This picture sums up everything I'm feeling right now.
Dwyane Wade's dunk fail: In the early stages of the game, Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr went on about how unhappy Wade was about his lousy shooting in Game 3, and how he did extra shooting, great players work hard, yada, yada, yada. That conversation led brilliantly into this:
Derrick Rose saw that missed dunk and raised three nasty ones:
Unfortunately, if you subtract those jams, Rose went 5-for-24. More on that below.
The Chicago Bulls: Things started out so well for the Bulls. They raced out to a 19-8 lead with 4:22 left in the first quarter...then bad things happened.
Very bad things.
Very bad offensive things.
The shivering terror actually started exactly at the 4:22 mark when Ronnie Brewer clanked the free throw half of an "And 1" opportunity.
Keith Bogans went on to brick three-pointers on Chicago's next two possessions. Why would Bogans ever shoot threes on back-to-back possessions, you ask? Because the Heat left him wide open, of course.
Rose followed Bogans' bricks with a three-point clunker of his own.
Then Carlos Boozer went 0-for-2 from the line and shanked an open 19-footer in consecutive scoreless possessions.
Then Bogans missed another three.
Then Rose committed a turnover on Chicago's final possession of the quarter.
That's right. After taking that 19-8 lead, the Bulls didn't score again during the first quarter despite having several open shots. That 12-minute sequence ended 19-16. I really believe that four-minute drought cost the Bulls the game. They had a very real chance to take complete control and didn't do it. That's just one of many things that will haunt them about this particular loss.
So many wasted opportunities. The Bulls bobbled the ball away 22 times for 26 points going the other way. That combined with their 38-22 disadvantage in free throw attempts offset their 26 fast break points and the staggering 44-24 advantage in points in the paint. Chicago also played tough defense, forcing King Crab (11-for-26) and Pookie (5-for-16) into off nights. Bosh was 6-for-12, but five of his six made field goals were from 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 feet. The Bulls forced him to shoot contested jumpers...he just made 'em.
The Bulls didn't make 'em. In all, they went 16-for-57 on jumpers (28 percent) and only 6-for-24 on threes (25 percent). Sometimes they were open. Sometimes they weren't. It didn't seem to matter either way.
Chicago's Bench Mob: LeBron (35 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals) was seemingly the consensus Player of the Game, but his plus-minus score was -1. Dwyane Wade's was -10. But check out the borderline absurd plus-minus stats of Miami's reserves: Mike Miller (+36 in 26 minutes), Udonis Haslem (+25 in 34 minutes) and Mario Chalmers (+10 in 21 minutes).
Chicago's reserves? Borderline absurd in the other direction: Taj Gibson (-21 in 10 minutes), Ronnie Brewer (-12 in 21 minutes), C.J. Watson (-12 in seven minutes), Kyle Korver (0 in 16 minutes) and Omer Asik (0 in two minutes).
The Bench Mob was supposed to be the Bulls' biggest advantage against the top-heavy, bottom-weak Heat. Unfortunately, they were thoroughly outplayed by their Miami counterparts last night. Particularly Miller, who grabbed 9 big rebounds and scored 9 points in the fourth quarter, drilling two key jumpers and even driving into the jaws of Chicago's defense for a layup that tied the game at 80-80 with 3:15 left.
Speaking of which...
Kyle Korver: With his tattoos and wacky hair, Miller looks like Korver's Bizarro World counterpart, and his return to basketball life casts a harsh light on Kyle's fade into oblivion. As Jeff Fogle of Hoopdata points out: "Tonight's 2 of 6 brings him to 25 of 77 from the floor over the last 12 games, with eight rebounds in 172 minutes."
Here's the thing: I don't begrudge Korver any shot. That said, I don't think Chicago's offensive sets are getting him clean looks at the basket. Too many of his shots are contested and forced.
On that subject...
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: There's no question that the man can coach the absolute living hell out of a defense. But, at times, the offense looks like it's still running sets out of Vinny Del Negro's playbook. Especially in critical situations. In Chicago's last two possessions of regulation, Thibs put Rose on an island against LeBron. The result: A 6'2" guard forcing two contested 18-footers over a 6'9" athletic freak.
Not good shots.
From my living room, I was screaming for the Bulls to run an offensive set -- any set -- rather than bailing out and using an iso.
But, again, we should have seen that coming. The Bulls have been "cheating" all season, devolving into "give Rose the ball and get out of the way" mode every time the going gets tough. Credit Derrick for repeatedly coming through, which was probably a major factor in his winning the MVP. But then you also have to credit the Heat for repeatedly throwing new looks at him in this series. This time, they turned to LeBron down the stretch, something they hadn't really done yet in this series.
Given time, Rose has figured out pretty much every defense that's been thrown at him. He didn't have time -- or, really, the energy -- to figure this one out. I'm not sure how much input Pat Riley is giving Erik Spoelstra at this point, but Riley did the same thing when he was coaching the Lakers in the 1980s. He was always throwing new defensive wrinkles at Larry Bird, trying to get Bird out of his comfort zone. Riley went with waves of defenders (first Michael Cooper, then James Worthy, then Mychal Thompson, and so on) and waves of doubles coming from a variety of directions. The Heat have been employing similar tactics against Rose.
