Game 7 Recap: If You Can’t Take the Heat…

HEAT 99, PACERS 76
Dead even after six games, last night the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers geared up for a deciding Game 7 to decide who would face the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Just like last season against Boston, LeBron James and the Heat pulled away at home to clinch their 3rd straight berth to the Finals.
-The big debate going into the game was whether James would/should “go back to his Cleveland days” and dominate the ball to ensure a victory, or trust the Big 3 that has had so much success by continuing to try to find the right looks for the struggling Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It was clear what King James had decided as soon as the game started–Wade and Bosh combined for eight shots before James took even one. While Wade looked to have a spring in his step once again and got off to a quick 3/5 start, Bosh missed seven of his first eight shots in the first quarter. Nonetheless, James stuck to his gameplan of trusting his teammates–although he did score 18 points in 17 minutes to end the half. James, who averaged 4.9 three point attempts per game against Indiana, only attempted two three pointers in Game 7 while systematically pounding the ball inside and challenging Roy Hibbert. Hibbert, the breakout defensive star of this series, did a solid job inside with an efficient 18 points and eight rebounds but found himself in foul trouble with the Heat team crashing the glass hard. Furthermore, James clearly intended to and succeeded in shutting down Paul George on both ends. George had no answer for James’ drives and ultimately fouled out midway through the 4th quarter. On defense, LeBron held George, who averaged 19.4 PPG on 43% shooting in his own breakout playoffs, to seven points and seven rebounds on 2-9 shooting. After a massive Game 6 performance, George never got in any kind of a groove and James is undoubtedly the reason why.
-While James dominance was clearly the difference in the game, the most important development for Miami was the reemergence of Dwyane Wade. Wade finally notched his second 20 point game of the playoffs (first since 4/23), which is kind of insane when you consider his 21.2 PPG this season and 24.7 PPG career scoring average! What stood out about Wade’s game was his energy on the offensive glass (six OREB!) and his lift when attacking the basket. Wade made plenty of his signature bank shots and got to the line more times (still only seven attempts to James’ 16) than he had since Game 1 against Milwaukee, six weeks ago. However, Wade still missed nearly all of his long jumpers and looked creaky at times. Perhaps this was the signal of a breakout for the struggling star, but it might’ve just been one night where pride overtook pain.
-Chris Bosh continued struggling but at least showed up for this game, unlike the last three. After seeing his rebounding decline to 6.8 RPG (career 8.9), Bosh only notched 3.7 RPG in this series coming into Game 7. While the flurry of early shots wouldn’t fall for the escaped dinosaur, he made up for it with great energy by grabbing seven first half rebounds. He only finished with eight, but Miami dominated the 2nd half to an extent that overshadowed this completely. Bosh, who before the game asserted that he would “play without thinking”, still only finished with nine points. Perhaps he was intimidated by Roy Hibbert, but Bosh’s offensive struggles this series kicked into gear when he sprained his ankle in a Game 4 loss (16.3 PPG Games 1-3, seven PPG Games 4-7). If Bosh is hurting this badly against San Antonio, expect Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to make him pay. Of course, we have plenty of time to discuss that team from Texas that just won’t go away–for real though, five finals (4-0 in first four) in 14 years is pretty damn impressive for Coach Popovich and Timmy D.
-Meaningless Statistic: James started the game 13-13 from the FT line, which would have tied his own record for most FT without a miss in a playoff game (May 2011 against the Bulls–ugh). However, Bron missed his 14th FTA, missing his shot at breaking his own record. He finished 15/16. (Does it feel like LBJ kills the Bulls at the FT line in the playoffs? Quick research shows that he shot 81% against Chicago this year (77% overall) and 86% in 2011 (76% overall). So yeah, he does kill us.)
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Game 7 from the Gambler

I’m Steven Kerstein and I’m the worst person to watch sports with.  Just ask these three other bozos.

When a pivotal game seven matchup between two, suddenly well-matched teams is on the horizon, most normal human beings would be pretty satisfied.

You see, I’m a gambler.  I play stocks by day and hedge soccer games by night (or day depending on your time-zone.)  There’s something about the notion of uncertainty that gets my heart rate going.  Kind of like most of you clowns who like jumping from airplanes. For degenerates like me, I need some type of financial contingency to truly captivate my interest.

Any savvy finance student would tell you that arbitrage opportunities can exist in the places you’d never expect.  While Vegas definitely has kids writing algorithms surely more sophisticated than me, it’s my duty as a degenerate to explore any potential profitable trade or wager.

