"No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly." - Oscar Wilde
I love basketball with all my heart. Equal parts calculation and improvisation, meritocracy and idiocracy, it is endlessly entertaining. And yet, even on the grandest of stages with the brightest of lights, there are times I cannot help but avert my eyes.
So it was over the last 5:46 of the 4th quarter of the Bulls 79-76 win, when Chicago mustered but two made free throws and somehow walked away with a 2-1 series lead. I have a friend who remains convinced of the former truth-now myth of NBA teams only playing defense in the playoffs, who texted as soon as the buzzer sounded to use this game as proof of his pet theory. No sir, the only thing this was an example of is the direction and height of the flames that are emitted from a dumpster fire of the highest order.
Homer that I am, a win still feels "good", but the rational among us must concede that 79 points should beat exactly zero playoff teams on any normal plane of existence. Thank god for the Nets. More and more I am convinced they are a gift from the basketball gods for a Bulls season filled with so much ugh.
Watching the Bulls try not to crap the bed while the Chicago Bears were on the clock in the NFL draft, not to mention all the filler sports on a dozen or so flat screens caused me to swivel my head around like the possessed watching a tennis match. I am proud/ashamed to announce that my neck is actually sore this morning. Sports!
To the notes:
- I read a well-penned article from The Brooklyn Game blog about Boozer's success being a positive for the Nets, that he should be encouraged to take more fadeaway shots as they take him out of position and put him off balance. The fact is, Boozer may be the most-accomplished fadeaway shooter playing in the NBA today. Once again the Nets had no answer for, quite literally, one of the only scoring threats currently wearing a jersey for the Chicago Bulls. PJ Carlesimo can't be asked to answer for the Nets' 1-25 shooting slump in the first half, but continuing to guard Boozer one-on-one makes less sense with every passing minute.
- Along the same lines, it should be noted that Thibs is absolutely kicking PJ's patoot. The Nets have a significant talent advantage and yet look like the lesser team. Thibs made adjustments after game one that the Nets have yet to figure out. This is why PJ continues to carry the interim tag and, just my guess, won't be back once the season concludes.
- Deng, likely having my read my previous notes lamenting his lack of presence behind the three point arc, attempted six threes Thursday night. Yayyyyy! (He made only one. Booooooo.) Lu's shot is fascinating. The ball either goes through the hoop while hardly disturbing the net, or CLANGS off the rim as loudly and jarringly as humanly possible. Either way his 21 points were crucial, and his third quarter stretch of absolutely owning Gerald Wallace kept the Nets far enough away to preserve victory.
- Deron Williams continues to struggle with his long distance shot, a development that is saving the Bulls time and again. Kirk Hinrich deserves some credit for playing solid defense and forcing Williams to his left hand and into help. But the Nets' star player had multiple open looks late and simply could not knock them down, eliciting many a WHEW from my area of the bar.
Prior to tip-off, my buddy asked who would win game three. I was reluctant to answer if only because of the schizophrenic nature of both of these teams. So, I predicted a split in Chicago, which means if the Bulls lose game four it's all my fault and I'm a giant b-hole.
But much like the Bulls, the Nets are a team that plays their best when written off, so the Bulls will need to score a hell of a lot more than 79 points to win on Saturday. Joe Johnson's injury limitations are evident at this point, and as such he remains a wild card moving forward. But Deron WIlliams will bounce back in a major way in game four. He feeds off of failure and doubt, just like me in my fledgling career in sportswriting.
Back to the UC on Saturday for game four with a chance to take a commanding lead in the series. Never would have guessed it after the Bulls' game one shellacking, but such is the power of Thibs Ball. My prediction?