Game 5: Cavaliers 96, Bulls 94

Dont be sad, Derrick. You and the Bulls made Chicago proud.

Don't be sad, Derrick. You and the Bulls made Chicago proud.

As far as last stands go, this was pretty impressive.

The Bulls showed up in Cleveland for Game 5 of their first round playoff series against LeBron James and his Cavaliers as a Dead Team Walking led by a Dead Coach Walking. And after the way they got hammered at home in Game 4, I think most people expected a swift and merciless execution.

This was just the latest in a long list of times the 2009-10 Bulls have been left for dead. They were supposed to give up after starting the season 10-17. Or after all the rumors that Vinny Del Negro was about to get fired mid-season. Or after Joakim Noah got injured. Or after the trades that sent John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas out of town in exchange for a handful of expiring contracts. Or after that 10-game losing streak. Or after they squeaked into the playoffs only to get matched up with the best team in the league, which just happens to feature the best player on the planet.

But understand this: These Bulls don’t have “quit” in them.

I can’t quite explain it. Maybe Derrick Rose (game-high 31 points, 6 assists) is even closer to stardom than we thought. Maybe Joakim Noah (8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 7 turnovers) has an iron will that transcends mere numbers. Maybe Luol Deng (26 points, 8-for-11 from the line, 6 boards) is tougher than anybody gives him credit for. Maybe the players actually wanted to win this one for Vinny.

Who knows?

All we know for sure is that the Bulls gave the Cavaliers just about everything they could handle in what turned out to be the final game of a surprisingly competitve series. Cleveland was supposed to blow Chicago off the map, metaphorically speaking. This was supposed to be a cruel four-game sweep featuring at least three (if not four) blowouts. Instead, the Bulls pushed it to five games and played well enough to win three of them.

There’s no shame in that.

Honestly, as a fan, it’s hard not to question the officiating at least a little. Shaq was throwing his giant forearm into his defenders and those defenders were getting called for fouls. Early in the fourth quarter, after two consecutive tough calls on Miller, Shaq turned the ball over. Flip Murray sped downcourt, getting bumped and shoved the whole way. No call. Then, with 7:35 to go in the game, Rose hit a shot while being fouled by Shaq…only the continuaton was taken away. The result was a shot clock violation by the Bulls, after which the Cavs went on a run that pushed their one-point lead to nine.

But the Bulls fought back.

Of course, the fourth quarter exposed some of the team’s warts. Such as their lack of size and strength in the frontcourt, hence the 17 fouls between Brad Miller (fouled out), Taj Gibson (fouled out) and Joakim Noah (5 personals). The fact that Shaq was earning touch fouls while bowling into his defender — particularly Miller, who earned 6 fouls in about 9 minutes — didn’t help.

Then there was the foul shooting, where the Bulls ranked in the lower half of the league all season. Missed foul shots cost Chicago a handful of games (at least in part) over the course of the season. Well, they missed four of them during the final quarter, three by Gibson and one by Kirk Hinrich. Those misses make the final two-point margin of defeat kind of sting.

Then too, there is the team’s utter lack of three-point shooting. The Bulls were 2-for-10 from downtown for the game, and they had nowhere to go when they desperately needed a triple on the last few plays.

Speaking of which, the final wart was Del Negro’s playcalling out of timeouts. Chicago’s final two possessions were an exercise in frustration and futility. Not to take anything away from Cleveland’s defense, which was solid, but the Bulls looked like pickup team coming out of their final two timeouts. A bad one. In all fairness, personnel (or lack thereof) certainly limits Vinny’s options, but any team that has Rose should be able to generate a better look than what they got.

No matter.

This season was a success. No, I’m not kidding. And I think By The Horns reader Brad S. put it best after the Bulls lost Game 4:

“How many of us would say that this season was disappointing? Oh sure, there are some things I am disappointed with: Vinny’s playcalling, Taj’s dissappearance in the playoffs, all the injuries leading to swapping draft picks with the Bucks, Salmons returning to form for the Bucks, and finally the lack of respect from management towards Vinny. However, the goal of this season was first and foremost to get under the salary cap enough to sign a free agent. (Check) The secondary goal was to play well enough to get into the playoffs. (Check) On top of that, the core of this team each showed talent and heart, when they could have mailed it in. I, for one, am not in any way disappointed.”