Rather than give you my opinions and pull biased statistics that back up my claims, I’m just going to lay out the facts for you to make your analysis. Lies.

Let’s take a look at the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 in Miami, Fl aka just another day for sports books around the world.

At 11 AM CST, the current moneyline for the contest are set at Miami -330 and Indiana +270.  For all you rookies to the world of sports betting, Vegas pays you as if Miami has a 73% chance of winning, compared to Indiana’s 24%.  So you’re probably thinking, shouldn’t those two figures add up to 100%.  This is why sports gambling is not a great long-term investment. From the get-go, the house has the advantage forcing its patrons to accept a negative expected value.  The second you stroll into the casino or log into your Bovada account, you’re a loser from Vegas’ point of view.

Why is this different from the stock market? In the stock market, you make money by playing off psychology and not solely off binary events.  Sports gambling is options trading without the trading part. This nuance limits your profit-making strategies.

When it comes to using historical data, I find that there is an abundance of biased information that can support nearly every hypothesis.

If your personal algorithm spits out figures greatly discrepant that outperform the consistency Vegas lines, maybe you’re the next Rain Man.  Otherwise, maybe you’re just another Stavi or Dave.

From the eye-ball test, I think that Indiana has about a 35% chance of winning if the NBA wasn’t rigged.  Even with the juice, I’d be inclined to pursue the Pacers money-line if sports weren’t fixed.  Even though I think the Pacers bet is undervalued, do I really think it’s undervalued in the sense I can only win if the Pacers win?  Decisions, decisions..

In terms of the spread, Miami’s -6.5 the favorite.  This number is relatively interesting.  I see two different ways Miami wins this game. 1) It’s close for 45 minutes, the Heat cover with the assistance of late free throws.  2) Blowout- Mike Miller does his stupid dance and I drink a fifth of vodka.  Obviously, the chance remains that Miami could win on a buzzer-beater or Indiana could slaughter them.  But miracles don’t come true.  This isn’t Disney World, well I guess it kinda is.  The Disney Corporation does control the world. Anyways, by this logic, I like my chances taking Miami and giving the points.

Let’s move on to the over/under total points scored in the game.  Right now, the line is set at 181.5.  In an elimination game, one critical factor you need to take into considerations is FT attempts.  While I might be a little bit radical when it comes to NBA conspiracies, there’s no denying the fact that if Miami’s cold they’re gonna get freebies from the charity stripe.  I don’t think David Stern is rooting for the mighty San Antonio-Indiana matchup.  So while Wade and Bosh are struggling, I actually think the over is a pretty solid wager tonight.  Both the Pacers and Heat have hit at least 90 in every game but one this series.  Throw in some home-cooking 3’s from Chalmers, Allen and Cole and that one’s a wrap.  About that opinion thing I said earlier…

While I’d love to come up with some crazy props, I’ve got to get back to work.  So enjoy the game and most importantly, don’t lose your shirt.

Coming up Rose(s)

Bicky (@OldManBikshorn, you really should read his thoughts/rants) did a great job of explaining Roses and Thorns in his Thorns post, but to recap quickly: Roses and Thorns is an activity we used to do as campers where you chose a highlight and lowlight of the day. And we like puns. Now that we got that out of the way, I’m going to handle the “rosier” aspects of the Bulls offseason and 2013-14 prospects. DISCLAIMER: I can be a very pessimistic person! This article will not reflect a balanced, level view of how I’m looking at the Bulls future (although I am, relatively, rosy about it). Instead, I’ll just be highlighting the more exciting developments to keep an eye on. If you need your fix of pessimism, I can guarantee you Bick’s got your back with the Thorns post. On to the delightful Roses…

Rose #1: This one’s pretty obvious isn’t it? DERRICK FUCKING ROSE! Excuse my screaming, but god damn it who isn’t excited for that first dribble drive of the preseason? To state the utterly obvious, the Bulls missed Rose’s presence badly this season. While the defense was largly unaffected (by Rose’s absence; the absences of wing-stopper Ronnie Brewer and Turkish hammer Omer Asik were glaring occasionally), the Bulls offense struggled mightily without any true shot-creators besides Good Nate. Jump shooters like Marco Belinelli and Luol Deng were forced to take more difficult shots without Rose slicing through the paint and dishing the ball out. If Rose can even return to 75-80% of his MVP form, the Bulls are almost instantly the 2nd or 3rd best team in the conference, depending on how good you think the Pacers are (they’re very good). With well over a year to recover, it’s reasonable to assume Rose will be back with a vengeance. Yay!!!

