Game 3: Bulls 108, Cavaliers 106

Derrick Rose versus LeBron James, one-on-one. Wow.

Derrick Rose versus LeBron James, one-on-one. Wow.

The Bulls snuck into the NBA playoffs on the final day of the regular season. Given the number of injuries and the amount of drama they went through during that 82-game gulag, that accomplishment was nothing short of amazing. However, their efforts merely earned them the right to face soon-to-be-MVP LeBron James and his league-best Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

That seemed like the postseason equivalent of a summary execution.

According to the script, the Bulls were supposed to roll over and die. Like bugs. After all, these playoffs are supposed to be the coronation of King James. That certainly appeared to be the case in Game 2, when the Bulls seemingly played as well as they could possibly play but were almost single-handedly beaten by a hot-shooting LeBron.

That was Chicago’s cue to give up.

But they didn’t. Joakim Noah said the Bulls were going to try to shock the world. Consider the world shocked, Jo. I don’t think even Nostradamus could have predicted this.

After a nearly perfect first half, the Bulls led by 11 points (56-45). With 7:52 left in the third quarter, Chicago pushed that lead to 21 (68-47) on a jumper by Taj Gibson. It was unbelievable. I was ready to pinch myself or slap some cold water in my face to make sure I hadn’t dozed off. But this was way beyond my wildest dreams.

Then the Cavaliers made their run.

Anthony Parker tricked Kirk Hinrich into fouling him on a three-point attempt and hit two of three at the line. LeBron endured 23 seconds of fantastic defense by Luol Deng before drilling a three-pointer as the shot clock expired. Mo Williams hit a free throw (thanks to a technical foul on Taj Gibson), a 21-footer, and then a three-pointer of his own. Then Anderson Varejao hit a couple free throws to cut the lead to single digits.

Suddenly, a blowout turned into a dogfight.

During the fourth quarter, LeBron very nearly took over the game. He scored 13 of his game-high 39 points and dished out 5 of his game-best 8 assists. At one point, James blew by Hinrich — who was face-guarding him for some crazy reason — for a dunk and a foul…which happened to be Noah’s fifth. Without Joakim in the game, the Cavaliers started to feast on the offensive boards like a pack of hungry jackals.

It seemed like there was no way the Bulls could hold them off.

But they did. Somehow or other, they did. Mind you, the final half minute nearly gave me an ulcer. Seriously, I’ll probably die five years earlier than I should have because of this game. The Bulls were leading 104-96 when Williams knocked down another triple. The Cavs were forced to foul Hinrich, who inexplicably bricked both free throws, which was especially stunning considering how hot his shooting was (see below). At the other end, Williams missed a three, but Cleveland came away with the offensive rebound, after which LeBron hit a three.

Now the Bulls led 104-102 with 10 seconds left.

The Cavaliers fouled Derrick Rose, who missed his first free throw and hit the second.

Now the Bulls led 105-103.

After a Cleveland timeout, some fantastic Bulls defense forced a pass to Varejao, the Cavs’ worst foul shooter. Deng immediately fouled him. Andy made the first but missed the second. Brad Miller came away with the rebound — thanks in part to a critical no-call on Noah (see below) — and was fouled. Brad put in both freebies.

Now the Bulls led 107-103 with six seconds left.

After a timeout, Williams hit a gut-check three-pointer. Oh, man.

Now the Bulls led 107-106 with three seconds left.

The Cavaliers fouled Deng, who hit his first free throw but (of course) missed his second. Count ’em: Four missed free throws by the Bulls down the stretch. All I can say is, thank God for Pepto-Bismol.

Now the Bulls led 108-106. Fortunately, the Cavs had no timeouts left. Even more fortunately, Anthony Parker rebounded Luol’s missed foul shot and had no time to find Lebron. Parker’s 42-foot fling was off the mark.

As Johnny “Red” Kerr might have said: Bulls win! Bulls win!

What a game.

Let’s make a list of the Chicago players who stepped up, shall we? First off, there was Derrick Rose, who scored a team-high 31 points (13-for-26) to go along with a team-best 7 assists. D-Rose made several tough shots — actually, they all seemed like tough shots — including at least three of his patented one-handed push shots. Derrick was beyond huge.

