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Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 2:32 am
 

Heat-Bulls series grades

Posted by Royce Young



The Heat finished the Bulls in Game 5, 83-80, with an incredible Dirk-ish comeback to lock up their place in the NBA Finals. Time to pull out the red pen and make some marks.

MIAMI HEAT

LeBron James: I'm not going to fall into the "The real MVP showed up!" talk. Derrick Rose won the MVP for what he did during the 82 games in the regular season. If they were to hand out a playoffs MVP, LeBron, along with Dirk, would be right there to get it.

That said, LeBron was truly phenomenal in this series. In every single way. His numbers are stellar (25.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.6 apg) but really where he made the difference was his defense on Derrick Rose. That switch in the fourth quarters of Games 4 and 5 is really what ended this for the Heat. A dud in Game 1 is all that keeps this from being a perfect mark. Grade: A

Dwyane Wade: Maybe he wasn't totally healthy, but I don't think that's a worthy excuse. Wade seemed to check out of Game 4 for about 47 minutes and struggled again in Game 5. His numbers were very un-Dwyane Wade-ish (18.8 ppg on 40.5 percent shooting) but he did hit some big time shots in Games 4 and 5. That's just so very Dwyane Wade. Grade: B

Chris Bosh: Most saw the Bosh-Boozer showdown as a hinge to the series. And there's no doubt Bosh got the best of the matchup. He had two 30-point games, scored 22 on 12 shots in Game 4 and finished with 20-10 in the deciding game. I don't really think at any point in this series you could say that Bosh was a liability. He wasn't perfect defensively and wasn't always strong on the boards, but when Bosh plays like this, the Heat are really good. Grade: A-

Miami's role players: It was Udonis Haslem showing up out of nowhere in Games 2 and 3. Then it was Mike Miller in Game 4. All season long people waxed about how, at some point, the Heat were going to have to get contributions from players outside the Big Three if they were going to win. They were going to have to find their Robert Horry, their Derek Fisher, their Insert Solid Champion Role Player. And right on cue, Miller and Haslem stepped up and saved the day in the Eastern Finals. That's going to have to continue, but don't dog the Heat's role players anymore, because they stepped up. Grade: A

Erik Spoelstra: Spoelstra trusted his bench, made a few good adjustments and, really, managed the game pretty well. After Game 1's disaster, Spoelstra kept his message strong and kept his team right where it needed to be. Some of his decisions were a bit weird with what he was doing with his big men, but it worked out in the end because his group advanced. Grade: B+

CHICAGO BULLS

Derrick Rose: I feel like Rose deserves to be graded on a curve. He clearly was forced into half of his bad decisions because of the circumstances he was in. But shooting 35 percent for the series and turning it over 19 times in four games hurts. Plus, he missed crucial free throws in both Games 4 and 5. That's nobody's fault but his.

He took responsibility for the meltdown in Game 5 and it was good of him to do so. No doubt he was under an incredible amount of pressure to make every play for the Bulls. But in moments where he just needed to be himself and make a good play, he tried to make great ones. He pushed, pressed and didn't finish games. He's young, he'll grow from this. But this just wasn't his series. Grade: C

Luol Deng: Really, Deng did a pretty solid job adding secondary points for the Bulls. He averaged better than 17 points per game on good percentages and hit some pretty big shots. His defense on LeBron was good enough, I'd say. Because Chicago lost, it's obvious that he probably needed to be better, but, before the series, I think if you told people that Deng would average 17 points and seven rebounds for the series, they'd say he must've had a great set of games. Grade: B+

Carlos Boozer: In two games, Boozer was very good, on one end. In Games 3 and 4 he averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds. But for the series, he finished averaging 14.4 ppg and 10.2 rpg. That should tell you that he had three other meh games. His Game 5 was awful as he scored five points on 1-6 shooting. Not to mention his statuesque pick-and-roll defense in every game of the series. Grade: D+

Tom Thibodeau: It's hard to blame Thibodeau too much for the lack of offense for the Bulls, because that's kind of sort of been the way they've played all season long. They always relied on their defense, always counted on rebounding well and always hoped Rose would give them just enough to finish out games.

