Game 56 Recap: Bulls 93, Heat 89

rose vs lebron

A defenseless loss to the Toronto Raptors followed by a complete lack of trade deadline team enhancement had (some) Bulls fans feeling pretty bummed out yesterday.

Maybe I’m projecting. I sure felt bummed out. With all the daring and savvy trades being made, I was hoping management would pull off…something. I mean, the Pacers almost got O.J. Mayo for Josh McRoberts. Surely the Bulls could have gotten someone for some little thing, right?

Or not.

Said Bulls GM Gar Forman: “At the end of the day, in certain situations, we thought it was too rich to get marginally better. We’ll have opportunity to strike when the time is right. There’s [a] big window of opportunity for us to be good for a long time and we want to stick to a plan. We’re trying to build a team, and we want to do it at the right price.”

But…but…Keith Bogans is starting! Keith Bogans!

That’s the passion and woe of the Chicago faithful. We see this team, this elite squad, and feel that there’s something missing, some crucial element still necessary to compete for a title. The Lakers are the incumbents. The Spurs were the team of the last decade. The Celtics have a handful of future Hall of Famers and certified championship pedigree. The Heat signed the three biggest free agents of what turned out the be the best free agent class in league history.

The Bulls have assembled a nice team. A solid team. A team that works hard, gives it up on defense, and appears to genuinely like playing together. But when the average fan — or even the average critic — sees Bogans in the starting lineup, there’s an unshakable sense that Chicago is at least one significant move of some kind from being a true championship contender.

Then they go out and beat the Super Friends of Miami on national television.

The victory was as sweet as a spoonful of sugar dipped in honey and covered in chocolate. Honestly, it didn’t completely relieve my angst that management didn’t do something to upgrade the shooting guard position (or at least bring in some extra shooting), but it cleaned out the wound, rubbed on some Neosporin, applied a Band-Aid and gave it a motherly kiss for good measure.

I know it’s only late-February, and it doesn’t count for anything other than one regular season win, but this was a playoff game, folks. Playoff atmosphere. Playoff intensity. Playoff everything. Players on both sides wanted this one, and they wanted it badly. Everybody was playing with an edge.

LeBron James (29 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block) did what LeBron James does. That is, a little bit of everything, at a constant superstar level. Dwyane Wade (a game-high 34 points on 12-for-24 from the field and 10-for-12 from the line) seemed a little irked the LeBron-versus-Rose MVP debate makes little to no mention of him.

The Heat forced turnovers (8 steals), got out in transition (an amazing 34 fast break points) and, in the early going, put on a dunk fest that made it look like Chicago’s vaunted defense (particularly in light of the Toronto game) was nothing but smoke and mirrors. Maybe more smoke than mirrors.

But then the defense roared back to life.

Miami scored 31 points in the first quarter. That number dropped to 22 in the second. Then 14 in the third. The Heat never made it to 90 points. They shot 40.5 percent from the field. They misse 10 of their 12 three-point attempts. The bench contributed 2 points on 1-for-8 shooting.

And then there was Chris Bosh.

Bosh went 1-for-18 from the field. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he had the worst field goal percentage by a player with at least 18 field goal attempts since Mike Newlin went 1-for-22 for the Rockets on January 31, 1973. Essentially, he had one of the worst high-volume shooting nights in NBA history. That alone will lead some (maybe many) to disqualify Chicago’s win. After all, the Bulls certainly can’t count on an aberration game from Bosh every time they play the Heat.

Then again, Miami can’t count on having 34 fast break points every time they face the Bulls. That’s the problem with one-game samples.

That said, this game did fit a certain pattern that has formed with the Heat. As ESPN’s Michael Wilbon points out: “Against top-five teams, LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh (three All-Stars) have a record of 1-7. Against the top-five teams, D-Rose (playing with no other All-Stars and missing either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer all but 11 games this season) and the Bulls are 7-4.”

Of course, Wilbon’s statement is part of the ongoing LeBron-versus-Rose MVP debate, which (not to oversimplify) has seemingly become a battle of old-school thinking versus the new wave of stat-centric thinking.

If the Bulls can be on par with the Heat — who, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst observes, have “two of the greatest players in a generation [James and Wade] playing excellently” and an additional All-Star to boot — then Rose must be the MVP, right?

