Sometimes I really hate being right, and this was most definitely one of those times. As soon as I heard that Kirk Hinrich — our best (and only) anti-Dwyane Wade defender — was hurting, a feeling of dread washed over me. I said as much before the game. I happen to think the word “great” gets thrown around way too much, but Wade truly is a great player. And the great ones, when they sense weakness in an opponent, they attack. As far as I’ve been able to tell, Wade is a pretty nice guy, but there’s a little Cobra Kai in him. Look in his eyes and you see a killer. Watch him play, and you can almost hear John Kreese saying, “We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, on the court, in competition, a man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.”
Sure enough, Wade showed little mercy in Miami’s 130-127 double overtime victory. (Although he didn’t sweep the leg, so that’s something.) He didn’t care about Kirk’s bruised quad, or the fact that the Bulls were without Luol Deng (stress fracture) and Tim Thomas (hyperextended knee), forcing Vinny Del Negro to use a seven-man rotation that resulted in three of his starters logging 50+ minutes and two others going 45+. Wade attacked. The numbers were gaudy and borderline ridiculous: 48 points, 15-for-21 from the field, 5-for-6 from downtown, 13-for-18 from the line, 6 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocked shots in 50 minutes of playing time. Dude was so hot he even knocked down a buzzer-beater from almost halfcourt at the end of the first half. It was like watching a video game. Heck, I not sure I could replicate that performance on NBA Live, even if I set the game to “Infant,” which is a difficulty setting I just made up for the purposes of dramatic exaggeration.
But it takes more than wicked-crazy numbers to claim victory. Just as Wade. Remember, it was only a few weeks ago that he scored a career-high 50 points in a 23-point loss to the Orlando Magic. Against the Bulls, he did more than score and dish and steal and block. He nailed an ultra-clutch three to tie the game with 11.5 seconds in regulation, thus forcing the first overtime session. Then, at the end of the second overtime, with the game tied at 127, the Bulls had possession of the ball with an opportunity to run down the clock and take the final shot. Only Wade stole the ball and drilled a running lightning bolt from beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded. Check it out:
Amazing, huh? I can think of only a handful of ways Wade’s game could have been more epic: If it had come against the Cavaliers, Celtics or Lakers; if it had happened in the playoffs (preferably a seventh game); if he had simultaneously saved all the children and a puppy from a burning orphanage; or if it had caused the fall of the Dark Lord Sauron’s tower of Barad-dûr. Sadly — for Chicago fans, anyway — Wade’s heroic, virtuoso performance ruined an what would have been an incredible and hope-lifting victory. Ben Gordon nearly matched Wade shot-for-shot, scoring 43 points (14-for-23) and hitting 8 (out of 11) three-pointers. John Salmons added another 29 points (not to mention 8 boards). Derrick Rose scored 23 (although it took him 25 shots to do it) and snared 8 rebounds, which is pretty impressive for a point guard not named “Jason Kidd.” Joakim Noah pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. Brad Miller (9 points, 10 boards) and Kirk Hinrich (8 points, 3 assists) chipped in off the bench.
It was a brave and gutty effort, but Chicago simply couldn’t trump the superstar factor. I suppose you could call this a feel-good loss. The Bulls can take comfort in that fact that not many living men could have done what Wade did last night. LeBron, probably. Kobe, maybe (although I can’t remember many occasions in which he scored 40+ and dished 10+ assists…if any). But that’s about it. Honestly, I’m not sure what else the Bulls could have done. Can you game plan against fate? It’s kind of like that asteroid that buzzed the Earth last week. By the time we noticed it, all we could do was watch and hope it didn’t kill us all. Humans survived, obviously. And so did the Bulls. Someday, probably sooner than later, I’m sure they’ll be able to appreciate taking part in a true regular season classic. Right now, though, it’s gotta hurt…particularly since they fell back into a “virtual tie” with Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the East.
Heroes and goats: Wade and Gordon were the Players of the Game for their repective teams, but they each had a goat moment. The Bulls were up 103-101 at the end of regulation when Miami was forced to foul Gordon with 20.7 seconds left. BG bonked the first and then hit the second, giving Chicago a 104-101 lead that was in no way safe. As amazing as Wade is, even he can’t hit a four-pointer, since such a shot doesn’t exist. But a clutch three? No problem.
Wade, on the other hand, missed two foul shots with 17.1 seconds left in the first overtime. That enabled John Salmons to tie things up with 3.7 seconds left. Wade still had a chance to win it before the end of that first OT, but he blew a a reverse lay-up with 1.1 seconds left. Said Wade: “Probably the easiest game-winner I ever had in my life and I missed it. I couldn’t believe it. I had to find a way to get it back.”
Odd man out: Brad Miller got 46 minutes of daylight. Tyrus “I thought he was the future” Thomas, on the other hand, played only 22 minutes, contributing 4 points (2-for-5), 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 4 fouls. Miller’s arrival is causing Tyrus to fade, like vapor, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. There were some times in the game where we could have used his shot-blocking presence around the rim. When Chris Quinn is getting to the hoop at will, well, you know there’s a problem. Of course, Tyrus didn’t help his cause by picking up a technical with 2:28 left in the third quarter. The reason? He threw his gum at a nearby official after picking up his fourth foul. Not a good idea.