Ever had one of those bad dreams where everything goes wrong? Like, you’re in school but you don’t know your locker combination, haven’t got your books, didn’t do your homework, can’t find any of your classes, forgot to get dressed, and the teachers are all slavering, tentacled monsters who want to use your stomach as an incubator for their evil, writhing, larva-like offspring. We’ve all had those dreams, right? Right…?!
Well, the Bulls lived that dream last night. And I was there, “loving it live.” It was a surreal experience, like watching some horrible natural disaster unfold but not being able to help the victims. The crowd was stunned. Some were livid, others were simply too shocked to be angry. There was a lot of head shaking/nervous laughing going on. The woman next to me had a child on her lap. At one point, I turned to her and said: “It’s too bad your daughter has to see something like this.” She replied: “Fortunately, she’s only three years old, so if I’m lucky she either won’t remember it or she’ll repress it.” Good times. But not really.
Chicago suffered a meltdown so complete that at one point I started to wonder whether the United Center had been converted into a giant microwave. These couldn’t be the same Bulls that almost swept the first two games in Boston, could they? Seriously, I was ready to storm the locker room and check for Body Snatcher pods. I mean, newly minted Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose (9 points, 4-for-14, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 7 turnovers) wasn’t just thoroughly outclassed by Boston’s Rajon Rondo (20 points, 8-for-15, 11 boards, 6 assists, 5 steals), he was even outplayed by Stephon Marbury (13 points, 4-for-10, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, zero turnovers). Welcome to the Twighlight Zone, folks.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over by halftime, by which point the Bulls were already down by 22 points (59-37). And here are some fun first-half numbers for you: 14 turnovers, 9 missed free throws, 32 percent shooting. And things didn’t get any better in the second half. Vinny Del Negro became so desperate that he put in Tim Thomas to stem the tide. That led to the following sequence, which may rank among the worst possessions of all time: Thomas isolated at the three-point arc for 10 seconds, got his shot blocked by Kendrick Perkins, flopped to try and get the call and then committed a reach-in foul on Rondo, who had snared the rebound and was sprinting downcourt. Amazingly, Thomas got the ball again on Chicago’s very next possession…and had it stolen by Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
For the game, the Bulls committed 22 turnovers, gave up 24 points off those turnovers, shot 37.5 percent from the field and missed 10 of their 27 free throw attempts (mind you, they went 46-for-51 in Games 1 and 2). Going back to turnovers for a second, Boston’s 16 steals were the second-best total in their franchise playoff history, behind only the 18 they had in Game 5 of the 2008 Finals. On the bright side, Chicago won the rebounding battle (45-37) and outscored the Celtics by a point in the second half to lose only 107-86. Oh, and Vinny didn’t have to worry about saving any timeouts down the stretch. So they had that going for them…which is nice.
Speaking of coaching blunders, this game was further proof (in case you needed any) that Vinny isn’t Coach of the Year material quite yet. (Sorry, Peter Vecsey.) To the casual and slightly inebriated observer, it looked like the Celtics came to Chicago with a solid game plan, whereas it seemed like Del Negro just told his guys: “Keep doing what you’ve been doing, only rebound better. Now go get ‘em!” It’s funny how poor preparation becomes exceedingly glaring when Rose and Ben Gordon (15 points, 5-for-13) aren’t having career games.
So now the Bulls are behind 2-1 in the series, only it feels more like they’re down 8-1. That’s how discouraging this defeat was. I know it’s only one loss, and that they could come back to take Game 4, and maybe even win the series (though I highly doubt it). But this sure felt like one of those “told you so” defeats that reveals all the success and good vibes of the last couple months were just fool’s gold.
Update! TrueHoop Network: Zach Lowe from Celtics Hub: “The Bulls certainly didn’t help themselves. No team’s defense is good enough to truly force 22 turnovers against an NBA team. Twice on fast breaks Derrick Rose tossed ill-timed passes from the middle of the court to the left corner; one pass went out of bounds because no Bull was there to catch it. Rajon Rondo zoomed into the passing lane to intercept the second. It will be very interesting to see how the Bulls respond to this game. They looked tentative and unsure of themselves. Five days after the franchise’s biggest win in years, they find themselves coming off a blowout and needing to win a home game to keep this is a competitive series. Sunday is going to be interesting.”