It’s true.

Outside of the Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards, not too many teams experienced as much injury, player turnover and general tumult as the Bulls. And let’s face it, management chose specifically not to invest in this year’s squad in hopes of building a better team through free agency this summer. That’s right: Even the people running the Bulls left them for dead…and I mean from Day 1 of the season.

And so the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls have officially become a footnote in NBA history. It may turn out that they were the first step on LeBron’s path to his first league championship. That may not sound like anything to be proud of, but in the final analysis, this team showed more heart than anybody could have realistically expected from them. They went down fighting against a vastly superior opponent.

They did Chicago proud.

Vinny on his future:
“I don’t even think about that stuff. I enjoy the experience, I enjoy the competitiveness. It’s about the players to me. I’m proud of the guys, I’m proud of the way they stuck together. They played hard and played through adversity.

“I can’t worry about that. I don’t worry about it. I know how hard my staff has worked and what we’ve done here the last two years. How anyone wants to judge that will judge it and we’ll move on. I’ve been too fortunate in my career and my life to worry about those things. Those decisions will be made now moving forward.”

Derrick on Vinny’s future:
“We both came in as rookies. It would be devastating. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to the front office. They’re the ones that drafted me, so I guess I’m behind them.

“It would be unusual, especially since it’s our second time [in the playoffs]. But the league changes constantly. I guess that’s how it is in the NBA. It’s tough to coach up here.”

TrueHoop Network:
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: “Game ball goes to Antawn Jamison. This is why the Cavs got him. He made his threes, he cut to the basket, he carried the Cavs at times, and he made his free throws. When the Cavs needed baskets late, they went to him and he delivered. Great game for Antawn.”

Update! Bonus stats:
The following facts and figures were compiled by Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats and Information:

1. Derrick Rose did all he could to keep the Bulls in the game on Tuesday, scoring a game-high 31 points. However, it was the defense of G Delonte West that allowed the Cavaliers to hold on down the stretch. Against West, Rose scored 6 points on 1-for-8 shooting and committed 2 turnovers. Against everybody else, Derrick went 10-for-19, scored 25 points and didn’t commit a turnover.

2. LeBron James had trouble finding the bottom of the net on Tuesday against the Bulls, but when he did have success, it was usually against F Luol Deng. Against Deng, LeBron drew 7 fouls, went 4-for-6 from the field and scored 14 points. Against everybody else, James drew 2 fouls, shot 1-for-6, had a shot blocked and scored 5 points.

3. James was 2-9 on contested FG attempts and 3-3 on those that were uncontested, including his lone 3-pt FG.

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

14 Responses to Game 5: Cavaliers 96, Bulls 94

  1. Bullsfan22 April 28, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I thought they played real well, considering that 23 point drubbing at home. I was afraid when the lead went ub by 9 or 10 in the third and they were missing shots, but they held it together. The Cavs three pointers were killers once again, you can say that was the biggest difference in this series, apart from Lebron taking over at times. Joakim didn’t have as many points and rebounds, and he looked pretty cooked out there, but he’s given nothing back in this series, a great effort by him. Derrick continues to amaze, but that potential three point play that was wiped out by the referees, that could have made it 82-81 in favor of the Bulls was the real game changer, even though the Bulls were still in there until the last seconds.

    Luol Deng impressed me in this series. I feel he played solid all five games and deserves a little bit more credit, he showed up to play, even though he was carrying some injury(ies). Kirk Hinrich started to play better in the 2nd half half, but then seemed to stall, pity, as we all know when he gets going the Bulls get goin, that never really happened, and that stinks, could have used his three point ‘prowess’ in that 4th quarter. VDN, not sure what to think except some of his drawn out plays, once again, were questionable, especially the last one. Why not go for the THREE?

    Another huge thing was free throws for the Bulls! That also could have been the real dagger. They have been a solid FT shooting team all season, but in game 5 they just clanked WAY too many! No excuses there, make your FT’s and you might have a shot, real shot, given how close it was in the end.