Rose #2: Good Nate. It seems pretty unlikely that the Bulls resign Nate Robinson, as he’s rightfully earned a bigger payday than the front office would prefer to dish out. So I think it’s only right that we take a moment to enjoy the run Nate gave us. His 34 point performance in only 29 (!) minutes of the Bulls Game 4 triple OT win over the Nets will not be forgotten any time soon. The 29 minutes blow my mind because Kirk Hinrich played 60 (out of 63!) minutes in that game and hasn’t played since. But we’ll save that for the Thorns.

Rose #3: Another year closer to getting rid of Carlos Boozer. Look, the guy’s come up big a few times and when you squint a little bit his stats look pretty good…but let’s not forget he was our consolation prize after losing the Big 3 Sweepstakes. It’s not impossible for the Bulls to trade Boozer, or perhaps make another move that would open up an amnesty on him this summer. However, I think Bulls fans should prepare for one more year of Boozer. Why is this a Rose? Because Boozer is fucking entertaining! AND ONE! GIMME DAT SHIT! AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Boozer Flow Chart

Rose #4: The continued emergence of Jimmy Butler. Can’t say enough about this dude. He played just over 8 minutes per game as a 22 year old rookie, and was afraid to take most open 3s, let alone make them. Flash forward one year later, and Jimmy B is playing entire games without breaks while pacing the Bulls in 3 point shooting. Not to mention playing All-NBA level defense on scrubs like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (wait). As important as Luol Deng has been to the Bulls the last few seasons, Jimmy has quickly and surprisingly made Deng expendable—and everyone in Chicago, Deng included, knows it. That’s a pretty impressive feat for the 30th pick of the 2011 draft.

Rose #5: Joakim fuckin’ Noah. Bulls fans have known for a long time that Noah’s energy and annoyingness are unmatched among NBA brethren (http://www.theonion.com/articles/bitter-feud-developing-between-joakim-noah-rest-of,32444/). However, this season he blossomed into a true All-Star and a legitimate Defensive POY candidate. Noah set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and FT% this season while also playing the most minutes of his career. When plantar fasciitis took its toll late in the season, Noah struggled. Yet somehow, he shook off the pain midway through the first round and led Chicago to an upset of Brooklyn and a dogfight against Miami. Going into this season, Bulls fans were willing to throw Noah’s name around recklessly in Dwight Howard trade fantasies and whatnot. Now? I’m not so sure.

Rose #6: Offseason improvements. Not so fast—let’s just say I’ll let @OldManBikshorn (FOLLOW HIM!!!!) handle our outlook on this summer’s free agency and trade prospects. However, the offseason is a great time for young players to work on their game. I’m most looking forward to seeing how Derrick Rose has evolved his game in the wake of his major injury. With so much time off, I’m expecting to see a few more tricks up his sleeve. Jimmy Butler, who improved so much in his first offseason, will have plenty more time to get back at it this summer. Continued work on his solid 3-point shot will do wonders for a Bulls team that desperately craves floor spacing. And for some guys, the rest of the offseason will do wonders. Joakim would never admit it but he can surely use some time to smoke pot rest his foot. Luol Deng, fresh off a near death experience, could certainly use a real offseason after LEADING THE OLYMPICS IN MINUTES last summer. Seriously. I didn’t realize Thibs moonlighted as Great Britain’s coach too.

Rose #7: Tom Thibodeau is such a huge part of the Bulls’ past and future success. So much so, that I think he deserves a whole post in the future.

Rose #8: No more Rip Hamilton. Rip’s a Hall of Famer (DISCLAIMER: BIKSHORN DOES NOT AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT), and I won’t soon forget the effort he gave in games 4 and 5 against Miami when nothing was expected of him. However, he was signed to be the answer at shooting guard and couldn’t stay on the court consistently at all the past two seasons. For $5 million a year, that was an air ball. Opening up the rotation next year will be exciting with Jimmy Butler slated in as the opening day starter at the 2.

Well, this ran a little long, but like I said—I’m pretty rosy on the Bulls’ future. They have an MVP, All-Star talent to surround him, and a recent Coach of the Year. What’s not to like? (If you do not believe that ignorance is bliss, please check out Bicky’s “Thorns” post  here: https://drosesandthorns.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/bulls-off-season-preview-its-looking-a-bit-thorny-by-jacob-bikshorn/ . There is, unfortunately, also stuff not to like).

Bulls Off-Season Preview: It’s Looking a bit Thorny

Here at DRosesAndThorns, we are obviously immensely enjoying the conference finals and looking forward to what will certainly be an entertaining finals match up, with the Spurs being a guarantee to showcase their System against whichever challenger emerges from the east (I’m quietly rooting for the Heat, only so that I can root against them in the finals). But for us Bulls faithful, the season has effectively come to a close. While there is still great basketball yet to be played, it is hard not to begin focusing on the season that is to come.

