They say the close-out game is the hardest one. I'll take their word for it, who has the time to play organized sports and find out?
So that's the Cavaliers charge tonight, whereas the Bulls will be playing with appropriate desperation. That seems to have already manifested in Pau Gasol trying to give Game 6 a try, and here's hoping he's legitimately healthy enough to go through with it well.
Obviously, the preferred method of victory for the Bulls in this game will be one that's put out of reach, both quickly and thoroughly. That hasn't been the case since Game 1, though. However, while a close game is obviously dicey: we've seen it's been the Cavs (and LeBron James) who've had trouble closing the show, just as much as the Bulls.
It hasn't been hard to see: the Cavaliers play tight with a lead, with LeBron assuming control of the ball and the pace, and his team going to relative crap in the process. But Tom Haberstoh at ESPN.com has dug into the results with the help of SynergySports, noticing a trend in LeBron's postseason into Game 1 of this series: not only has LeBron isolation-ball generated poor results, he's doing so at a much higher rate than in prior postseasons (and at double what anyone else in the league attempts).
Haberstroh started with Game 1 of the Bulls series, noting that in trying to lead his team in a comeback he went 0-3 with two turnovers, and had 9 isolation plays. Since then he's tweeted updates.
Gm 2: 8 pts on 10 ISOs
Gm 3: 7 pts on 13 ISOs
Gm 4: 6 pts on 16 ISOs
1st half: 24 pts on 10-12 FG. Only 1 ISO.
2nd half: 14 pts on 4-12 FG. 8 ISOs.
It's especially telling that in LeBron's objectively-great game on Tuesday, he still fell into bad habits, which in part allowed the Bulls to make that a close game.
Of course, the problem is that the Bulls were down 17 with just under 9 minutes to go in Game 5. So, it's more important tonight for the Bulls if that doesn't happen. But in Game 4, though LeBron hit that last three, it was an absolute choke-job by him and the Cavaliers to even get the Bulls back in that game.
This isn't to judge LeBron's decision-making here. Maybe it's Blatt or an anemic supporting cast or the Bulls defense or the situation dictating the safety in isolation-ball that gives LeBron 'no choice' but to operate this way. Who cares what LeBron's thinking though, the important thing is that it looks bad and it's led to bad Cavaliers offense. So if the Bulls find themselves in a close game tonight, there can be fear of the Cavs superstar hitting a backbreaking shot, but also encouragement that he's choosing to eschew actual team offense to get to that point.