The seeds of each event had already been planted, of course. First, the Bulls never win in New Jersey, so I had sort of been anticipating that collapse before the game even began. By the time half time arrived, the five seed almost seemed to be an inevitability. Still, during my temporary media blackout, I held out hope that either the Bulls had saved themselves, or Milwaukee had saved our bacon for us. I had also watched Joe Crede making a diving stop to preserve Mark Buehrle's nascent no-no, and at that time thought, that's the kind of play that people look back on at the end of a no hitter. But who actually expects a no-no after 12 outs?
Anyway, I'm out of town tomorrow, so I need to say my piece about both issues today (and I'm having an annoyingly busy day today -- I've written this over about a four hour period). Let's start with the Bulls, whom most experts expect to be one and done again in the playoffs. Understandably, experts are giving the benefit of the doubt to the defending NBA champs, the Miami Heat. The Bulls have no one as glamorous as Shaq or D-Wade.
I, however, expect the Bulls to beat the Heat fairly easily. This isn't about flipping a switch. Shaq is one year older, D-Wade's not healthy, the Bulls nearly beat the Heat without Ben Wallace or home court advantage last year, and the Bulls have the third best record in the league since the all-star break. Only Dallas and San Antonio have been better since the break. That's right, the Bulls have a better record than the Suns in the second half. The Bulls are one of only four teams in the league with a scoring margin of more than 5 points a game. The others are the Spurs, Mavs and Suns. That's elite company. Over the last quarter of the season, that margin has increased to 6.3 points per game. Only the Cavs are better over that span. Only the Spurs and Warriors have been better out west. The Bulls should still be heavy first round favorites. Reputation trumps performance in the mainstream media.
As for Buehrle, what is there to say? He not only threw a no hitter, he only walked one guy. And he promptly picked him off (that's just Mark being Mark), so he faced the minimum of 27. He also struck out eight guys, which is a lot for him. It's too bad he doesn't work slower, or I could have made it home for the last inning or two. But instead, I turn off the TV for 90 minutes, and it's chaos.