If the Heat have a slightly better record (42-16 versus 39-17) and LeBron has superior Player Efficiency and Plus-Minus numbers, then he must be the MVP, right?

Pick your poison. I want no part of this debate until the end of the season.

As for the game at hand, Rose struggled with his shooting (9-for-24), but managed a team-best 26 points to go with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Much will be made of LeBron’s defense on Rose in the fourth quarter, but Miami coach Erik Spoelstra obviously developed an anti-Rose game plan. The Heat packed the paint. Extra defenders swarmed towards Derrick every time he drove around a pick or toward the basket.

Stop Rose and you stop the Bulls. Unless somebody steps up. Which is what happened.

Luol Deng — who, it should be noted, is not an All-Star like Bosh — was fantastic (18 of his 20 points in the second half, 7-for-12, 10 rebounds, 5 assists). What’s more, he hit what to the naked eye appeared to be the game’s biggest shot. With 16 seconds left, Rose drove on James. Dipped the shoulder. Drew D-Wade — Luol’s defender — toward him and then kicked the ball to Deng for a wide open three.

Splash.

Said Rose: “I was going to shoot the shot until D-Wade came over. And Lu was wide, wide open. He’s my shooting partner in practice. So every time in practice, every time he gets to the corner, he goes 10-for-10 or 9-for-10, so I knew it was going to be an easy shot for him.”

Added Deng: “Derrick has been making great plays all year. I just knew he was going to make the right play. D-Wade was so concerned with helping LeBron, you’ve seen what Derrick has been doing all year. I just made sure I was ready to shoot that shot and just concentrated and followed through … I knew it was good once it left my hand.”

Rose continued: “Big shot Lu. He’s the reason why we won tonight and I’m happy for him. He played great, he played hard and he’s still able to hit some big shots … He’s been solid the whole year; consistent, playing hard. He had to face LeBron tonight. Somebody he really takes that challenge [against]. He stepped up and he was still able to go out there and be effective throughout the whole game.”

The beautiful-to-watch Rose-to-Deng play was followed up by LeBron dribbling himself into position at the top of the three-point arc and, with nary a look to his teammates, tossing up an ugly-as-an-ape’s-butt triple attempt that didn’t even touch the rim (thanks in no small part to harrassing pressure by Deng). Man, I wish shots like that could be included in the PER formula.

Team-first basketball. It works, people.

It’s Deng hitting shots and making plays. It’s Carlos Boozer shooting 7-for-12 and coming within a rebound of a double-double (16 points and 9 rebounds). It’s the bench outscoring their Heat counterparts 22-2, which included big-time shots by Ronnie Brewer (8 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals) and Kyle Korver (a huge shot-clock-beating triple in the fourth quarter).

And, yes, it was Omer Asik, who had a game-high 11 rebounds and a game-best plus-minus score of +17 in 21 minutes of action. It seems as if the Bulls failed to upgrade at the two spot because they were unwilling to part with Asik. And although Keith Bogans pulled his head into the turtle shell (0-for-4), Asik’s performance, defensively and on the boards, provided a pretty clear justification of why management wanted to hold onto him.

That feeling may fade when Bogans is clanking threes in crucial playoff games. But, for one night anyway, it felt pretty good to have Asik patrolling the painted rectangle. Heat fans, after watching Erick Dampier (5 rebounds in 29 minutes) and Joel Anthony (1 board in 18 minutes), probably wish Omer was playing for them.

The win felt good and it was gratifying as heck. But, as I said above, it was still one regular season win. It means something. Not everything, but something.

Said Rose: “It just lets people know that we can compete with some of the best teams in the NBA.”

It’s true. And it’s more than can be said for the Heat so far.

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

15 Responses to Game 56 Recap: Bulls 93, Heat 89

  1. bleigh82@gmail.com'
    bleigh82 February 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    The bench was phenominal and the difference in the game. Particularly Asik. I can remember at least five times when what would have been layups during the Toronto game turned into missed shots because of Omer’s presence. What a shame he didn’t get PT against the Raptors! Brewer also deserves credit. His steals got the Bulls out into transition after their offense was dead in the water for the whole first half.

    That shot by Lu was big time. Great job by Derrick getting him the ball…looked like any shot we would have attempted would have been difficult, Bron had him covered up pretty good.

