I hope the Bulls are as pissed as I am right now. But we're likely angry for different reasons, and the last thing I want to see is the Bulls committing a flagrant foul on a Celtics player out of some made-for-TV lust for revenge.
The reason I'm so pissed right now isn't just that the Bulls lost last night. (Though it sure doesn't help.) It's that the series has epitomized both what is so inspiring and disheartening about NBA hoops. The basketball has been incredible - truly inspired efforts by players like Rondo and, at times, Rose and Gordon. But the buffoonery has been equally pathetic. Perkins has never, to date, committed a foul that didn't require immediate theatrics. Allen, who fouls like a narcoleptic twitches, can't believe that he apparently has to abide by the same rules as other players. BG feels that, after a display of great balls, he has to grab his. And lording over all this theatrical nonsense is Garnett himself, sticking his chin out like Tony Montoya, fearful either that the Celtcs will lose or, more likely, that he won't be in the spotlight when they win. I've never seen a more shameful display of egoism. From the faux-drama of "will he sit on the bench?" to the slightly more dramatic question of "when will he dislocate his jaw?", we've been treated to a marvelous display of TnT camera work, making certain we get every last sneer and mug for the camera. And don't be naive: they are most certainly for the cameras.
The worst part is, the NBA has fostered this bufoonery, allowing Lord Kevin the leeway to bark like a dog, lech on female reporters, and cross the line to the point that NBA GMs wondered when the league would reign him in. Well they didn't, and no wonder: this shit actually sells.
It's not just the entire Boston Celtics' quest to mimic a man mimicing a WWF wrestler that's irritating. It's the disparity in the calls. I'll preface this by saying that bad calls are bound to happen, and that we've been the beneficiary of some. (For instance that double foul with Ray and Miller: play on, folks.) The issue here is that the NBA has steadily allowed fakery - AKA "accentuating contact" - to be an actual basketball skill. Rondo goes the line far, far more than he should, simply because any time he initiates contact he goes to the floor like he's been shot in the chest. D. Rose bulls through the lane, doesn't say boo, and gets creamed: no call. Why? He's not "accentuating the contact." Apparently the Chicago Public League needs to start teaching that the best players are actually - little known fact - thespians. (Where I grew up we called them pussies.)
(Likewise, with the drawing of charges: does this play exist solely to keep slow, vertically-challenged, and mostly caucasian players in the league? When Scalabrine slides under an airborne Rose, and he's still moving, it's a foul. Each time. Just like when Nocioni did it.)
So let's move to the subject on everybody's mind, the play that absolutely captures what I've loved and hated about this series. Miller cruising in for an open layup in a tight OT game, Rondo jacks him in the face. Let's be conservative and say Brad's arm is three feet long, so unless Rondo briefly developed severe diplopia, he jacked him on purpose. The game has to be delayed while Miller staunches a good amount of blood flow, allowing ample time for the refs to view what Henry Abbott, noted Bull-hater Charles Barkley, and any rational (ie non-Celtic) fan would recognize as a flagrant 1. By rule: two shots and the ball.
Except that rules don't matter here.
On one side of this equation is the Bulls: a pretty quiet team who probably aren't going to win anything this year. On the other side is the Boston Celtics, a team that's lobbied in the papers (Perkins, who noted the refs didn't "like" them, wasn't called for a single foul yesterday) and had the Boston Globe lobby on their behalf, suggesting a Chicago-connection with the refs of game 4. (For an even more inflammatory piece, perhaps they could examine the Chicago connection to Doc Rivers?) Needless to say, this Celtics team that "sold" every bit of contact and worked the refs with "veteran saavy" make for a far, far more compelling rematch with the Cavs than any other team. Rematch, revenge, theatrics. Remember: this shit actually sells.
The call didn't go to the Celtics because the refs wanted the Celtics to win. It went there because the refs wanted to give the Celtics every chance to win. It went to te Celtics because the refs couldn't let a bad break (Miller's nasion, actually) go against the defending champs. The reasoning was probably akin to "players should decide the game". Which is really great reasoning, excepting the fact that Rajon Rondo jacked Brad Miller in the face.
Like I said, rules didn't matter. Not at a pivotal moment like that. But if a rule doesn't apply in the essential moment, why have it?
Now we get game 5. The Bulls are rightfully pissed. They've taken all the nasty hits in the series while the Celtics have done all the limping and crying. We'll probably see Tyrus Thomas, with his enigmatic cauldron of rage, elbow somebody (my money's on Perk), preciptating some lame pseudo-scrum that will end with Scalabrine and Linton Johnson ejections. Then the obligatory primetime Bulls-Celtics bloodfeud on next year's Christmas Day: buy your tickets now.
I hope they don't retaliate. I hope when the Bulls lose to this collection of faking, preening, entitled jackasses, they do so playing actual basketball. That might not cut it in today's NBA, but it can be the stuff of classics.
And speaking of classics: everybody keeps saying this series lives up to that billing. It doesn't. But it could have.