Before I dive in, let me give you a bit of background about myself. I spent 10 summers at an overnight camp in Wisconsin, seven as a camper and three more as a counselor. We used to do this nightly ritual, not unique to my camp at all, called Roses and Thorns. The exercise consisted of every kid in the cabin going around and talking about a low point of the day (thorn) and a high point from the day (rose). It was a great way to put the day in perspective, as the highs were always much higher than even the lowest of the lows, mostly because we were kids at summer camp, and how bad could a day really be? (by the way, I always thought it was kind of messed up to make kids talk about something that upset them right before they went to sleep. Just not sound logic). We here at DRosesAndThorns have decided to steal that format for our first two blog posts. I will be kicking things off with a more solemn outlook at what the future holds for the Bulls. Later, our very own Jake Weiner will weigh in with a more rosy outlook on the future.

Thorns

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call this 2012-13 NBA season a “lost year.” The Bulls played the entire year without their best player in Derrick Rose, really the only player on the roster capable of creating offense off the dribble, unless you want to count Nate, who really is not a player to be counted on night in and night out. And even though Coach Thibideau managed to squeeze a top five defense out of a group that included a past his prime Kirk Hinrich, a tiny Nate Robinson, and Italian Stallion Marco Belinelli, no one who watched this team on a regular basis had any realistic hopes for a deep playoff run.

The real shame of this season is a waste of what was really a breakout year for Bulls center Joakim Noah. Jo averaged 11.9 points per game as well as 11.1  boards per game, both career highs. But that was not the most impressive career high that Noah managed this season. That distinction goes to the 4 assists he averaged a game this season, nearly doubling his assist average from last season. To get that type of play making ability from your center is a luxury rarely seen in the NBA. While Joakim’s statistical outburst can largely be attributed to Rose’s absence, it was certainly a treat to see him step up.

Unfortunately, Joakim also averaged nearly 37 minutes a game, a total that is completely unsustainable for a 7 footer, even a freak athlete like Joakim. Noah missed 16 games this season, due mostly to nagging foot injuries that plagued him throughout their brief, yet courageous playoff run. I can’t imagine that all those extra minutes weren’t somehow a factor in the numerous foot ailments that slowed down the wild haired animal.

And why was it that Joakim was playing so many minutes? This is a question that allows us to look into the off-season and the future. Noah was on the floor so much this year simply because the Bulls were unable to find a suitable backup for him this past summer. After letting Omer Asik walk in free agency to the Houston Rockets, the Bulls decided to fill his void with a prehistoric dinosaur named Nazr Mohammed. I can’t blame Nazr for knowing whether the chicken or the egg came first, but I can blame the Bulls front office and ownership for believing this was a suitable solution to the question of who should back up Noah.

This off-season promises to see a lot of roster turnover on the roster yet again, after losing key pieces in Asik, Ronnie Brewer and CJ Watson last season. Belinelli, Robinson, Mohammed, and the rarely seen Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic are all set to hit unrestricted free agency. There is also great speculation that the team plans to buy Richard Hamilton out of the last year of his contract after he was essentially and kind of inexplicably banished to the end of the bench in the postseason (ok not totally inexplicably he was playing pretty horribly. But holy shit they couldn’t have used him just a little bit?). All of these guys, except Hamilton, were playing on minimum one year deals, essentially rentals. The front office probably justified their bargain shopping assuming that Rose would miss the whole season, and therefore were unwilling to venture deep into the luxury tax with a roster that never really had a chance to challenge Miami without a healthy DRose. But how will they approach this new crop of free agents?

The obvious needs for this team are:

1. Outside shooting. The Bulls severely lacked a spot up threat this season after literally giving away Kyle Korver so that Reinsdorf could spend more money on the miserable baseball team that plays on the south side.

2. Backup point guard. Yes I know Hinrich is under contract for next season, but he clearly has lost a step, and didn’t exactly have a lot of steps and his peak. He struggled to bring the ball up against aggressive defenses, and is totally unable to turn the corner on a pick and roll. Obviously backup PG is not a HUGE need with Rose’s return, but its an important part of any good team. Also Marquis Teague clearly isn’t ready. Maybe he makes a step next year, but I’m not counting on it.

3. Backup center. The Bulls NEED to find a capable big to fill in for Noah should injuries flair up again, or just to provide replacement level play when the six shooters hit the bench.

