“This is what championship basketball teams do.”
“The bottom line is the better team won.”
“This is why he’s the MVP.”
“A win is a win.”
Wow. What a finish to the first NBA Playoffs game of the year, and the first playoff game in what is expected to be the anointment of Derrick Rose as a championship-caliber closer.
It’s games like this that bring out cliches from fans like you read above. It also brings out quotes like “That would’ve been impressive if it weren’t the Pacers,” and “Congrats, Bulls. It took you until the last minute to beat a sub-.500 team.” (Both quotes I read from non-Bulls fans immediately after the game finished.
The crazy thing? Both lines of thinking are absolutely correct. The cliches, as bland and uninventive as they may be, completely fit the situation. The Bulls are young, unproven and still getting their feet wet as playoff favorites. In many ways, squeaking out a win against a clearly inferior team playing its best basketball imaginable will be great in the long run.
Games like this will be popping up all playoffs long, and will happen more frequently the farther the Bulls make it.
So experiencing a test like this, where the Bulls are playing as poorly as we’ve seen practically all season, is great for the future. The Bulls got a crash course in playoff basketball and came up aces.
The flip side is correct as well. It is absolutely worrisome that Carlos Boozer was a liability not just in the fourth quarter, but throughout the entire game. He had more fouls than rebounds and continuously let Tyler Hansbrough knock down open jumpers.
Quick side tangent: More than any other college basketball player in my lifetime, I HATED Hansbrough when he was at North Carolina. More than ANYONE. I can’t really explain irrational sports hatred, but I couldn’t stand him. When he left North Carolina and was drafted by the Pacers, I was pleased because I was fairly confident that Hansbrough would never be relevant in my life again.
So thank you, Carlos Boozer, for bringing back haunting memories of “Psycho T.”
Anyway, Boozer’s lack of rebounding and defense is absolutely room for concern. Not that it’s anything new. Fans have known all season that he’s a putrid defensive player and streaky rebounder, but we can live with it when he’s scoring, which is something he wasn’t doing Saturday.
Likewise, Rose shouldn’t have to score nearly 40 points every game for the Bulls to win. Luol Deng and others absolutely have to show up. Deng was having troubles all game, and everyone on the second unit, particularly Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson, seemed terrified to take a shot.
That. Can’t. Happen.
I’m also wondering where Omer Asik went. Maybe I missed something and he got hurt or something, but he played three early minutes and than his second unit spot was filled by Kurt Thomas. Now, I have no problem with Thomas, but Tom Thibodeau said all season that he didn’t want to mess with his second unit of Watson-Korver-Gibson-Asik, yet when they entered the game, he was nowhere to be found. There has to be something more to that.
In the end, it didn’t matter, nor did any of the Bulls’ deficiencies. The bottom line is they won the game (yes, another cliche), and protected home-court advantage.
Is there reason to worry? Absolutely.
Should we expect things to get better?