celtics" were playing without their best player (Kevin Garnett), their top reserve (Rasheed Wallace), and another key roleplayer (Marquis Daniels). Due to the extreme shorthandedness, the "Celtics" starters have been putting in a lot of PT lately, particuarly Rajon Rondo, who has now logged 41-50 minutes in eight of the last 10 games. Furthermore, the "Celtics" were playing the second night of back-to-backs and their fourth game in five nights, so they clearly had weary legs.
And did I mention Brian Scalabrine started at power forward?
The Bulls are finally healthy -- well, for the most part -- and actually have something resembling a set rotation. After a season-opening slump caused by a bum ankle, Derrick Rose is Derrick Rose again. Joakim Noah is very nearly an All-Star-caliber center. Luol Deng is a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Rookie Taj Gibson has been an unexpected but exceedingly pleasant surprise. John Salmons has been much improved since losing his starting job to Kirk Hinrich. For that matter, Hinrich has been better too. And Tyrus Thomas, although as on-again/off-again as ever, has been bringing energy off the bench.
Rose (17 points, 8-for-16, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) made some spectacular drives, including one in which he made Rondo look like a Yi Jianlian's chair and then finished over Celtics center Kendrick Perkins. A few minutes later, Rose followed that play by walking around Rondo again and finishing left-handed. Actually, looking back, Yi's chair might have played better defense than Rondo, especially down the stretch.
Speaking of Celtics who got owned last night, Paul Pierce was gobbled up by Luol Deng. Sweet Lou -- whose broken thumb hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as Kobe's busted digit -- has been shooting lights out the last two games (21-for-31). And last night, Deng scored a game-high 25 points thanks to a hot hand and an aggressive streak that earned him a co-game-high 10 free throw attempts. Quite frankly, the former Finals MVP and self-proclaimed "best player in the world" had no idea how to defend Deng.
As a team, the Bulls simply outplayed Boston across the board. Chicago had the edge in rebounding (50-39, including 15-9 on the offensive glass), assists (20-17), steals (9-6), blocked shots (10-5), fast break points (13-10), points in the paint (48-42), and points off turnovers (16-11).
Of course, the Celtics -- who never led after going up 2-0 -- crippled themselves by bricking 13 free throws. Pierce and Rondo both missed four times, Perkins shanked three of seven, and Glen "Big Baby" Davis went 2-for-4. Kicking away freebies can haunt a team, and they certainly gave Boston a Scooby Doo scare last night. Although, again, the C's looked worn out as early as the second quarter. But still.
Chicago's bench: About the only thing that didn't go right for the Bulls last night was their bench play. Chicago's reserves scored only 14 points on 6-for-25 shooting. However, they did contribute 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals (all by Tyrus) and 2 blocks (both by James Johnson). Oh, and speaking of Tyrus...
The perils of broadcasting: There was a great moment last night when a hustling Thomas landed on Doug Collins and Kevin Harlin:
Lacktion report: Chris gives us a Shaq update in...the lacktion report?!
Bulls-Celtics: JR Giddens picked a Piranha Plant for a 20 second Mario.
Crabs-Jazz: IT IS OFFICIAL, the biggest mouth in the Association is WASHED UP. Shaquille O'Neal, he of the four championships and terrible rapping and movies, scored a 9:8 Voskuhl in 19:29 by negating five points (once from the stripe!!!) and three boards (along with a block) with FOUR giveaways and five fouls!!!!