"Offensive foul? But...don't you know who I am? I'm LeBron James, bitch!"
The Cleveland Cavaliers: I know David Stern would like to just go ahead and hand LeBron James the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the crown, the king's scepter, the key to every NBA city and a solid gold throne on which to sit his noble buttocks during his regal bowel movements. But Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls have gone off-script by actually -- Gasp! Shock! Gasp again! -- refusing to roll over and just die already.
This wasn't part of the plan.
"Oh my God! They're...trying to win!"
The Crabs got outscored 38-32 in the paint by a team that hasn't had a low post threat for most of the decade. They couldn't stay in front of Derrick Rose (31 points, 13-for-26, 8 assists). They couldn't get a hand in the face of Kirk Hinrich (27 points, 9-for-12, 4-for-4 from beyond the arc). Their best defense against Joakim Noah (10 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal and a game-high plus-minus score of +13) was letting Noah get himself into foul trouble.
Cleveland also missed 11 free throws, which is kind of a big deal in a two-point loss.
Mind you, the Craboliers would have lost Game 2 if not for some uncharacteristically hot outside shooting from LeBron. They have the presumed MVP and the best regular season record in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Bulls barely squeaked into the playoffs -- in part because Chris Bosh broke his face and the Raptors pulled an epic choke job down the stretch -- and were considered nothing more than first round hors d'oeuvres for the Crabs. Not even the good kind. I'm talking those cocktail weiners wrapped in a bagel.
And here they are, out-working, out-hustling and out-playing the supposed NBA-champs-to-be.
LeBron James: It's not fair to pin this loss all on King Crab. After all, he scored 13 of his game-high 39 points and dished out 5 of his game-best 8 assists during a give-me-the-ball-and-let-me-take-over fourth quarter. BUT...
...his outside shooting wasn't great (5-for-13, with some truly bawful bricks, including one three-pointer that didn't even touch the rim) he was responsible for six of his team's 11 missed free throws (yet Shaq was 2-for-2) and he committed a game-worst 5 turnovers (compared to a total of 8 for the entire Bulls team).
Speaking of those turnovers, three of them happened during "winning time." With 3:39 left in the fourth, Noah stole a tough pass. With 1:17 left, King Crab dipped his head and drove his shoulder right into Luol Deng. Tweet! Offensive foul. With 51 seconds left, 'Bron dribbled straight into a Noah-Deng double-team...Joakim swiped the ball out of LeBron's hands and Luol controlled it.
Those were three major turnovers.
Giant invisible poop.
Some other nits to pick. There was a play during the third quarter in which Deng drove right at James, went behind the back as LeBron went for the steal and then left King Crab in the dust on his way to a reverse layup.
Then, with about two and a half minutes left in the fourth, LeBron asked to guard Derrick Rose one-on-one. As physically gifted as 'Bron is, he couldn't stay in front of Rose, who slid past and pulled up for a lead-sustaining 13-footer.
I guess the larger point is: LeBron is freaking amazing. But still human.
Chicago's free throw shooting: Things got a little needlessly exciting at the end. The Bulls could have put this one to rest in the final, but they missed four three throws -- two straight by Hinrich and one each by Rose and Deng -- which gave the Crabs a chance to steal the game. And yes, I almost peed myself after each one. Good thing Heather D. wasna't around.
James Johnson: At the end of the third quarter, Rose took a jump shot that was about to bounce in when the rookie went up and goaltended it. And he missed it! I don't usually see Derrick lose his cool, but he looked about ready to choke a bitch.
Officiating, Part I: The officiating was pretty good for the most part, and I was rooting for the Bulls, but even I had to admit this was a pretty big missed call. Hey, 'Bron, you didn't need your head, right?
LeBron James, quote machine: Regarding the play in which he went all NFL running back on Deng: "I saw him backpedaling. Me as a driver, I'm watching the defender's feet. I'm seeing if he's stationed or is still moving. To me, I felt like he was still backpedaling, and as soon as I saw him backpedaling, that's when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I haven't seen the replay, but I know exactly what I've seen on the court with the defender right in front of me."
Joakim Noah, quote machine, Part I: Regarding the same play: "I think one of the refs was about to call a block and then he looked at the other ref because he wasn't sure, and the other ref -- thank God -- called a charge. That was a huge play for us. I'm really happy that play went our way. I think I'm kind of biased, but to me, I thought it was a charge the whole time."
Joakim Noah, quote machine, Part II: Regarding his five personal fouls, which limited him to only 33 minutes: "Stupid, stupid fouls."
The Los Angeles Lakers: L.A. got solid games out of Derek Fishr (17 points, 5-for-8, 4-for-5 on threes), Andy Bynum (13 points, 6-for-9, 7 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (17 points, 7-for-12, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks), but they couldn't stop the Thunder in transition (23 fast break points), nor could they contain Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook down the stretch. Those two dudes scored 22 of Thunder's final 23 points, including 10 points during a 10-2 run that put Oklahoma City ahead for good.
But the biggest problem for the Lakers may have been...
Kobe Bryant: Ah, sweet Mamba, how we've missed thee. Kobe had a rough night, shooting 10-for-29 from the field and 4-for-11 from downtown. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Lakers ran 15 isolation plays for Bryant, and Kobe went 2-for-13 on those plays...0-for-5 when guarded by Kevin Durant.