    If this team can find a way to win on the road they just might have a chance to grab one of those top seeds. We now have the tiebreaker in head to heads with Miami, so that’s a start.

  2. gorditadog@aol.com'
    Gorditadogg February 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Luol Deng is not an All-Star like Bosh! Haha I love it!

    Here is how badly Spoelstra wanted to win this one- he had 4 of his starters play 40+ minutes.

    We won because:
    1. We have a team. Our role players are getting better and better. Brewer had 4 steals last night, Omer the Beast had 11 boards. Watson again played with a lot of confidence.
    2. Tibs had a good game plan. Put Noah on Bosh, let Boozer work on offense.
    3. We figured out how to get back on D. Finally.
    4. We have Derrick Rose!

  3. pjreiman@gmail.com'
    Paul February 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    On a dangerous sample of only two games, it would seem that the Bulls have proven that a team with one superstar, 3 more high quality starters, and solid bench — and all of those pieces complement each other well — may be superior to team with 2 superstars, 1 more all-star, and a bunch of misfits — and none of those pieces really complement each other well.

    We’ll see in a month against the C’s if the Bulls formula can beat a team more like themselves: balanced and complementary, but much older and less deep. If you believe Hollinger’s projections, our path to the Finals will go through Boston first.

  4. jake_vick@hotmail.com'
    Jake in Minnie February 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    I really think the story of this game (and most likely if we run into the Heat in the play-offs) was the play of the bench. This game really turned back into a contest in the third when Brewer, Watson, Asik, Gibson and Deng (OK, I was listening to the stream, this is who I think was on the court) were on the court stopping the penetration and generating turn-overs.

  5. bob.edwards47@yahoo.com'
    BoppinBob February 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Another team win, butt ugly and beautiful in the same instant. Rose’s kick-out to “clutch ?” Deng, Senor Choke” throwing up a desperation 3 in the last 16 seconds to tie the game that was worse than a brick, a bench that understands it role and steps up to do it, I like these Bulls. I like managements commitment not to brak up what they think is the core. I am glad that the Bulls did not get Mayo, I think he would disrupt the chemistry. I was pleased with last nights result but I think March 6th @ Miami is the true statement game.

  6. njcamporese@yahoo.com'
    Nicky C February 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Matt – Great read, great analysis, but no mention of Miss Bosh’s ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar nomination? I’m disappointed and shocked. We expect more from you.

  7. njcamporese@yahoo.com'
    Nicky C February 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Paul – The formula you speak of doesn’t often work (although I can’t tell if that’s because the formula isn’t typically effective or because the formula is often ignored), but recent NBA history leads us to draw at least one pseudo-parallel with a championship team: the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

    No, Chauncey Billups was never as great a talent as D-Rose, but Billups has been a top five PG, leader, and clutch performer for the better part of this decade. Noah is obviously our Ben Wallce (albeit a much more offensively inclined Wallace…which we know all too well…), Deng is our Tayshaun, Boozer is our Rasheed, and Brewer/Korver/Bogans is our Rip.

    I dislike the Pistons as much as the next Bulls fan, but I must admit, while the Bulls were bottom feeding in the early 2000′s with the likes of Jamal Crawford, Marcus Fizer, Eddy Curry, Eddie Robinson, and the ghosts of Elton Brand & Jay Williams, I was willing to root for a true team in those Pistons because they were breaking the NBA norm. They were a TEAM with a bunch of high quality players all filling a role, and they all liked one another. It was nice to see them beat out the likes of the dysfunctional Lakers (the embodiment of the opposite of team basketball).

    I think it’s safe to say we have the same sort of dynamic here in Chicago this year. True, history isn’t on our side. We need another star, we need another 15 PPG guard, etc. – we’ve heard it all. BUT…I believe that this team has what it takes, even if the rest of the basketball world doesn’t. While those Pistons teams were regarded as very good teams, I don’t remember anyone picking them pre-season or mid-season or even end-of-season favorites. They just did there thing when it needed to be done, and they won.

    We’re right there.

  8. Luvabull February 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    What a game! I was at the edge of my seat, biting my nails and then Bam! I fell over as I watched the shot leave Big Shot Lu’s finger tips and arc towards the basket. Splash/Thud! The ball splashed through net as I hit the floor. The next instant I was jumping up and down, we’re gonna win! we’re gonna win! BRICK! Yeah! We Win! The Bulls Win.

