Game Four was horrible. I watched it alone in my apartment, which was probably for the best as screaming and pacing with a pillow on my head is behavior best kept from the public eye.
Rose, whose excellent performance was overshadowed by that guy on Cleveland getting his field goal percentage up to 33, blew past a half-asleep Cavaliers defense to tie the game up with just seconds on the clock. Prior to that, the refs actually made a correct call to benefit the Bulls when LeBron James was penalized for trying to create space by doing that move from NBA Street.
But it was not enough to preserve home court and push Cleveland to the brink of elimination. Jimmy Butler, who played lock down defense for nearly 46 minutes, had little left in the tank on offense. Mike Dunleavy, who has been the most consistent Bull of the playoffs and has always been a barometer for team success, went just 1-7 from the field and played much of the game with foul trouble. Niko, my sweet, sweet Niko, went 1-9 from the field, including a missed three at the end of the third quarter that could have been a back breaker and another missed three earlier in the game that would lead some to believe he was hallucinating a second hoop somewhere off to the right.
Obviously, it’s not good to lose a hard fought home game at the buzzer to a guy who seemingly makes the Finals every year. But even though the Bulls have given home court back to the Cavaliers, I remain optimistic.
A quick recap of the current state of the Cavs:
- Kevin Love is out with a shoulder injury
- Kyrie Irving is battling a foot sprain that has basically turned him into a statue and robbed him of any lift on his jump shot. He now has knee tendinitis as well.
- LeBron James looked like he badly rolled his ankle, an injury that probably didn’t improve during the flight home.
The Bulls are dealing with their own injury issues as Pau Gasol hopes to return from a hamstring injury in Game Five. While his absence forces Thibodeau into using more practical lineups, his offense was sorely missed in a game where the Bulls shot 36 percent from the field.
Assuming Gasol comes back, Butler keeps playing incredible defense for entire games, Rose makes a couple of really awesome plays a night, Irving continues to feel the ill effects of his foot injury, Dunleavy and Mirotic bounce back, JR Smith doesn’t turn into Reggie Miller for three minute bursts, and LeBron stops doing LeBron things, the Bulls should be fine.
On second thought…