Game 5: What a waste

Aw man

Early on in this series, I could have accepted and might even have been pleased with a moral victory. But that was then, and right now all I can see is a wasted opportunity that — in my mind, if not yet in fact — cost my team its last best chance of advancing to the second round of the playoffs. And yeah, it left me feeling like Mr. Furious…only I have slightly better fashion sense.

The first lesson in Playoffs 101 is: It’s never over ’till it’s over. With 7:18 left in the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose hit a nifty little jumper to put the Bulls up by 10 points (83-73), and it looked like the injury-riddled and increasingly weary champions were on the ropes. Every Chicago player was fighting so hard and playing so well that it looked they were really going to steal the Leprechaun’s lucky charms. As it turned out, the exact opposite was true. The Celtics became the aggressors and suddenly the Bulls were on their heels and falling over backward. (Or, in poor Kirk Hinrich’s case, right on his face.)

Over the next five minutes, Boston went on a 14-6 run that featured three layups by Rajon Rondo to cut Chicago’s lead to two (89-87) before Vinny Del Negro finally called a timeout to jam some gauze in the wound (although not before he let seven seconds run off the shot clock). I don’t know, maybe he was afraid of running out of timeouts after all the heat he took after Game 2. Or maybe he dozed off. I can’t be sure.

Maddeningly, Joakim Noah had his layup attempt blocked coming out of that timeout. Luckily for the Bulls, John Salmons nabbed the offensive board. Less than 10 seconds later, Salmons missed a three-pointer that was rebounded by Derrick Rose, who eventually managed to convert that third chance into a layup. Unfortunately, Rondo got downcourt in a hurry and hit another layup — his fourth of the quarter — after which Salmons had a short jump shot blocked by Kendrick Perkins, which led to a fast break layup for Paul Pierce that tied the game at 91-all. Timeout Chicago.

The breather didn’t help, because Rose immediately turned the ball over. It was Derrick’s sixth bumble of the game and his 20th in the last three games. I love this kid, I really do, but damn I wish he was taking better care of the ball. The teams traded possessions before Ben Gordon squeezed past Stephon Marbury and hit an absolutely ridiculous 17-footer with 16 seconds left. (Before the shot, Doug Collins practically screamed out “What is he doing?!”) Chicago by two.

Since Ray Allen had fouled out several minutes earlier — which should have turned the game irrevocably in the Bulls’ favor, right? — the ball went to Paul Pierce, who tied the game with a cold-blooded 15-footer. One ugly and ill-advised Gordon shot later, it was on to overtime. Again.

Pierce wasn’t done. Despite the fact that his shot had been broken most of the night, Paul dropped three straight bombs — from 16, 18 and 20 feet out — in the final 77 seconds of the OT. His final dagger, that 20-footer over a suddenly shell-shocked John Salmons, gave the C’s a 106-104 lead with three seconds left. Well, crap. Seems like I read somewhere that there’s no such thing as a hot hand. I guess science lied to me again.

Three ticks of the clock isn’t a lot of time, but Chicago ran a picture perfect play that was aided by some confused Boston defense, which gave Miller a wide-open lane straight to the bucket. Rondo stepped in and clubbed Brad across the face, not even close to a play on the ball, which these days is supposed to be a flagrant foul. However, I’ve been asked to refrain from wagging any fingers at the officials, so I’m not going to complain about that particular ripoff call. (But for the record, Charles Barkley agrees with me.)

What I am going to scream and kick about is the fact that Miller — who came into this game 11-for-13 (84.6 percent) from the line for the series — shanked the first free throw. (I can’t be too hard on the guy, though, considering Rondo’s hack job left him bleeding from the mouth.) That was the game. Brad had to miss the next freebie on purpose in the vain hope that one of his teammates might be able to corral the board and put it back in. No such luck. (He didn’t even hit the rim.) And the Celtics escaped with the win.