Speaking of which, how 'bout KD? The kid redeemed himself for his Game 2 choke job by asking to guard Mamba down the stretch. And -- surprise -- he shut Kobe down. Like, completely. It's enough to make you forget that Durant missed his first seven shots and 15 of his first 19 while finishing 8-for-24 on the night.
Thanks largely to the Durantula's defense, Kobe went 2-for-10 in the fourth quarter. Said Bryant: "It was a matchup that caught me by surprise."
Update! Officiating, Part II:Adam is kicking up a little dust at the refs for their apparent home-cookery: "I rightly expected there to be no mention of the ridiculously suspect free throw advantage the Thunder had over the Lakers. They had just short of three times the attempts the Lakers had (34-12). Durant himself had more attempts than the entire Lakers team (13). Yeah, roll your eyes at the Lakers homer complaining about the officiating in a loss. This was more than just Crawford being one of the refs."
That Durant, he sure gets to the line, I tell ya.
Update! Nick Collison, poster boy: As nominated by Basketbawful reader Alex K. Man, this could be used for one of those Southwest "Want To Get Away" commercials.
Update! Lamar Odom, poster boy: One good posterization deserves another, right? Of course, an anonymous commenter had a good point: Shouldn't Westbrook have been T'd up for taunting?
Scott Brooks, quote machine: Regarding the, ahem, lively OKC fans: "I was actually disappointed in the crowd because all year long I thought they were the best crowd. They just gave us so much energy and were so loud throughout the year. But now, I realize they were sandbagging."
The Portland Frail Blazers: Is this the same team that used a spirited effort to steal Game 1 in Phoenix? The Frail Blazers -- who once again lost a big man when starting forward Nicolas Batum aggravated a shoulder injury in the first half and had to take the rest of the night off -- fell behind 34-16 after the first quarter and 66-37 by halftime. During the fourth quarter, Rudy Fernandez pulled Portland back to within 11 by drilling three straight threes, but the Suns woke back up and closed things out with a 108-89 win.
Yes! Another sad bench photo!
After the first game, all the talk was about how the Blazers were quietly one of the best defensive teams in the league. Since then, Phoenix has schooled them twice in a row. Last night, the Suns shot 53 percent as a team. What's more, Jason Richardson nailed eight treys and finished with a career playoff-high 42 points. And of those eight triples, about eight of them were wide open.
Said Richardson: "I was surprised they kept leaving me."
So were the fans in attendance at the Rose Garden, who actually booed their Blazers. That's not something that happens every day. That's like a room full of Catholic priests booing the Pope.
The Suns once again put the clamps on Andre Miller (4-for-11, 4 TOs), and Marcus Camby (3-for-7, zero blocked shots) had his second straight "meh" game after signing that two-year extension. Really, guys, you should have waited until after the playoffs to overpay the Camby Man.
I should also point out that the Frail Blazes bricked 12 free throws.
Said Portland coach Nate McMillan: "Tonight we just seemed tight. The first half, we seemed to be a little tight, maybe put some pressure on ourselves. The second half, we won that. We started to play basketball. We started to fight and won both of those quarters."
Too bad the game is still four quarters long, Nate.
Jaron Collins: Think Phoneix would love to have Robin Lopez back right about now? In 17 minutes as the Suns' starting center, Collins finished with zero points and 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 turnover and 2 fouls.
Things that were suggested replacements for Collins by Suns fans (on the RealGM boards):
- The Gorilla ("He's got hops!") - Jarron Collins' Mom - Dan Majerle - Dan Majerle's jersey - A wooden board - A cutout of Jake Voskuhl, who was after all a Sun - "Oh, God, ANYONE"
Update! Carmelo Anthony, quote machine: Apparently, 'Melo likes gettin' physical: "It's in my nature to love contact. The way I play, I like to get to the hole and I'll do whatever it takes to get there. I like going about it the hard way. I love to get thrown on the floor, pushed around. It's fun." Many thanks to Squackalee for this man love special.
Update! David Stern: I'll leave this one to Basketbawful reader Kevin:
By association, Kings fans shouldn't complain about Game 7; Bucks fans about the Sixers series; Spurs fans about 0.2; Mavericks fans about the Finals; Suns fans about the 2006 ejections; Jazz fans about Jordan's push-off; U.S.A Olympic basketball fans about the 1972 U.S./Russia gold-medal game. Am I missing any other instances where the refs actually did an incredible job, but as fans we just didn't appreciate it?
So will Lebron be fined for second-guessing his charging call?
Can we call out Stern when it comes to his (lack of) policing his refs? (Donaghy, Crawford, etc.)
Lacktion report: Blow into your cartridge, kids...it's chris's lacktion report:
Crabs-Bulls: In the shocking defeat of the crustacean crew, JJ Hickson spent 46 seconds distracted by the assembly of a Qix pathway to earn a Mario - his THIRD in three games!!!
Lakers-Thunder: Luke Walton seemed to cue up his dad's exile in San Diego, by bricking twice from, uh, Bricktown for a +2 suck differential in 2:37!
Suns-Blazers: Yes, Jarron Collins should basically rename himself "Jake Voskuhl Jr." at this point, as in his third straight game as the Suns' playoff starting big man, he negated a board in 16:53 with two fouls and a giveaway for a 3:1 ratio, his third in three games.
Travis Diener flashed a Diner's Club card tonight and collected 1.65 trillion (1:39), no doubt just enough to get a lifetime Microsoft Works home user license.