To me, his biggest play happened with 2:46 left in fourth quarter. The Cavaliers had been trapping Rose on pick and rolls for most of the second half, and then they sicced LeBron on him. Mind you, James is perhaps the most amazing physical specimen in NBA history. Nobody — not even Michael Jordan — has had his combination of explosive speed and sheer muscular power. But with the game on the line, even the mighty LeBron couldn’t stay in front of Rose, who slid past the presumed MVP and pulled up for a midrange jumper that put the Bulls up 98-92.

And let’s not forget about Captain Kirk, who netted 27 points by going 9-for-12 from the field and 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. There’s no way the Bulls would have won this game without Hinrich. He was absolutely indispensible. It’s always this way with Kirk, isn’t it? He’ll be quiet for a few games and everybody gets down on him, but he never stops playing, never quits competing.

Then there was Noah, who was limited to 33 minutes due to foul trouble but still finished with a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. And if the NBA gave out hockey assists — that is, passes that lead to an assist — Jo would have had several of those as well. Speaking of invisible stats, Noah also knocked the ball away from LeBron with just under a minute left in the fourth. Deng was credited with the steal, but it was Joakim’s active hands that made the play.

It’s also worth noting that the Bulls did their best work with Noah in the game. Hence his game-high plus-minus score of +13. The next best was Rose at +6. Lebron was +5.

I should also give some props to Deng, who scored 20 (9-for-16), two of which came on a very difficult reverse layup after he had gone behind his back to beat LeBron off the dribble. And even though James scored 39, Deng made him work hard for many of those points. Standing up to the best player on the planet is never an easy or enviable task, but Luol did it.

In fact, with 1:17 left and the Bulls lead down to 102-92, LeBron drove hard at Deng, drew a whistle, and banked in a short jumper. Unfortunately for James, that tweet he earned was an offensive foul.

Said ‘Bron: “I saw him backpedaling. Me as a driver, I’m watching the defender’s feet. I’m seeing if he’s stationed or is still moving. To me, I felt like he was still backpedaling, and as soon as I saw him backpedaling, that’s when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I haven’t seen the replay, but I know exactly what I’ve seen on the court with the defender right in front of me.”

It was a tough call, no question. But James put his head down and drove his shoulder right into Deng. That kind of move is perfectly legal for NFL running backs. Not so much for NBA players. It doesn’t matter that Luol was still moving. You can’t run over somebody.

Said Noah: “I think one of the refs was about to call a block and then he looked at the other ref because he wasn’t sure, and the other ref — thank God — called a charge. That was a huge play for us. I’m really happy that play went our way. I think I’m kind of biased, but to me, I thought it was a charge the whole time.”

At this point — after this crazy win — who am I to question Joakim Noah? Or the hearts of the Chicago Bulls. They’re giving the best team in the league everything they could ask for.

I hope all the free-agents-to-be are watching.

Joakim Noah, quote machine: Noah committed some silly fouls. This included, as Tony C. pointed out, “a dazzlingly stupid late foul on a LeBron dunk” in the fourth quarter when he already had four fouls. And Jo knew it.

Said Noah: “Stupid, stupid fouls.”

Of course, as Tony C. also pointed out: “VDN should not have allowed Noah to play several defensive sets guarding Lebron at the top of the key: that was a foul waiting to happen.”

Deng versus the King:
Here’s Luol’s sweet, sweet move on LeBron:

Noah versus the King:
Here’s that critical no-call on Joakim:

Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos

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34 Responses to Game 3: Bulls 108, Cavaliers 106

    bobbysimmons April 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    What a crazy game. I was in the nosebleeds, but we were the ones who started the MVP chant. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the UC louder than yesterday. The “Cleveland sucks” chants were great too.

  2. Dee April 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    that was BS on the charge call. I recorded the game and went back to watch it. Deng was moving and instead of a potential 3 point play for LJ, he was hit with a charge! Then on the free throw Noah wrapped his arm around LJ’s face and held him! Gee, no foul there either! Holw much extra did the refs get from the Bulls players to completely ignore the correct calls?! Needless to say, LJ is going to put on a show in game 4!