I guess that, in some ways, this defeat had a karmic feel to it. After all, the Bulls probably should have lost Game 4 because of missed foul shots. They were much better today, though, going 27-for-30 before those final (and fatal) two bricks. It was an yet another epic game in a classic series that , sadly, ended in a soul-crushing loss for the Bullies. And now its back to the United Center for a do-or-die Game 6. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up in my own mouth now.

Boston Celtics player notes: With Pierce struggling for most of the game and Ray Allen (10 points, 3-for-8) limited to 26 minutes before fouling out, Boston once again turned to Rondo (game-high 28 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists). Hell, he was even 2-for-2 from downtown. (I thought that kid couldn’t shoot!) Rajon got some big help from “Big Baby” Davis (21 points, 7-for-11 from the field, 7-for-8 from the line) and Kendrick Perkins (game-high 19 rebounds, game-high 7 blocked shots, 16 points). The reserves only managed to chip in 5 points on 2-for-10 shooting, but Pierce came on late and finished with 26 points (11-for-22) and 7 rebounds.

Chicago Bulls player notes: Air Gordon shot like his shoulder (and not his hamstring) was busted up (6-for-21), but near-perfect foul shooting (11-for-12) enabled him to put up a team-high 26 points. Kirk Hinrichwas hot off the bench and came through with19 points (6-for-12), 4 boards, a steal and a block. Rose finished with 14 (7-for-16), 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 6 assists and 3 steals (not to mention those, ugh, 6 TOs). Noah had a MAN-type double-double (11 points, 17 boards), Tyrus came reasonably close (12 points, 8 rebounds), and Salmons scored 17 (5-for-15) to go along with 5 boards, 3 assists, a steal and a block.

More numbers: Chicago won the Battle of the Boards 50-44, which included a 14-9 edge on the offensive glass. Unfortunately, they didn’t do a very good job protecting the rim, which allowed Boston to hit 18 layups (twice as many as the Bulls). The teams were even on fast breaks (14 points each). The Bulls were +11 from the line (although they had the two biggest misses).

TrueHoop Network: Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: “With the season on the line in overtime, the Celtics, thinner than they’vebeen all year long, simply threw out the playbook and let the two best players on the floor take them home with simple one-on-one plays. In the last two minutes of regulation and overtime, Boston shot 8-of-10 from the floor, and Paul Pierce and RajonRondo combined to hit seven of those field goals, including an epic five straight from the Captain. They manufactured points when Perkins was too tired to score, Ray Allen had fouled out, Marburywas afraid to shoot, Tony Allen was a non-factor and Glen Davis was forced out of the game by the Bulls small line-up. The last four Pierce baskets were jump shots, and the last three, including the game-winner with 3.6 seconds left, were simple pull-ups over John Salmons. I’m not sure where this ranks on the list of all-time clutch Pierce performances, but it’s up there.”

Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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17 Responses to Game 5: What a waste

    Dunc April 29, 2009 at 5:10 am #

    Theres no crying in basketball? right?

    Belize April 29, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    Man, that Rose stumble really hurt

    chone April 29, 2009 at 5:38 am #

    Another epic game in a series that has been defined by just that…I was there and I have to say this is an absolute knockout game. The Bulls are playing their asses off, but I don’t see them winning another one.

    Nicky C April 29, 2009 at 6:17 am #

    The NBA: Where flagrant fouls in the last five seconds of overtime are not called happens.

    Rajon Rondo should have received a technical or flagrant foul and been ejected for punching Brad Miller in the face and knocking out his tooth (and his ability to make a free throw). Rondo defied the rulebook and is suffering no consequences at this point, and the Bulls did suffer as a result. I can’t stress how infuriated I was when I saw this, and seeing / reading about the Howard ordeal you mentioned on the blog makes me even more frustrated. Players, no matter their importance to the team / league / fans / etc., and no matter how much time is left on the clock (refs tend to let things go within the last 10 seconds of games), need to face the consequences for blatantly trying to hammer someone. In both cases from tonight, Rondo and Howard were NOT going for the ball, and anyone with any sort of sense will agree. I truly like both players, but neither play was right or clean – Howard threw an elbow to the back of an unsuspecting player’s head (by the way, this would have caused a 2-team brawl on lots of teams) and Rondo punched someone in the mouth and knocked the opposition’s tooth out. David Stern and his crew better look at the replays and make the proper calls – punish the offenders to prevent nonsense like this from happening again. If players see that other players are getting away with this, we can expect it to happen more often.

