MIAMI — The Bulls needed to get a big time Game 4 win to stay competitive in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
They didn’t get this done and floundered away another loss falling behind the Heat now 3 game to 1 and a mere loss away from a devastating elimination.
The Bulls had a good third quarter and looked as though they were in the game but as soon as the fourth quarter came, the lost all the closing swagger that got them 62 wins and let the Heat run all over them. LeBron James went off again in Game 4 scoring 33 points and giving the Heat the emotional boost they needed to put the Bulls away for a third straight game.
“Listen: Derrick Rose, I wouldn’t want to have any other guy. I’m with that guy all the way.”
-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on Rose’s missed jumper at the end of regulation
The big stat that sticks out in the loss is turnovers. The Bulls turned the ball over 22 times allowing 21 points off of those turnovers. 3 of those 22 turnovers came in the crucial overtime minutes that saw the Bulls fall away from the Heat who surged ahead and seemed to shoot block and steal at all the right times.
Chicago didn’t lose the game without a golden opportunity to win it. With the game tied and 8.0 seconds left, LeBron James was called for the offensive foul giving Chicago possession to take the final shot with the game tied. Derrick Rose felt the vengeance of James on the following possession as the two-time MVP forced the newly crowned MVP to take a jump shot that fell embarrassingly short of the basket sending the game into overtime.
“I’m going to learn from it,” said Rose, who in true Derrick Rose fashion tried to take personal blame for the loss.
The Heat never looked back.
Rose went silent in overtime becoming a complete non-factor for the Bulls. It was James, Wade and Bosh who made their presence known in front of crowd that was very much controlled by the tempo of the game.
When the Heat were up so were they. When the heat made a good play they were loud. When things happened that confused them they still cheered. Proof that Heat fans are completely oblivious to what goes on during a game was when there was a non-shot by the Bulls in which LeBron James volleyball spiked away from the hoop. Heat fans errupted as though the Heat had won the Finals. Or at least it appeared so when TNT showed a fan wearing a suit and dancing like he was in a club.
But as much as we can rag on Heat fans for being fair-weather and bandwagon and not loyal or particularly bright, it’s just about the only thing you can knock about the Heat at this point. They looked phenomenal even when they were playing sloppy. The Bulls had glimpses of brilliance but they were quickly swallowed up by either return fire by the Heat, or their own sloppiness blurring the image.
A key moment of this was in overtime when the Bulls, still somewhat with a chance of getting the win, inbounded the ball out of bounds. They looked tired, exhausted and like a team that just doesn’t have a championship in their cards this year.
Chicago got burned by Mike Miller who gave the Heat the lead back in the fourth quarter. He, you could argue, single handedly won the game for the Heat by giving them back the lead and re-charging the team’s energy. This was Chicago’s night in a nutshell.
Joakim Noah, a game removed from his five rebound performance, was back on track with 14 boards tonight. Carlos Boozer also showed life again rebounding 11 and scoring 20. Luol Deng also managed to get 20 points and 8 rebounds of his own. But it was Derrick Rose’s 23 points and 6 assists that are another heavy weighing stat line for the Bulls.
The game literally came down the the final 15 minutes, that being the fourth quarter and then overtime. The momentum swung so violently the mass could have created enough wind to have someone mistake Miami or the Windy City. From the 8.0 second point where Chiacgo had a sudden breath of fresh life to LeBron James swatting away any hopes the Bulls had of tying the series, the final moments of the game were some of the best basketball we have seen all year in terms of sheer energy.
“Hey, they’re a great team,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They compete. They play hard. They play great defense … and they made plays at the end.”
But the bottom line remains that the Bulls are in a giant hole few have crawled out of. They cannot lose another game as every game moving forward has become a live and die scenario. A win in Game 5 will not only give the Bulls some momentum and confidence back, but it will be in Chicago and in front of a Bulls friendly crowd that will be hungry to lash out at the Heat.
Bottom line is Game 5 is a must win for the Bulls and there is no two ways about it.