January 19, 2011
A few years ago, in a muddled analogy meant to excuse the similarities between Barack Obama's speech following his swearing-in as President and George W. Bush's speech following his second swearing-in as President, a Daily Show correspondent mentioned something about liking both Chinese food and Parmesan cheese a great deal, but how he'd never want the two to meet. You don't have to understand the joke, few in the audience did, but you should understand the pairing. You should enjoy both the Heat and the Hawks, while also hoping that each of the team's four yearly meetings goes untelevised.
Because this was awful. A terrible game styled in the long history of Heat/Hawks games gone completely awful, in the image of the worst seven-game series we can remember -- the Miami and Atlanta pairing from 2009. Worse, the thing went into overtime. 53 minutes of gross.
Even when it was good, and LeBron James(notes) did eventually end up putting up some good stats on the surface, it was terrible. Throughout the game, even when he was getting to the rim and scoring, James was walking the ball up court and often seen dribbling lifelessly just a half-step inside the half-court line, with 17 seconds left in the shot clock. Erik Spoelstra's offense had no movement, as James either palmed his way toward a drive to the hoop, or Dwyane Wade(notes) continually tried those drive-left/shoot-right bankers from 12 feet. James missed potential game-winners from long range at the end of regulation and overtime that just looked awful.
The Hawks weren't much better, going with a Joe Johnson(notes)-centric offense throughout and just hoping for the best. At times, and this isn't meant to be a joke, Mike Bibby(notes) looked like the most active player on the Atlanta roster, pulling in steals and rebounds and getting open for long shots, and Jamal Crawford's(notes) 19 points on 15 shots off the bench put the Hawks over the top. Because Johnson and Josh Smith's(notes) 34 points on 42 shots certainly wasn't going to do the trick.
Thirty-four points for James, but he also turned the ball over six times, and shot 11-30. He had seven assists, but only after those one-on-one drives turned into kick-outs for obvious guys in the corner. It was miserable to watch, and doesn't leave me with much faith in the Heat moving forward, as the playoffs grow nearer.
Charlotte clearly has Chicago's number, they've won two close games against the Bulls, but you get the feeling that these two teams could play 100 games that come down to the final possession and that the Bobcats would take each and every one of them.
Both teams were clearly tired as they moved up and down the court, but Chicago put themselves behind the eight ball by nearly doubling up the Bobcats in turnovers. That's really all it took. Chicago's transition D wasn't that good, Derrick Rose(notes) had a few missteps both in transition and in the half-court defending D.J. Augustin(notes), and though the Bobcats had only four blocks, the team's rejection potential had Chicago thinking twice all night.
The Bulls nearly pulled it out. A Luol Deng(notes) three-pointer (what if Tom Thibodeau had Deng in Ronnie Brewer's(notes) spot during that particular play, and Kyle Korver(notes) -- who was on the bench -- in Deng's spot?) and Rose desperation two-pointer at the buzzer missed, and a lot of little things combined to create the one-point loss. Still, you have to credit Charlotte's interior defense for taking away the sort of finishes Chicago is used to enjoying. Boris Diaw(notes), Gerald Wallace(notes), Tyrus Thomas(notes), and Nazr Mohammed(notes) all combined to create a miserable night for the Bulls.