And is has worked.
Derrick Rose: The Miami defense really put him in a box, didn't it?
About a month ago, I wrote that talent usually wins out in the NBA playoffs, and that Miami's Big Three would probably trump Chicago's Big One.
It was a bitter prediction that's coming true right before my eyes.
People are going to look cross-eyed at Rose for his shooting (8-for-27) and his turnovers (7), and rightly so. I'm sure some fans are contacting a repo man about taking back Derrick's MVP award. I'm also sure LeBron knows exactly how that feels. The previous two seasons, his Cavaliers compiled the league's best record while he won back-to-back MVP awards, and then those squads got soundly bounced by more talented teams.
In point of fact, last season, the Celtics wiped both Wade's Heat and LeBron's Cavs off the playoff map. Which, we have been led to believe, is what convinced them to join forces in Miami.
Rose missed a free throw with 1:09 left in regulation that, considering neither team scored again until the overtime session, might very well have won the game. Then there were the two missed jumpers over LeBron. I'm sure those three misses will haunt him. So will the unforced turnover he committed with 1:05 left in OT and the Bulls down only 93-89.
He gave his all. He came up short. Like I said, LeBron knows all about that.
Chicago's mental lapses:Said Joakim Noah: "Sometimes effort isn't enough. You got to do more than that. We had mental lapses. We can't turn the ball over against this team at all because they get on the break and they're really tough to stop in that situation.
"I feel like every game is a little bit like that. Even the games that are eight, 10 points. If you're watching closely, all these games are so close. They're played at one or two possessions, so a few of these turnovers, I missed a few easy baskets around the rim. Those are things I'll think about all night probably."
The Bulls committed 22 in all. The Heat scored 26 points off of them.
Like when Luol Deng threw the ball away on an inbounds pass with 1:36 left in overtime and the Bulls down only 93-89? Or, on Chicago's next possession after LeBron missed a 21-footer, when Derrick Rose drove into the paint and simply lost his handle on the ball?
Those particular miscues were part mental lapse and part fatigue. The Bulls were absolutely out of gas at that point. At least by the looks of it. I've watched enough basketball and played enough pickup ball to recognize the effects of fatigue. On the road, against the wall, with guys closing in on 50 minutes of PT, facing a killer defense energized by its home crowd and the opportunity to put the series in a submission hold, the Bulls succumbed.
In overtime, talent won out, and Miami's three stars were overpowering.
Bosh scored the first four points of OT on two free throws and an icy cold jumper from 20 feet. The Bulls got an unlikely three-bomb from Brewer, but Wade responded by drilling a 19-footer right before the shot clock expired. Carlos Boozer muscled his way into a foul at the other end but missed the second freebie. On the other end, LeBron drove in for a layup. The Bulls called time and that led to Deng's botched inbound pass, then LeBron's missed jumper, then Derrick's turnover, then a layup by Wade.
On the other end, Wade blocked a shot attempt by Deng. Lu got it back and Wade fouled him, after which Deng hit both free throws to pull the Bulls to within four points. James hit another mid-range jumper to push the lead back to six points. Rose drove madly the other way and had his layup attempt swatted by Wade. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, the Heat simply outfought the Bulls. Wade then iced things with a couple free throws.
We can talk free throws and fast breaks and turnovers and bench play and whatever else. But in those final few minutes, the talent and will of Miami's three stars was too much. Just too much.
The Bulls still have pieces on the board. But last night's loss felt like checkmate.
Miami's flopstravaganza: With 10:18 left in the fourth quarter and the Bulls leading 69-68, LeBron James drew an offensive foul on Luol Deng courtesy of an egregious flop. Seriously, LeBron -- possibly the most powerful physical specimen in the league (or second to Dwight Howard) -- dropped like he got face-punched by Ivan Drago. He did the same thing in Game 3. The most annoying part was after his obviously exaggerated fall, he grinned like an idiot and nodded vigorously to his teammates while wagging his tongue.
Really? The mighty LeBron needs to flop?
With 4:39 left and the Bulls leading 77-74, Chris Bosh flopped his way to this flagrant foul:
Shame on you, Steve Kerr, for applauding and supporting Bosh's theatrics. Still, I can see why it was called a flagrant. My issue with it is that something very similar happened between Boozer and Udonis Haslem earlier in the game, only Boozer calmly stood up to Haslem's thuggary and -- of course -- wasn't given the flagrant. So I guess maybe Kerr was right. Maybe Boozer should have taken a dive.
The Boshtrich's flop initiated a huge swing. He hit both free throws and, when the Heat got possession back afterward, Mike Miller drilled a jumper to put Miami up a point. Fans and, supposedly, players talk up the importance of toughness, but once again bravely flopping in the face of physical contact continues to give teams a significant advantage.
Update! Officiating: Great players don't need extra steps to hit clutch shots...but it sure does help, doesn't it?
Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report:Omer Asik fouled twice in 113 seconds for a +2 and a 2:0 Voskuhl. (Lacktion negated due to injury, as noted by Dan B.)