When their shooters got hot and a couple players scored the ball well, they could pile up some points. But to expect them to magically grow an offensive game in the Eastern Finals was unreasonable. Now that's probably as much of an indictment of Thibodeau as anything else because his team never had an offensive identity and that bit them hard in this series, but to put it all on him isn't really fair. Grade: B-

Composure: Missed free throws. Bad fouls. Dumb turnovers. Silly shots. Forced passes. All of it piled up to two blown leads in Games 4 and 5 for the Bulls, and it ultimately ended their season. Yes, it probably was as much a sign of their youth and inexperience, much like the Thunder. But you've got to just keep playing. Basketball is basketball, no matter the situation, no matter the pressure. The Bulls just tensed up at the worst moments. Grade: F
Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:23 am
 

LeBron James flops against Bulls video

LeBron James of the Miami Heat flops on video against the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Posted by Ben Golliver.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat did it again on Thursday night, closing out the Chicago Bulls in five games to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat went on an 18-3 run to close the game and James was sensational, scoring eight points in the final 2:06 of the fourth quarter and locking up Derrick Rose so bad that he could barely get off a shot attempt.

James was sensational, but only after he embarrassed himself first.  

With the Bulls leading 57-44, James pulled down a defensive rebound in traffic. Rose crashed in from the perimeter to take an upward swipe at the ball as James brought it down to the ground and James' body went flying backwards, as if Rose had hit him in the face. James grabbed at his face as if he had been poked in the eye and went down on one knee to collect himself as a foul was called on Rose. Rose stomped away from the play, frustrated at the whistle, and replays would clearly reveal why he was upset.

The reverse angle clearly showed that Rose's swipe did not contact the ball or James' head whatsoever. The upwards swipe had been completely unsuccessful: Rose has simply grasped at air. James' reaction, then, was totally staged, a simulation of contact that had never occurred.

To make matters worse, James' flop was accentuated by a smile and wink to the bench, a purposeful acknowledgement that he had duped the officials.

Here's video of James' flop courtesy of YouTube user BSORobertLittal11.




Flopping and simulating fouls has certainly become a trend in these NBA playoffs. Give James credit: Whatever he does on the basketball court, he does it better than just about everyone else. Unless retroactive fines and imposed in these situations, players with James' basketball intelligence and experience will no doubt be able to fool referees in real time, especially when the plays occur in congested areas of the court.

Still, this was a shame. It certainly doesn't take away from the magnitude of James and Miami making the Finals, but this type of action shouldn't have a place in the NBA game.
Posted on: May 26, 2011 3:33 pm
 

LiveChat: Heat-Bulls Conference Finals Game 5

Join us at 8:30 p.m. EST for Heat-Bulls Game 5 as Chicago tries to stave off elimination and force this thing to go back to Miami. Topics of discussion include:

  • Seriously, Derrick Rose? Seriously?
  • Mike Miller: Does he prove evolution is flawed and we don't need oppossable thumbs?
  • Is Kurt Thomas going to kill someone? Like Thibs if he doesn't get to play?
  • How awesome is the Billy Goat Tavern? For real?


 
Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:08 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:42 am
 

Playoff Fix: Can Heat eliminate Bulls in Chicago?

The Miami Heat will attempt to eliminate the Chicago Bulls from the Eastern Conference finals in Game 5 on Thursday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.



One Big Thing:  If a single play defines this series, it's either LeBron James defending Derrick Rose on the final possession of regulation in Game 4, forcing an errant jumper, or Dwyane Wade blocking a Rose runner in spectacular fashion in overtime. Both plays served as excellent reminders of the obvious: when the league's best players commit fully on the defensive end, there's not much anyone can do, not even the NBA MVP. James, Wade and company played excellent defense against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but they've ramped that up at least a full notch, maybe two, against Chicago. The Bulls are averaging just 84 points per game in the last three contests, and unless they get a monster outside shooting night like they had in Game 1 or a super-efficient, high-volume scoring night from Rose, there's not much hope.