  3. Cavs in 5 April 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Well I agree that there were 2 missed/incorrect calls that had a huge impact on the game. I dont see how the ref could miss the call on Noah wrapping his arm around LJ’s face and holding him right under the basket! The charge, any other time that is a blocking foul when your feet are moving. So why now was this a charge? Because they were in Chicago and if the Bulls went down 0-3, that would have sealed the fate of the Bulls! I know a ref may miss a call here or there, but they do try to eaven it out on the next couple of trips down the floor. But instead, Chicago got the benefit of 2 BAD calls back to back!

    Tony C. April 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    “…Then there was Noah,who was limited to 33 minutes due to foul trouble…”

    Which was a result of two obvious mistakes. First, VDN should not have allowed Noah to play several defensive sets guarding Lebron at the top of the key: that was a foul waiting to happen. Then, with FOUR fouls already. Noah uncharacteristically committed a dazzling stupid late foul on a LeBron dunk.

    Deng’s aggressiveness has been a pleasure to watch. It’s as if that block by LeBron has ignited him for the whole series.

    Taj, much as I like him, is too often being exposed as having bad/weak hands. It’s not just that he flubs passes (mainly received below his waist), but also rarely comes up with loose balls. I’m not sure how much he will be able to improve in those ares, but they are concerning.

    luvabullnj April 23, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    WOW! This Bulls team has got a lot of HEART.
    WOW! Luol jukes LeBron with a behind the back & scores.
    DENG! Luol is playing with fire for the 1st time.
    WOW! Captain Kirk was fantastic, again.
    WOW! Noah has a knack for the big play when needed.
    WOW! They were forced to have LeBron guard Rose.
    WOW! LeBron had 39 pts, 4 treys with 54% FG and lost.
    WOW! Cavs had 14 treys & 14 Off. boards & lost.
    WOW! LeBron had a near triple double and still lost.

    One can make the point that the Bulls played a near perfect game and barely won. But you could also argue that the Cavs played very high level game too and still lost.

    You knew Rose and Noah were going to bring their A game. But I love the play of Deng and Hinrich. And how about Big Brad with the Very Clutch Free Throws to seal the deal!


    thirdsaint April 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Oh please, Cavs fans. There are always going to be blown calls and it all evens out in the end in a series. Maybe your team should’ve played tougher defense early on so they wouldn’t have been in a position to whine about 2 missed calls later in the game. This sense of entitlement Cavs fans have is ridiculous.

    Matt McHale April 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    “that was BS on the charge call.”

    Sorry to disagree, but LeBron put his head down and drove his shoulder into Deng, which bumped Deng out of the way. That’s considered illegal contact that gives the offensive player an unfair advantage. It was the right call.

    Rick April 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    “This sense of entitlement Cavs fans have is ridiculous.”

    Sorry to disappoint you but being from Cleveland, I no of absolutely no Cavs fans who believe they have a sense of entitlement. Try again.

    And oh, as if Bulls fans didn’t walk around with a sense of entitlement during the Jordan years, even when the worlds most bitter person was off playing baseball.

    bullsfandom April 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    The charge was a charge, even if you are Lebron.

    You know, I’m starting to think that the reason Lebron carry’s himself like a big D-bag out on the court is because he himself is from Cleveland?

    Jake in Minnie April 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    The Cleveland Tourism video….

  11. TexasBullsFan April 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    Sorry Cavs fans, you can’t just put your shoulder into someone and run them over. He’s not taking it in from the 1 yard line. It was the right call.

    Brad S. April 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    Dear Visiting Cavs fans,

    GO AWAY.

    Brad S.

    P.S. – There are always going to be missed or bad calls in every NBA game. But a seven game series is usually enough time for the cream to rise to the top. As Chicago fans we have been on both the winning (MJ’s Bulls) and losing (Bartman-Cubs, Pippen’s Bulls) sides of this dynamic. Blaming the ref is a cop-out that ignores the entire rest of the game.

    P.S.S. – Cleveland Still Sucks!

    thirdsaint April 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    I’ve seen it a ton from Cleveland fans as the playoffs have drawn near so I think you need to open your eyes Rick. They have been no different than Lakers fans or Yankees fans with the only difference being those teams have won a championship recently and can rightly expect another.

  14. Bullsfan22 April 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Awesome game! I thought to myself that even when the Cavs came back in the 4th, that there was no way the Bulls were gonna lose. The way the Bulls played the first half was inspiring, to say the least, but honestly, and I think this is because of their experience, they let off the pedal a little too much and the offensive boards that the Cavs got in the 4th was bad, so too the late threes, again.