Guys who I believe could reasonably fill in for problem #1 who could be signed to reasonable contracts:

Roger Mason, Jr.

Randy Foye

Dorell Wright

Nick Young

If you read this list and vomited all over your computer screen, you are not alone. Now, it would not be unreasonable to think that Jimmy Butler makes a leap as a shooter next season, as he did show immense improvement in that area this season, shooting 38% this season after only managing to hit on 18% of his long range attempts in his rookie campaign. But one man is not enough to stretch a defense, and hopefully the Bulls find a creative way to bring in another guy who can knock down the three.

Guys who I think could fit in as backup PGs on reasonable deals:

Jose Calderon (ok he would have to accept a HUGE pay cut, but let me dream here please just for a minute)

DJ Augustine

Pablo Prigioni

Beno Udrih

Sebastian Telfair

AJ Price

Shaun Livingston

There are a couple of names here who I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing the Bulls make a run at. Prigioni, rumored to be heading back to Spain, would fit in really well with this team. He’s someone who I believe can execute a system and make guys around him look like Gar Forman didn’t pick them up off the street. And Shaun Livingston showed signs of life this year in his opportunities to play with the absence of Kyrie Irving.

Guys who could potentially fill in as backup centers:

Zaza Pachulia

Johan Petro

Chris Kaman

Ronny Turiaf

Dwight Howard (lol jk)

BIRDMAN

Jason Collins

Again, no one is jumping off this list at you and saying “WOW WHAT A PERFECT FIT!” A guy like Kaman could provide some scoring in a limited role, but his inability to guard anyone will keep the Bulls away from the ex-patriot. A guy like Jason Collins could be a nice fit as a defensive specialist who would certainly bring the level of toughness Thibideau loves to have on the floor, but with him on the court it forces the team to go 4 on 5 on the offensive end. Not ideal. And I expect Miami retains the Birdman, so don’t get your hopes up guys.

Looking ahead to next year it is hard to get over excited. Yes, bringing back Rose will be a huge upgrade from the Nate-Kirk PG duo that slogged its way through this past season. But again there just will likely not be enough fire power to get past the Heat, and likely not enough to beat the Pacers 4 times out of 7. The Bulls have capped themselves out of bringing in any real impact free agents, deciding to extend Taj Gibson until he’s 32 years old, and refusing to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, king of the 12 foot fade.

Speaking of Taj, is this dude ever going to figure out how to shoot the ball? In a season where Gibson received a pretty lucrative extension despite exclusively coming off the bench, Gibson managed to only shoot 21% from 3-9 feet from the basket, and 39% from 10-15 feet, per the numbers at Hoopdata.com. Yes, he brings elite defense and rebounding to the floor every night, but he’s being paid like a two way player now, and it is just something that he is not. Really poor salary management on the part of Chicago, who deemed Gibson to be worth the extension that Asik was not given.

Sorry to be such a downer, but, as the good folks at Poison once said, every rose has its thorns.

Jacob Bikshorn

Welcome

Hello basketball fans!

Welcome to our new NBA blog, DRosesAndThorns. Here at DRAT, we will work to cover the NBA from an original angle, using the perspectives of guys in their early 20s who love everything NBA, yet lack any formal training in writing, other than high school and whatever BS gen-ed requirement we had to cheat our way through freshmen year. The blog will have a Chicago Bulls focus as all four of the main contributors to this blog are native to the Windy City.

Before I get started with our first ever post, allow me to introduce you all to the guys who will be writing for this blog.

Jacob Bikshorn (@OldManBikshorn) is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign studying psychology.

Jake Weiner (@jakezner) is a senior studying poli-sci at Vanderbilt University.

Steven Kerstein (@stavster91) is a senior studying accounting and finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tyler Geocaris (@Gbaby1513) is a senior at Indiana University studying management.

(I strongly encourage you to follow all four of us on twitter, which is why I so graciously included our handles in our brief intros)

The four of us are all pretty obsessed with NBA basketball. We all play fantasy, are addicted to league pass, and spend a lot of time devouring NBA blogs on a variety of topics and platforms. We are also hilarious, intelligent, and not afraid to throw out a crazy idea here and there. (I strongly encourage you to follow all four of us on twitter, which is why I so graciously included our handles in our brief intros)

We hope you find this blog to be insightful and entertaining, and we appreciate any and all feedback on our work.

We also want this to be a fun thing that will include more of our friends who have a passion for the NBA. If you have an idea for a column, or want to write one yourself, just shoot an email to drosesandthorns@gmail.com.

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