    In general, the refs were so bad tonight for BOTH teams (Bulls/Celtics) that it was appalling. There were muggings going on that were let go, and there were ticky-tack nonsensical calls being called all night. In the end, Boston prevailed with a combination of clutch Pierce shots and an atrocious decision by the refs with about 1 second left on the OT clock. When Brad Miller drove to the hoop for a potential game tying bucket, he was HAMMERED ACROSS THE FACE by Rajon Rondo. It was obvious that Rondo was not only nowhere near the ball, but was not even going for it in the first place. Go ahead, watch the replay; I dare you to boldly claim otherwise. Brad Miller is obviously no angel, but Rondo made an incredibly dirty play, and the refs didn’t take the proper action!!! They had to stop the friggin’ game so Brad could get cleaned up, as there was blood running from his mouth…and then he spit his tooth into a towel. While the game was stopped for a few minutes, why didn’t the refs do the right thing and review the play and call a technical or flagrant foul? Look at Henry’s other post from today about Dwight Howard and his dirty play; Rondo’s punch definitely falls under the category of a technical foul and ejection. So why didn’t this happen? Because the officiating is horrendous, and it is a travesty that the Bulls lost the way they did tonight because the refs called a raping a common foul. Sure, calling a flagrant or technical foul doesn’t seal a win, but with Miller going to the line without the pressure of the actual game resting on his shoulder’s, and also without playing so many minutes, the Bulls were looking pretty darn good, especially with Air Jordan on your team.

    Nicky C April 29, 2009 at 6:19 am #

    I submitted that to TrueHoop considering Henry wrote about the above average officiating thus far in the playoffs. Apparently, they need to watch Bulls/Celtics Game 5 again, because that was controlled and officiated atrociously….

    AK Dave April 29, 2009 at 7:09 am #

    I thought the Bulls lost their composure, and Derrick Rose rushed some possessions when the C’s were down 10 and started their run. It seemed like nobody wanted to take a shot, and the Bulls were forcing tough passes and trying to run isos with the shot clock winding down. Hinrich, who had the hot hand all game, passed up several shots in the last 5min- that drove me crazy. Does he not have a green light when he’s raining 3’s? Sometimes he looks like a killer and other times he’s just gun-shy. I wish he would figure it out, because he’s a hell of a player- but I’ve been saying that for 3 years now.

    I agree with Matt- the Bulls had this game, and they blew it. Yeah Brad Miller was punched in the face, it should have been a flagrant, and I hope that they do suspend Rondo (they won’t), but that call alone didn’t lose them the game.

    And for the record, I disagree with what is being said on hardwood paroxyism. It’s not a “disservice” to your readers to say that a bad call is a bad call. And team blogs are going to be biased and subjective- that’s why we read them, and that’s what a TEAM BLOG is supposed to do. If I want to read bland “objective” factual descriptions of the game I just saw, I’ll go to

    Jason April 29, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    Watch the replay; Rondo’s eyes are on the ball, but he’s simply not going to reach Miller’s extended arm with that reach disadvantage (Rondo’s 6’1″. Miller’s 7’0″ in case you didn’t realize there was a height discrepancy between the two). He was trying to make Miller earn it from the line (as he should) with a hard foul. Unfortunately (and I mean that sincerely), he missed the ball and arm and got the face. It sounds bad and looked bad (and I’d be ticked if I lost a tooth, too), but it wasn’t intentional or dirty by any means, just as I said, unfortunate. The refs got it right, just as they got it right when they reversed the Miller ejection in the last game.