    Third, officiating! It’s funny, i mentioned this before the start of the game on the official bulls connect live chat pregame. I wanted to see a great game, with no controversy, crazy ref interference, just good bball, run and gun, hard nosed defense, threes, dunks, etc. That really seemed to stall in the 2nd half. Just when it seemed like the Bulls where on the verge of coming into the Cavs heads, the refs decided to step in, and boy did they. I guess you could see something was up when in the first few minutes of the game, the Bulls had already committed 5 or 6 fouls to the Cavs 0! Oh well, David Stern got his wish, Cleveland advances….

    I think overall this season was good, all things considering. I think that with Rose, Noah, Deng coming around in the playoffs, Gibson improving, and potential star(s) coming to town during the summer, the Bulls have a lot to look forward to, and I think it will be a great season next year. Whatever they do in this offseason, with the players and/or coach, it should be a good move, one that should pay off come next season.

    Go Bulls!

    jason b. April 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    To feel badly is to possess an inadequate sense of touch. To feel bad is to experience sorrow. And “you and the Bulls” suggests that Rose is not a member.

    Enigmatik April 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    With all that happened this season, Bulls fans can’t be terribly disappointed. The team fought through every setback they had all year long and ended the season with that same tenacity.

    In regards to this game, I have to place equal blame on the team (missing free throws, leaving shooters open for 3’s constantly) and on the officiating. I don’t like to blame refs, but it was as if they literally decided at about the 9 minute mark of the 4th quarter that this series had gone on long enough. And if you recall, that’s when the Bulls picked up 4 fouls in about a minute (2 on Miller, 1 on Noah, and someone fouled Delonte West). Any feel for the game to that point went out the window once the refs got whistle happy…and the take away for Derrick’s And 1 was just ridiculous. But anyways…they fought hard but just couldn’t match the talent of Cleveland.

    Now the offseason begins, and I hope they’re working right now determining what moves to make. As Bulls fans, we’ve waited long enough to have a contender again. As the team with the 3rd most championships, the organization needs to recognize that pedigree and put a team on the court that reflects that. The coaching situation needs to be resolved ASAP…Vinny did a reasonable job in spite of all the crap around him, but he’s not the answer.

    There’s much work to be done.

    1c1cle April 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    The 4th quarter of last night’s game was exemplary. NBA refs do not enforce laws or rules. NBA refs are arbiters, are judges. NBA refs can tease and sway a game- not so much to change the objective outcome, but to control the game pace and, if given the chance, keep the game close. I compare the state of NBA refereeing with the theocracy of the Catholic church: both have ulterior motives.

    I love the game of basketball deep in my heart, but through discerning thought, I know the game is a sham.

  5. Steve April 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    I was surprised by the effort the bulls put out last night. I honestly expected something along the lines of game 4. nevertheless the bulls had a chance to win the game. the ref’s made some terrible calls on miller/noah. and they took awak derrick’s and 1. i dont ever recall seeing an and1 taken away before. the missed FT hurt. but derrick had 2 shots the went all the way around only to fall out. it hurt, but was a great effort. hate to say it but i missed ben gordon, maybe not so much if hinrich would show up more often. as for the coaching job, who would you suggest we replace vinny with? byron scott? avery johnson? not exactly winning coaches, they both got fired. vinny got us to the playoffs 2 years in a row and for the most part, 2 competitive series which was more than anyone couldve hoped for at the time. he makes some questionable calls sometimes, but its not like it cost us the game.

    your friendly BullsBlogger April 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    And so the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls have officially become a footnote in NBA history. It may turn out that they were the first step on LeBron’s path to his first league championship. That may not sound like anything to be proud of, but in the final analysis, this team showed more heart than anybody could have realistically expected from them. They went down fighting against a vastly superior opponent.

    They did Chicago proud.

    If you’re talking about the players only, then I agree.

    The “Chicago Bulls” organization has nothing to be proud of, as ‘going down fighting’ means far less than being ‘against a vastly superior opponent’ in the first place. Noah himself said post-game that he doesn’t want to be known as ‘the team that tries hard in the first round’, yet it seems that some fans are content with that.

    This season was an extreme disappointment, the only caveat being one could be disappointed in July and then figure everything from then on was expected. They intentionally took a step back to (supposedly) take two steps forward, but the step back still sucked. The steps forward better be worth it.

