Before getting to some more bile directed at VDN, I'll start with good happy thoughts: It's official that the Bulls are fairly evenly matched against the Celtics. If Leon Powe is out that narrows the talent margin even more. And the Bulls look like they believe, and it's been showing in their play. Those mostly easy (made to be less easy, perhaps) wins down the stretch didn't make them a better team, but it maybe made them think they were a better team. Winning is fun, confidence is contagious, and the Bulls as a result have a lot of good players playing at a high level.
Especially tonight with Ben Gordon. Who, if the Bulls won, would've had the entire post dedicated to his brilliance. This is a team that has no plan, no structure, no plays, no offense. Though that breakdown into one-on-one play happens more often in the playoffs anyway, it's always there on the Bulls. So guys like Gordon are vital, and he carried the Bulls on offense all game. I'm not sure how Doug Collins could keep calling Ben Gordon 'streaky' when he both kept them from getting KO'd early in the first and scored nearly every Bulls point down the stretch. That's not streaky, it's being damned good, and believing that the next shot is always going in. Without Gordon tonight this game is out of reach, not a heartbreaker.
(Tried to resist throwing this in when writing this post, but I can't: He better be on this team next season.)
I thought Hinrich, Rose, and Salmons had good games as well, though fouls kept Rose from another great game (hey, it can't happen every time). Again, this is a team that doesn't exactly play together well (even on fast breaks there were clear passes that weren't made in lieu of taking it themselves), but individually they're all pretty good.
The game was lost in the frontcourt. Commenter fundamentallysound ran the four factors for us:
The Bulls had a higher eFG%, FTA/FGA, and lower TO%. The only one of the four factors that they lost was the OReb%. Celtics gathered 42.9% of their misses, whereas the Bulls only grabbed 21.6% of their misses.
That’s the entire difference between winning and losing. The Bulls either dominated or slightly edged the C’s in every other category, and because they got hammered on the boards, they lost the game.
Some of the huge disadvantage in 2nd chance points was luck (lots of blocks in the 1st ending up back in the C's hands - and then the basket), but a lot of it was bad positioning and being outmuscled. The Bulls have not been a good defensive rebounding team (in fact they're bottom-5 worst in the league) all season, and it's because their bigs are slight, and often out of position (the downside of being able to fly around and block everything). They likely can't win the battle of the boards in this series, but what they need to avoid is getting blown out in that department.
And a lot of that falls on Tyrus Thomas, who had 4 boards in 20 minutes, pretty much exclusively shooting jump shots on the offensive end. Though he was swatting everything in sight (all the Bulls were. The C's really aren't an above-the-rim team are they?) it wasn't his best game.
But I don't care: He needs to play to close out games. I only slightly believe in this confidence factor making a huge difference, but it can't be good for Tyrus' confidence for him to be on the bench the final 9 minute of the game, after winning the previous one in OT. Brad Miller may have had the better game up to that point, but he never needs to play 35 minutes, and the final 17 minutes of the game. Just looking at him near the end, practically dying on the court: unable to rotate quickly, grab defensive boards (hmmm...) or keep from turning the ball over (and fall over)...actually it's not that rare of a sight, since Vinny has been doing this over and over again seemingly since Miller was acquired.
And it sucks. It sucks to see Vinny not give his team the best chance to win (Lindsey Hunter was at the two for a short stretch as well, what the hell?), and almost sucks worse to think what it does for Thomas long-term. Maybe game one was the start of something special with him, maybe not. But lets find out and not make him sit and watch when he's one of the best (and most important) players on this roster.
So there's that. And running out of time outs...again. When down two with 2 seconds to go, the Bulls couldn't advance the ball. Collins was so perplexed he probably wished he didn't weep his way out of the Bulls coaching search.
It's a shame, because this team has shown yet again how talented it is, and that they're actually quite close to this version of the Celtics. The Celtics haven't played well all series, but the longer that happens, the more one has to believe they're just not that good of a team right now. I mean, Glen Davis took 21 shots. So for the Bulls, considering the lack of coaching has been apparent all season, I wish Vinny would just go full hands-off: play your best, and get the heck out of the way.