9:37 AM CST, January 30, 2012
Same old shift.
Bulls-Miami. Close game. LeBron James now guarding Derrick Rose. Ballgame.
Same old shift. Beep, beep, drive home angry, Bulls fans.
You could argue that Rose choked against the Heat, and you’d have a good case.
Rose missed 17 of 28 shots in a four-point loss. With the game on the line and a chance to give the Bulls their first lead, Rose missed two free throws. With the game on the line and a chance to send it to overtime, Rose missed a last-second shot in the lane.
Not the time to channel your inner LeBron, kid.
You also could argue the Bulls delivered a terrific effort despite missing Luol Deng, who seemed to became more valuable with every James possession in a game where the “Big Three’’ poured in 74 of Miami’s 97 points.
The Bulls’ “Big Three’’ --- just kidding. Kid. Ding.
Argue whatever you want --- if you’re really lame, you could yammer on about that inadvertent whistle --- but the truth is, it was the same old shift.
I was hoping we would see James on Rose when it mattered because I wanted to see how this season’s Bulls played it. Sure enough, Rose was going nuts early in the fourth quarter, blasting through three or four Heat defenders and more than 1,000 pounds of uncalled fouls on one play.
And then James switched on to Rose. And then Rose missed. And missed again. And the Bulls went scoreless for, I don't know, ever.
James smothered Rose down the stretch Sunday the way he smothered Rose down the stretch in the Eastern Conference Finals the way he will smother Rose down every stretch until Rose gets some help.
That help should’ve been Richard Hamilton. He is this season’s new toy. He was brought in to punish teams that sat on Rose, specifically the Heat. Heck, maybe only the Heat.
Hamilton is supposed to be the truth when opponents dare someone other than Rose to beat them. He might turn out to be that guy, but he wasn’t on Sunday. Wasn’t close.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau ran the offense through Hamilton after Rose missed his first two shots against the best player in the NBA. Pffft. Hamilton choked worse than Rose. He missed all four of his fourth-quarter shots, finished a disastrous 4-for-16 from the floor, didn’t hit a three-pointer, and led the team in turnovers.
Come back, Keith Bogans, all is forgiven.
I mean, even Carlos Boozer hit shots down the stretch, if you can believe that Boozer was even playing down the stretch against Miami.
Not that this was Boozer’s season highlight, either. He hit 5 of 10 shots and grabbed nine rebounds, but fouled out and never went to the free-throw line. A tough game against a physical team, and Boozer doesn’t force himself into the paint to draw fouls? Weak.
Maybe this game has a happy ending if Deng is healthy. Maybe it changes in the spring, which is the only thing that matters. But here’s the deal: The faces changed, but the Heat’s strategy didn’t. The faces changed, but the result didn’t.
Look, any time some of the Bulls’ best players other than Rose want to show up against a better team, fine by me.
But until then, against Miami, against the only opponent that matters, it’ll just be the same old shift.
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