    I think this up coming game is huge (haven’t we all said that the last month or so). The Bulls are right around that zone where there is nothing that’s gonna stop them from giving it their all, win or lose, if they aren’t in it already. That said, they have to execute a little better on their defense in the 3/4th quarters. That’s been their inconsistency all year, offense in the first half, and D in the second.

    Go Bulls!!

    Cavendish April 23, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    I don’t even want to hear it from Cavs fans after those first two games (not to mention the regular season). I was having seizures with the horrible officiating in the first two games and EVERYBODY knows how many calls Lebron gets. Please, go cry somewhere else.

    RE the charge: even if your feet are moving you cannot barrel into a defensive player – they have a right to their position. You just can’t make contact with the offensive player. “If an offensive player causes contact with a defensive player who has estab-lished a legal position, an offensive foul shall be called and no points may be scored.”

    RE the rebound after the free throw: I spose none of the Cavs fans care to look at the shove LBJ gave to Jo to get into that position in the first place? Ref’s will let that stuff go everytime with under 30 in a close game. That’s just basketball.

    Now serving French Cries and WHAA-Burgers to the Mistake by the Lake. Thank you and come again!

    Rick April 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I notice all you people who are talking about not blaming the refs saying everything possible about the charge or no-charge by Lebron.

    How come NOT ONE of you have mentioned a thing about that real ugly guy’s clothesline of Lebron on the missed free throw?

    Kevin April 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    Why do you people continue to take jabs at the city of Cleveland? How does the city “sucking” have anything to do with a basketball game? Seriously, grow up. There are people living in that city facing harships because of crappy county government, a failed steel industry–and all you can do is pour it on them because it makes you feel better? Coming from one of the largest liberal cesspools in the United States, one would assume you people would be, I don’t know, more compassionate about your fellow countrymen. But I guess that’s asking for too much from the city that gave us our president.

  18. Webster92 April 23, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Just caught it on ESPN that Noah “gave the Bulls their first whiff of an identity by being the underdog team that isn’t afraid of LeBron James.” I guess it was only everyone outside Chicago that saw Joke-im taunt LeBron from the bench then back down once LeBron reacted. Its also sad to see someone trying to build a reputation by tearing down a city just because nobody invited him out. True, nobody vacations in Cleveland, but when is the last time anyone went on a vacation in the midwest? The comment makes no sense.

    Brad S. April 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Gee Rick, maybe because it was an obvious foul and no-call, …but that is hardly the point. The Cavs had 3 quarters to compete in that game. They only showed up for one. Now you merry band of Cavalier fans want to log in here and post that it’s because of bad refs?

    It’s almost like this is your first time.

    “Welcome! These are the playoffs. Let me introduce you around….”

    inkybreath April 24, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    Great game on both sides. Wow.

    Jumping into the fouls … I think what Leveland fans are complaining about is that they happened at the end of the game, when superstar treatment is more strictly enforced. Because … if you look back through the game, you will see what your team got away with, as well. Don’t act like it was lop-sided. And, if they shot higher than a Ben-Wallace-average at the free-throw line, you (probably) wouldn’t be in this mood right now.

    Bobby April 24, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    This really was just an amazingly well officiated game. It always has to be when a charge or travel is called on Lebron. They missed one awful travel when Lebron posted up, shuffled his feet, and missed a shot only to get the rebound and hit a three. Lebron should be good for two charges and five travels a game. The problem is he plays by those different rules. And don’t give me that “well that’s how the game is played” crap because that doesn’t make it right.

    Billy Joe April 24, 2010 at 1:57 am #

    Regarding the Noah “clothesline” of Lebron, it was a good no-call. If you look closely at the replay, you will see Lebron pushing Noah in the midsection to establish his positional advantage and Noah then reacted by raising his arm to keep Lebron from ducking inside him. There could have been a foul called on either player (or a double-foul?), so a no-call was best. Noah’s was just easier to see, but Lebron’s was no less a foul.