    Mike C. April 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

    im not gonna blame the refs for the loss; there were a lot of close calls and non-calls that went against each team, and the bulls shouldve put boston away before ot. but to say things like “rondo’s eyes were on the ball,” “it wasn’t intentional” and “he was trying to make him earn it” is completely ignorant of the rules. those things have nothing to do with the definition of a flagrant and have nothing to do with how the rules are enforced. the bottom line is blows to the head that are that hard are flagrant fouls in today’s nba.

    JM April 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    I thought the biggest mistake Chicago made was not sending any help to Paul Pierce’s man, specially after Ray Allen fouled out — who was going to take jump shots for the Celtics? Rondo? Tony Allen? Glen Davis? Any of those players would have been preferable to Pierce just walking down and taking clear jump shots over shorter players.

    One other mistake was playing Ben Gordon 50+ minutes. He was hurt and shot 4 of 20 or so, and just kept shooting. I know VDN didn’t want him to come out and tighten up, but a healthy Lindsey Hunter would have been better (and played much better defense) than a hurt Gordon. The coaching decisions in that game really made me mad, because the Bulls outplayed the Celtics and should have won easily.

    Pete April 29, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Let’s not even begin to blame this one on the refs. The Bulls should have won this game, bottom line. I kept thinking to myself that if they took a 7 point lead they would win the game…I was absolutely thrilled to see that lead pushed to double digits. The Bulls had them on the ropes and blew a golden opportunity. It is inexcusable for Rondo to get 4 layups in a row during that crucial stretch of the game. Why Vinny waited til what seemed like the last 3 seconds of the game to put Hinrich on Rondo, I’ll never know.

    Maybe I’m biased because I hate how slow and goofy Brad Miller is, but I don’t want to see him play in the fourth quarter anymore. If Ty Thomas gets the ball in that situation, he’s slamming the ball in their throats – no questions asked. And if they foul him, they definitely call a flagrant because Boston knows that he’d go to slam the ball down their throats. Oh yeah, him and Noah on the floor put two athletic bigs to potentially pull down rebounds and/or block shots into outer space.

    Rose’s defense is virtually non-existant and he played far too passively all night long. Rondo is looking like the second coming of the Big O out there and it’s making me sick. And for the love of the right elbow, why didn’t Salmons force Pierce to the other side of the floor? Why let your man go to his sweet spot three times in a row? And can anyone stop that goofy bastard Glen Davis? He’s putting up about 20 a game against the Bulls like it’s nothing…

    I believe the general opinion is that the Celtics should have made short work of the Bulls and that the Bulls are only postponing the inevitable first round exit, but I firmly believe that the Bulls are the better team. Except for game 3, the Bulls should have won all of the other games but brain farts prevented them from sealing the deal.

    I am so far beyond angry…that’s all for now.

  11. Alec April 29, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    Watch the play again. I dont know if this makes a difference, but after Rondo hits Miller in the face, Brad goes right into Paul Pierce’s elbow. I think thats how he gets the lost tooth, but not sure. Also…CAN SOMEONE PLEASE GRILL BG FOR NOT HOLDING THE FREAKING BALL. WHAT IS HE DOING??????

  12. Victor April 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Definitely should have been a tech or flagrant at the end of the game. I was watching a Hawks/Crabs game earlier this season and Acie Law drove in for a layup and on his follow through, he unintentionally smacked Lebron in the face. No blood and Lebron didn’t take long to recover. The layup counted, but the Crabs got a technical free through for the contact. A play 10x worse than what happened that night doesn’t deserve at least a technical? It’s pretty stupid how refs change the way they call games based on the situations and the players.

    Matt McHale April 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    Dunc — Only if they’re TEARS OF RAGE.

    Belize — It sure did. Especially since (if we’re talking about the same play) Rondo rode Rose to the floor with a hand on his hip. It sucked, because the refs had just called Rajon for the bump when Derrick drove right, so they must have felt they needed to let it go when Rose drove left. But damn, Rondo pushed him down. It was pretty obvious. Derrick didn’t trip.

    chone — You don’t think they can win Game 6 at the United Center? Really?