The X-Factor: We're past the point of being able to highlight one Bulls reserve as a guy who could step up and make a difference. The Bench Mob got smoked in Game 4. All five Bulls reserved finished with a 0 or worse plus/minus ranking. Taj Gibson, who played just 10 minutes and didn't contribute anything except one rebound and a missed field goal, finished with an astonishing -21. That barely seems possible. At the same time, Miami only went three men deep with its bench yet all three finished with double digit positive numbers in the plus/minus column, none greater than a resurgent Mike Miller, who scored 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting and added nine rebounds, all while keeping thoughts of his ailing newborn daughter in the back of his mind. Miller was an unconscionable +32 in 26 minutes, forming the critical fifth piece in a James/Wade/Chris Bosh/Udonis Haslem lineup that could be the best five-man unit any time will put on the court during the 2011 playoffs. The X-Factor here is simple: The Bulls need to totally flip this script and reclaim their bench dominance, even without injured center Omer Asik. Remember, in Game 1 it was Chicago whose five reserves all finished with positive +/- numbers while all seven of Miami's reserves finished in the red.

The Adjustment: Miami Heat coach is done playing. No more messing around. In Game 4, he played a tight eight-man rotation despite the game going to overtime. He rode James, Bosh and Wade for a combined 133 minutes one game after the trio played 126 minutes combined in Game 3. Spoelstra left wing James Jones totally out of the action in both games and was able to do so because of solid contributions from Miller and Haslem. While Haslem only scored two points on five shots, he rebounded the ball well (nine boards) and played his typical winning brand of basketball. It's no accident that the Heat look great now that James, Wade and Bosh almost never leave the court. The fact that they are able to execute so well late in games speaks to their mental and physical fitness. In some cases, the best adjustments are the most obvious ones: play your stars, a lot.

The Sticking Point: If there's one area of concern for Miami, it's the lack of effectiveness so far in this series from Wade. He's been scintillating at times, using his crossover combinations and reserve spins to get into the lane at ease. His overall offensive numbers, though, are pretty rough. He's shooting less than 40% from the field, averaging just 18.3 points per game and dishing out just 2.3 assists. His scoring and passing numbers are way off his season and postseason averages. While there's been some speculation that he might be playing hurt, Wade has also been defended well by Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer. Perhaps even more importantly, both James and Bosh have emerged into more prominent roles during this series. Bosh, in particular, is getting lots of touches and looks because of the extra attention Chicago has paid James and Wade when they have the ball in their hands. A big night from the Chicago native Wade -- it would be his first of the series -- could send the Bulls packing into the offseason.
Posted on: May 25, 2011 7:25 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 8:47 pm
 

Mike Miller attended to sick daughter at hospital

Miami Heat forward Mike Miller attended to his sick newborn following Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Posted by Ben Golliver. mike-miller

Miami Heat forward Mike Miller has dealt with plenty of adversity this season: a thumb injury that kept him out for months and the brief disappearance of his shooting stroke that contributed to his on-court struggles this season. But none of that compares what he's been through this week. 

The Palm Beach Post reports that Miller headed to the hospital following Miami's Game 4 win over the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals to check on his newborn daughter, Jaelyn. The girl was born between Games 2 and 3 of the series but remains in the hospital's intensive care unit.
Miller was visiting his wife, Jen, and baby daughter, Jaelyn, who was born last Thursday with a condition that the Millers have not disclosed. Miller remained at the hospital until 4 a.m.

"As important as the playoffs or the Eastern Conference Finals are to me, the most important thing right now is (Jaelyn) and my wife," Miller said Wednesday before the Heat boarded its charter for Chicago, where it could advance to the NBA Finals with a victory in Thursday night's Game 5.

"It puts things in perspective. It makes my thumb injuries a lot less important right now."
The Associated Press reportsthat Miller plans to play in Thursday night's Game 5 in Chicago.
Jaelyn was born between Games 2 and 3 of the East final. Miller has not missed either game since she was born, and told reporters on Tuesday night — after perhaps one of his best games with the Heat — that his daughter is "a fighter."

"She's doing good right now," Miller said Wednesday. "And hopefully she'll continue to do better."
Despite the emotional weight of the situation, Miller scored 12 points in Game 4, including two three-pointers, more than he's scored in the rest of the 2011 NBA playoffs combined, and the most points he's scored in a game since March 23. That he's playing at all is remarkable given the circumstances.