    Trm3 April 24, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    I got an idea for Rick, Dee, and Cavs in 5..stop whining u babies! Ur King James gets all the touch calls he wants in Cleveland. Rose gets hit almost everytime and gets no calls. He got hit a bunch of times in Cleveland and there was nothing called. As for the clothesline..yeah, that’s a foul but the charge..that’s a charge! U can’t just lower ur shoulder and knock a guy over.. regardless if his feet are moving. Ur boy LeBron does that crap all the time and normally gets his BS call.. not that time, however and it was the CORRECT call! So stop ur whining..Ur team isn’t that good..u’ll win the series but lookin at ur team I see nothing great. Outside of Lebron and Jameson..ur team sucks!

    Red April 24, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Cavs fan here….

    There were bad calls that went against both teams, but I just want to clarify one thing – it absolutely DOES matter if you’re backpedaling and completely out of position when it comes to calling charges.

    That call certainly did not lose the game for the Cavs, especially since questionable calls went against Chicago. But if you’re gonna bring it up, you can’t defend it with a fallacy.

  25. Ryan April 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    I am a Cubs fan, so I understand why Cavs fans are bitter. You have to complain about something when you don’t win. This is a much smaller issue compared to Bartman debacle.

    Cavs are the favorite to win the CHAMPIONSHIP, but they have troubles beating the worst team in the Playoffs (record-wise). I think that is hilarious after they swept the first two rounds last season – and then got bounced with an ‘unsportsman-like’ walk off of the court by Lebron. I bet they are getting sick of arguing the same two calls on all of the Cavs sites where everyone agrees. Imagine those calls going against your team the whole season and the first two games of these Playoffs – many calls are referee judgement or point of view. Cavs had the upside when they were home, and we got the benefit of the doubt in Game 3, and I would hope, Game 4 as well.

    I would complain about the late loose ball fouls on Varejao before whining about Lebron getting PIT-FACED by Noah on a free throw.

    blackfujones April 24, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    Yea i was at that game as well, and the amount of travelling calls that are “missed” on lebron is freaking hilarious. Plus that was an obvious charge call when he clearly ducked his shoulder into dengs chest. It was the same type of play from game 1 when lebron did the same thing yet got the AND 1.

    I loved noah the whole game tho. During the entire game he was into it, cheering his teammates on pumping the crowd up. What a great game!

  27. TexasBullsFan April 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Hey “I’m Gonna Whine About The Economy” Kevin. I got a shampoo selection you might like. It’s called “No More Tears”

    I mean seriously, Cavs fans, quit bellyaching. Makes y’all look like a bunch of babies. You love the city of Cleveland? Great. Live there and enjoy the heck out of it. Why do you care what Noah thinks?

    Oh, I get it. Probably because your city *does* suck and anyone who lives there would rather live elsewhere. Cheers!

    Boppinbob April 24, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Aside from taking the 1st half off in game 1 the Bulls have played solid basketball in this series. I hate it when people get petty. Stop the name calling and talk basketball. I am from Connecticut, and I have been to both Chicago and Cleveland. Both cities have something to offer. Every NBA game has missed calls against both teams. So what, get over it. If the Bulls win the series then Cleveland has a reason to complain. But seldom have I seen a bad call effect the outcome of a playoff series (93/94 Bulls-Knicks series might be an exception). We are seeing some excellent basketball. Let’s enjoy it and stop the acrimony.

    Brad S. April 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    That’s very mature of you Boppinbob.

    Not very much fun, tho. Plus, they started it 😉

    rocky April 25, 2010 at 4:12 am #

    Kirk is key to this series. If he’s knocking down three’s we can take this series and shock the world.

  31. Chris April 25, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    I wonder how much time Kevin spent trying to work the president into his answer. How an Obama remark gets on a message board about basketball, I don’t know. Regardless, Cleveland is struggling; so are alot of other cities, and it’s been that way since before the recession. Noah’s comments aren’t hurting the economy any, so focus your blame somewhere else. It’s another case of people worshipping a celebrity’s opinion for no reason.

  32. chad April 26, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    sure wish salmons was still here, we could have been even in the series, we got nothin outside of our starters, i am sick of jj and his fouls.

    kj April 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    so, how ya feelin now, bulls fans? swear to christ, ya win a game at home by two points and suddenly you’re “back in the series.” way to wake a sleeping giant, dolts…


  1. Game 4: Cavaliers 121, Bulls 98 » By The Horns - April 26, 2010

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