    Have to disagree with “bleigh82″ and “Jake in Minnie”. This win was all Sweet Lu. And it was only fitting that he got the chance and made the game winning shot. Lou’s play in the second half(particularly in the third) turned the game. Lou scored 10 points and grabbed 5 boards in the third and played terrific defence in the third with a steal and a block on LeBron. All while holding LeBron to 2-5 shooting for 4 points, 2 boards and no assits. And the Bulls outscored the Heat 27 to 14.
    In the forth, Lou played 9 minutes, scored 8 points, grabbed 2 boards, two kicked balls, an assist and a big game winning shot and a hand in the face of LeBron to stop the Heat from tying the game with 10 seconds to go.
    So for the half Lou’s production:
    18 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, a steal, a block, 3 turnovers and game winning shot.
    LeBron James’ production:
    13 points, 6 boards, 1 assist, a steal, a block, three turnovers and a Big Brick for the game tying shot.

    Yes Rose socred 12 points in the fourth and made the big pass to Lou, but this win belongs to Sweet Lou.

  9. njcamporese@yahoo.com'
    Nicky C February 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    Luvabull – Totally agreed. What started as one of Luol’s worst games ever ended up as one of Luol’s greatest games ever…if not his defining, career-altering game. He made the big plays to keep us in the game on both offense and defense. He was, without a doubt, our stud last night. I think most people (outside of Chicago, of course) would have expected Lu to roll over and die after LBJ steamrolled him in the first half. But Lu fought and clawed his way back against the toughest cover in the NBA, proving that he’s more than just an above average role player. Luol Deng has taken a lot of crap from the fans and the media over the past few years because he apparently isn’t worthy of the contract/time he gets playing for the Bulls. Last night was a showcase of why he’s still around and why he’s so vital to the title hopes of the Chicago Bulls.

  10. Luvabull February 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Nice analogy Nicky C. Agree with your comparison to the Pistons team with a couple of exceptions. The Pistons had a big edge at SG with Rip and an edge defensively at PF with ‘Sheed. But I do believe these Bulls have a better bench then the Pistons had in their championship year with a bench of Lindsey Hunter, Mike James, Corliss Willamson, Elden Campbell and Mehmet Okur. I’ll take CJ, Brewer, Korver, Taj and Asik over that group any day.

  11. Luvabull February 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Nicky C. – Don’t recall reading your posts before but you make good points that are well written. And I’m not just saying that because you agreed with me. Hope to read you here regularly.

  12. Pjreiman@gmail.com'
    Paul February 26, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    Nicky — totally agree that the team formula is rare. I didn’t see the connection to the Pistons until now… But the bug difference is that we have a superstar. No one on that Detroit team plays the Rose role.

  13. letsgobulls_24 February 26, 2011 at 2:36 am #

    Great posts Nicky and Luvabull!

    I was listening to espn radio this afternoon and they mentioned a very interesting stat: Last night was the first time in NBA history that a rookie grabbed 10+ rebounds (Asik, 11 rebs) without taking a shot.

    They went on to discuss the importance of knowing your role on a team. Asik understands this concept, and that’s a big reason why he wasn’t traded. Big props to Bulls management for recognizing his value and keeping our solid bench together!

  14. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    chitown4life February 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    people speak of statement games coming up , every game is some sort of statement our bulls must realize there is no time to look past any team.

    The game against the heat was over the top with excitement no one was sitting all eyes focused on the game no one going to the bathroom nothing just watching a great game.

    Rose is a true beast, our team may have not needed to make any trades simply because they are playing at such a high level why mess with what is working unless it would not cost much to add on to our team .
    I see Pax view of the chemistry of the team that is important , look at what happened in Detroit with the players staging sit out.

    I want to say WTG Bulls DRose Booz, Asik and Brewer but most of all Deng I have always liked his game and tonight he showed us that he is a big time player who will hit big time shots, he may not hit them all the time but tonight he did and tonight he shined big time, WTG Deng you are the silent but deadly shooter on this team who’s play most of the time goes unoticed but not my me. Go Bulls

  15. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath February 27, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    I was watching the Miami feed and the commentators were talking about how Luol was the #2 high school player in the nation when LeBron was #1 (I haven’t checked.) It might explain the added intensity and focus on Deng’s part …

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