Miller has taken to wearing pink shoelaces to honor his Jaelyn, who is his first daughter after two sons. The Post notes that Heat president Pat Riley offered to pay any fine incurred for breaking dress code should the NBA league office raise the issue, which it hasn't.
Posted on: May 25, 2011 2:34 pm
 

Thibodeau thinks Rose struggles start with calls

Tom Thibodeau thinks Derrick Rose isn't getting the calls he should in the Eastern Conference Finals. Thibodeau has bigger problems.

Posted by Matt Moore




From Larry Brown Sports, we discover Tom Thibodeau's reason for why Derrick Rose is struggling in the Eastern Conference Finals.
 
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau must have kept that in mind, because he made a point to call out the refs following his team’s Game 4 loss in Miami.

Speaking about Derrick Rose after the game, Thibodeau said “He hasn’t been able to get to the line like we thought he would. There’s a lot of contact, and he hasn’t gotten calls.”
via Tom Thibodeau Calls Out Refs for Not Giving Derrick Rose More Calls | Larry Brown Sports.

On the one hand, the Heat had a 38-22 advantage in free throws in Game 4, and Derrick Rose took seven to LeBron James' 13. On the other hand, here's a brief list of ways why maybe Coach needs to look elsewhere for answers besides blaming the officials. 

  • Rose was 8-27 from the field, or to put it in a different context, Rose missed more than two of every three shots he took. He was 1-9 from the 3-point line. Why did he take four more after starting 0-5 you might ask. Well, that would be something his coach might have something to say about. That's nine possessions where Rose won't be getting to the line. 
  • The Bulls, a terrible 3-point shooting team, knowing this going in, took 24 3-point attempts in Game 4. That's 28 percent of their total FGA predicated on the arc. The Heat, conversely, took 13, for just 17 percent. The Heat shot 39 percent, the Bulls 24 percent. So even though the Bulls are a terrible perimeter-shooting team and needed to create free throws, they went to 3-point shooting to save them.
  • Derrick Rose got a few calls, including a ridiculous continuation on one of his poster dunks. It's not like Rose was constantly knocked to the ground, he just didn't drive as much.
  • Instead, Rose habitually went to the pull-up jumper, like he did on the final possession of regulation. When he did drive, late, he turned the ball over. Hard to draw free throws when you're rolling the ball out of bounds. 
  • The Heat's defense has done three things on Rose in this series. Send multiple defenders to keep him from being able to figure out a consistent attack, bring help at three, sometimes four levels on Rose's drives, and guard him with players like James who have incredible size advantages. The key for the Bulls should be to punish those positional switches by having the other players matched up on smaller/slower players get involved, or working with Rose off-ball. But of course, those would be offensive adjustments and Thibodeau is too busy screaming at the defense to not let a 6-8, 285 lb. freight train with unparalleled explosion drive by them or hit fadeaway 16-footers. Much too busy.

The reality is that there were calls that didn't go the Bulls way in Game 4, and the whistles were generous towards Miami. But Rose not only had the game winner he missed, but a key free throw clanged off in the final minutes and multiple turnovers. Rose is 22. He'll bounce back. This is part of the learning process. He's still the MVP after a banner year. 

But the Bulls aren't losing this series 3-1 because of the officials. They're losing it for multiple reasons, and one of them is that Derrick Rose just hasn't been any good and his coach hasn't helped him to make any adjustments.  
Posted on: May 25, 2011 1:57 am
Edited on: May 25, 2011 2:09 am
 

NBA Playoffs: How the Heat snuffed the Bulls out

The Bulls had one more chance at making a comeback. But the Miami Heat snuffed it out on the defensive end with talent, but more importantly, with supreme effort. The Heat wanted it more, and it showed. 

Posted by Matt Moore



The chance was still hanging there, by a thread. The Bulls were down six with 25 seconds to go. A quick score, force a turnover which the Bulls excel at, get another one at this is a game. There's a chance. You just have to get a bucket. Derrick Rose driving, which is what you want. Amazing comebacks happen, and Chicago could have made it happen. They just needed a score. 

Desire is such a dangerous term. These are professional athletes fighting for a chance at a championship. They're close. They can taste it. Want-to is not lacking in this series. But in a series as grueling in this, with constant brutal defense on both sides, and how physical it is, there are moments that are decided by giving it an all-out effort. It wasn't brilliant highlight plays, big alley-oops, or flash and dance that won Game 4 for the Heat. It was desire. Here's how they snuffed out the Bulls. 