    Matt McHale April 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    “If you’re talking about the players only, then I agree.”

    You’ll notice that earlier in this very post, I wrote: “And let’s face it, management chose specifically not to invest in this year’s squad in hopes of building a better team through free agency this summer. That’s right: Even the people running the Bulls left them for dead…and I mean from Day 1 of the season.”

    I would hope that makes it pretty clear I’m not handing out unicorn stickers to the front office. Forget the fact that Paxson had a scuffle with Vinny, Vinny couldn’t write a play out of a timeout to save his children, etc. The players fought and overachieved based on what were pretty grim circumstances. I really don’t think fans could have expected anything more out of Rose and company…they pretty much maxed out their relatively limited potential.

    Now, it remains to be seen whether management will actually build up from this or whether we’re going to get stuck with another year of waiting, another year of hoping the team will overachieve, another year of slow starts and eking into the playoffs, so on and so forth.

  8. bobbysimmons April 28, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    bullsblogger, what’d you expect out of this season that you’re so disappointed? I think most people’s goal was making it to the playoffs while developing our young players, and moving pieces around to create cap space for the off season. The Bulls accomplished 2/3 of those, but considering all the injuries we went through, this is not a terrible outcome.

    My complaint, and it’s a pretty big one is that the Bulls will be a position to sign only one legit FA, most likely Bosh. Unfortunately even by adding Bosh/Boozer/Amare we aren’t legit championship contenders without adding a legit SG. In retrospect we should’ve kept Salmons and traded Hinrich.

    Boppinbob April 29, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    bobbysimmons, Salmons couldn’t get the job done in the first half of this past season. The Bulls did not start winning until Hinrich was moved into the starting line-up. That made Salmons expendable, since he did not function well as a sixth man either. He did play very well for the Bulls after the trade last year. Let’s wait and see what he does with the Bucks next season before we anoint him as a god.

    Anybody notice what Tyrus Thomas did in Charlotte’s playoff appearence? No great shakes. Basically he was the same player he was with the Bulls (all potential and spotty reality).

    It will be interesting to see who is still on the Bulls roster next season. The only locks are Rose, Noah, Gibson, Johnson, Deng and Hinrich (or whom ever they might be traded for). It would be nice to see Miller come back at an appropriate cost. But I believe the rest of the roster is up in the air.

  10. Kevin April 29, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    I’m a Cavs fan so take this with a grain of salt. I realize there were some bad calls that went the Cavs way in the fourth quarter. Obviously the take away of the Rose and-1 was particularly memorable. On the other hand though the Bulls did shoot one more free throw for the game (despite Lebron shooting two at the end when fouled to stop the clock). The Cavs were called for more travelling violations than the Bulls. I recall a pretty marginal foul against Lebron on a Deng three pointer at the end of the first quarter. Just saying, it’s not as if there was a game long referee bias against the Bulls.

    Trm3 April 29, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Thank you BoppinBob..Salmons didn’t do jack this year. He’s only good after being traded. I’ll go on record as being a Hinrich fan too. Did any of u Hinrich doubters ever think his shooting has gone down because he’s gotta focus so much attention on guarding the other teams best player? That does take away from ur offense. U wanna get rid of our best on the ball defender for someone who can’t play D??

    I’m not disappointed, I knew what we were about this year and before the injuries we were in the 6th spot and movin’ up..nothing to be disappointed about. I like the good young core we have and any FA that is stupid enough to pass on something special being built, it’s their loss.

  12. Ryan April 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    Going down swinging. I wouldn’t have had and end to the season any other way.

    As for the trades – Salmons needs the ball in his hands to score, to create for himself. The Bulls do not need that, Rose is that player. Hinrich can be a set shooter, Salmons was an easy fix to make room for FA’s. I think Hinrich is a great leader, and if he is not traded he will be a perfect backup for Rose. Having Hinrich lead the second squad would be a perfect fit. We just need a starting SG.

  13. Adrian April 30, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    Why can bloggers comment on the officiating and not be fined? But when “players” blog about officiating, they’re fined. Haha that’s a bit unfair LOL.


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