Is this really happening?
The Bulls were down as many as 10 early in the game, but never gave up on their head coach Tom Thibodeau. Any Bulls fan had to be skeptical of what kind of performance the team would deliver without Rose and Noah. It would be easy for the Bulls to feel sorry for themselves and quit, especially after trailing by 10 early on. However, the Bulls did the opposite. Taj Gibson would not let it happen. He essentially put the team on his back and dominated the Sixers front court for the better part of the 2nd quarter. The Bulls trailed by one at the break.
They came out in the 3rd quarter and reminded everyone why they were the number one seed, and were able to win key games all year with multiple injuries. Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton and even Luol Deng eventually gave the Bulls a lead. C.J. Watson's three pointer actually put the Bulls up 56-50. It was his first field goal of the game. I was excited and thought they had figured out holes in the Sixers defense. On the other end the Sixers struggled to score. The Sixers team that couldn't miss in Game 2, proved what I had written after that performance to be true--that it was an aberration. The Sixers did make a run and closed the quarter strongly and took a one point lead into the final quarter.
To my surprise the individual who ended being the guy to step up and provide 4th quarter scoring was--CJ Watson???? After going scoreless in the first half, Watson scored 17 second half points; 10 in the 4th quarter. Whether it was Lou Williams, Evan Turner or Jrue Holiday guarding him, Watson went to the line and made key jumpers late in the game. Carlos Boozer did have a key drive that resulted in a basket and foul. This after Jrue Holiday hit what seemed to be an impossible three with the shot clock winding down.
With the score 82-80, the following was the turning point in the game. Carlos Boozer received a pass and went strong to the hoop. Now in my perfect world Boozer would have more springs in his legs and could've attempted to dunk the ball. Nonetheless, Boozer went strong and there appeared to be a lot of contact but the refs swallowed their whistles. On the replay you could clearly see Boozer was hit in the head while near the rim. Even the commentators said the Sixers got away with one.
Now I could write a book on how bad officiating in sports is. In fact, I feel officiating in sports has reached an all-time low and nothing is being done to correct such incompetence. Please go read my past thoughts on officiating and the NBA throughout the season at http://Mortonslaw.com. I tell people all the time to do their best to ignore how officials impact the game, because it will ruin the enjoyment anyone has watching any game. I would be embarrassed if I ran a business and had people constantly sabotaging what made the company successful. By the way, those people wouldn't have jobs anymore.
What exacerbated the no call on Boozer was when on the Sixers ensuing possession, Jrue Holiday appeared not to have been touched, but these idiot refs, in a two point game, decided to give Holiday two at the line, which essentially ended the game. The Sixers, who averaged 18 free throw attempts per game during the regular season, shot 33 free throws in game 3 and 31 in game 4. So many questionable calls down the stretch in both games. Again, as infuriating it was to watch this transpire, I will turn my attention to why the Bulls came up short again.
In the off-season the Bulls acquired Richard Hamilton. He missed the majority of the regular season with multiple injuries. His sole purpose was to provide Derrick Rose with an option via the drive and kick off double teams. Hamilton is a great mid range shooter and proved in his limited time this year that he could still make the shot. Now without Rose he surprised me some games with his ability to utilize his height by backing players down and shooting over them. In game 3 of this series he didn't shoot well from the floor but still scored 17 points.
Now as I've written in the past Tom Thibodeau is a defensive genius. The only problem I have seen so far in certain situations is his substitution patterns. The last 2 games Rip Hamilton spent the majority of his time on the bench in favor of Kyle Korver. To me it's just mindless how you can acquire Hamilton and then sit him on the bench in favor of a one trick pony. The worst part was Korver continually killed the Bulls defensively down the stretch. Korver was beaten off the dribble, was late on switches and had inside position on a rebound that he let get away. It was so painful to watch and I can't fathom how Korver was on the court. Unless you are setting great screens or have great dribble penetration that results in help defense which creates open shots--Kyle Korver is worthless.
Luol Deng taking one shot in the 4th quarter makes people forget he was even selected to the all-star team. Carlos Boozer losing his dribble out of bounds while driving towards the hoop down 4. Are these two guys winners? Does it matter that Derrick Rose went down with an injury? Would he have gotten the help he needed to take that next step? Would the head coach have made the right decisions with who is on the court? It is very defeating to be a Bulls fan right now.
With that said, this series isn't over and now the pressure shifts to the Sixers. However, the Bulls first need to win Tuesday night in order for that to happen. I would like the opportunity as a fan to see how the Sixers respond Thursday night at home with a chance to close the series in their building. How tight will they get in a close game in the 4th quarter once they start to doubt themselves? Even without Rose and Noah, the Bulls still have so much more playoff experience on their roster. Will we get to see Thursday night or will the Sixers go for the jugular in Chicago?