 

After a LeBron James pull-up jumper (on which James may have very well walked), Rose speed down the court to try and get a quick two to put the pressure back on Miami on the inbounds. Dwyane Wade is on the far side at the start of the play.

 


As Rose attacks, Wade times his jump in an interesting way. He jump-stops, plants, and explodes straight up, after Rose has already left his feet and is almost at the apex of his jump before releasing the ball.



Wade gets an absolutely absurd amount of elevation for a player who may be banged up, and blocks the ball out towards the wing, but not out of bounds. Joakim Noah and LeBron James both go for the rebound. 
 

 

Noah has nearly a four-inch advantage on James, but James manages to explode and get to the ball at the same time, knocking it loose towards the sideline. Noah secures this rebound, he's got two shooters on the far side wide-open. (Broken plays consistently made for huge plays for the Bulls in Game 4.)




The ball is loose, the game is on the line, and LeBron James is the first one to the floor. James reaches out to tap the ball away from Noah on one leg diving. 



One dive is good effort. James taps it once on the dive, then gives full-out extension to keep the ball from going out of bounds and keep it out of his hands. Noah starts to dive for the ball as well. But Udonis Haslem is in position to dive as well and he goes for the ball at the same time. 



Check out how close this was to going out of bounds on James' steal. 

This may have been the most effort LeBron James has ever made on a basketball floor. For a player who consistently is questioned for his intensity and effort, there can be no confusion. James wanted this more than any other player on the floor and every bit of his unbelievable athleticism was put into securing this ball as he taps it towards the middle of the floor. 



Joakim Noah gave a tremendous effort in Game 4 at both ends. He really hustled to work the glass, try and score, defend, and even run the break. But here not one, but two Heat players are quicker to dive for the ball than him and both beat him to the punch. Haslem dives on the loose ball like a fumble, and turns his back to Noah to try and create a gap between Noah and the ball with his body. 




As Noah dives over him, Haslem slips the ball to Mike Miller, who eventually gets it to Wade who is fouled. 




Another Bulls turnover, their last shot, and hope is snuffed out by the Heat. The Bulls were supposed to win this series with superior team play and greater effort over an entitled Heat team. But what makes the Heat so dangerous at this moment is not the talent. It's that talent brought to its fullest potential by the kind of effort seen on this play. No alley-oops. No smoke and mirrors. Just effort. 

And a win. 

Posted on: May 25, 2011 12:39 am
 

Boozer's flagrant turned things for Miami

Posted by Royce Young



There was a lot of talk prior to Game 4 that the Bulls needed to send a physical message to the Heat. That whether it be Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas or someone else, the first Miami player to cruise down the lnae needed to take a clobbering.

That's what a lot of people thought.

That kind of thing can work a lot of the time to fire up a team and send a message. But it's about picking spots. The correct spots, that is. And Carlos Boozer did not pick a good spot for a flagrant foul.

Chicago was leading 77-74 with 4:40 remaining as Chris Bosh went at the rim. He got a clear path because Joakim Noah overplayed a pass and slipped and Boozer rotated (properly) over to help. He fouled Bosh preventing two easy points, but for some reason followed through with his left arm and shoved Bosh to the floor.

Boom, flagrant one.

What Miami got was two free throws and possession of the ball which turned into four points and a one-point lead. Just like that.

Was it a semi-weak flagrant? Yeah, probably. Not the most malicious thing ever and Bosh sold it pretty hard. But there's no doubt it was correctly called. Boozer's foul was excessive and there was no need for him to extend his left forearm out like that. Plus, it was up around the shoulders and any time that happens, you're getting nailed.

Wrong place, wrong time for Boozer to try and show he was tough. Kind of typical of him to mess up in a big moment I guess. That decision by Boozer didn't cost the Bulls the game by any means but that was definitely a swing play in the game. Miami picked up four points and the lead off of one bad foul.

That foul in the first quarter might've had a reverse effect. It might've sent a message and rallied his team. But in crunch time when points were the most valuable thing in the game, it was just pretty much stupid.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com