    Nicky C — It was a huge no-call. Plus, as Henry Abbott pointed out on TrueHoop, had the flagrant been called, Vinny could have chosen another player to shoot those ‘throws. I’m pretty sure Gordon or Salmons would have knocked them down. This situation is kicking up a lost of dust right now. It’s kind of funny that Henry noted the pretty good officiating so far in these playoffs…and then there were two major no-calls (including Dwight Howard’s whiff on an elbow smash) that totally affected the outcome of two critical games. Henry with the stat curse!

    AK Dave — Yeah, the Bulls definitely got nervous with that lead. Rose became very tentative, and lost a lot of his aggressiveness going to the basket. Maybe that’s because the refs had started letting the in-the-paint contact go a little. Salmons drove to the cup three or four times, got hit, didn’t get the call. Plus, give it up to the C’s, they made some great defensive adjustments to keep Derrick out of the lane. But, like you said, there was a stretch there where nobody wanted to grab the game and make it theirs.

    Jason — I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. I don’t really care where Rondon’s eyes were at, the only thing that matters is where his semi-closed hand was at, and that was upside Miller’s head. All I ever expect from NBA officiating is consistency. Blows to the head that are nowhere near the ball are considered flagrants. Have been all season long. Last season too. That’s the state of the game.

    Mike C — Hey! That’s what I said!

    JM — You’re exactly right, my friend. I actually talked about that in my follow-up post. I understand that letting Salmons guard Pierce one-on-one had worked to that point, but Vinny basically conceded the shots that Paul Pierce has made a career off of. He was going to start hitting them at some point, unless Salmons got some defensive help. Which he didn’t.

    Pete — I totally agree about Rose. It’s stunning that someone so fast and athletic can’t stay in front of his man. I’m not saying Hinrich would have shut Rondo down, but he would have at least slowed him a little. Rondo versus Rose is like Rondo versus and empty gym. And to make matters worse, Derrick wasn’t going right back at Rondo. If you can’t stop him, Derrick, at least make him play defense.

    Also, you said: “for the love of the right elbow, why didn’t Salmons force Pierce to the other side of the floor? Why let your man go to his sweet spot three times in a row?” Seriously. John and Vinny (based on whatever defensive instructions he handed out) let Pierce have his favorite shots…over and over…in a critical game that was theirs for the taking. I mean, Defense 101 says, “If you have to give up a shot, make sure it’s not the shot that player wants.”

    Alec — Yeah. Ben. He’s…a gun. A gun that can be deadly accurate but goes off all the time. All I can say is the authorities should probably check Gordon’s back yard for bodies, because the man has no conscience.

    Victor — Yup. Like I said above, all I want is consistency. The head shot has been pretty much outlawed in the NBA. That’s not a new thing. Not sure how the officials bungled this one. They even reviewed it!

  14. Alec April 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    Matt –

    I understand that he is a gun. I really do. When he jump stops into a transition 3 and a hand in his face, I have screamed and then cheered when it went in. But seriously. An open, but off-balanced jumper from at least 17 feet, at an odd angle with 9 seconds left in the quarter? You go from being (more or less) in control of the outcome of the game, to possibly giving the other team the last possession. Even if it goes in, you can still lose (admittedly Allen was out, but I dont think BG was thinking about that). I was screaming at Vinny to take a timeout when they cut the lead to 6, then Allen hits an open 3, and boom, we go from having the closeout game in Chicago following a reasonably solid win, to an awful loss, bad blood between the teams, and a referee crisis. I think this shot completely defines BG, and why he is (to me) more like J.R. Smith than people realize. Look at his stats a little, and you see BG’s PER is 1 pt higher, their TS % is about the same, Gordon’s 3pt % is 1.5% higher, but they seem to be the same player in somewhat different situations. MAYBE J.R. has the option of being a better defensive player with Chauncey around, but BG is too small anyway. He is 3 years younger, and his biggest issue has been maturity. (He is also not looking for 60 mil on his next contract) Just my 2 cents, apologies if this isn’t clearly written, but wrote this in the middle of MY Clark Kent job. -Sigh-, if only I had a superman existence.


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