First, the Bulls played well, and shot the lights out, and return to the United Center down three games to two. It's tough not to ask what if. What if, during game three, Scott Skiles remembered that teams get timeouts in the NBA? What if Skiles wasn't the last guy in Chicago to realize that Tyrus Thomas had an important role to play in this series? The Bulls have led three of the five games by at least 19 points: what if they were coming home up three to two?
It's pointless to ask. Game four wouldn't have played out the same way if the Bulls held on in game three. Or maybe it would have. The point is that there's no way to know. At this point, I'd put the Bulls chances at less than one in four to win the series, but that's a heck of a lot better than as of Sunday morning.
Kirk Hinrich largely shed the fear and panic that have plagued him in the fourth quarter earlier in the series. I'd like to thank the league for not suspending Captain Kirk for what may or may not have been a below the belt shot to Flip Murray (although it was clearly above Kirk's belt, since Flip's bait and tackle were about forehead high on Hinrich at the time). Anyway, it was also nice to see Ben Gordon finally have a good shooting night. Luol Deng continued to quietly be the Bulls' best player. And, Thomas brought energy, athleticism and complete chaos to the proceedings, all of which the Bulls thrive on.
It was also fun to see a classic Rasheed Wallace melt down. It's not clear why Wallace's antics warrant a single tech, whereas standing in the wrong spot can bring down a full suspension. Of course, the NBA has a moral code designed for fourth graders. You can't walk too far from the bench, um, because I said so. The Spurs have now been rewarded -- two Phoenix starters suspended for a game versus one Spurs reserve suspended for two is a win for San Antonio -- for thuggishly trying to injure the Suns' best player. Stu Jackson has explained this travesty by saying that any rule applied consistently is fair. He has also explained that the NBA can't possibly have a rule that requires officials to make a judgment call about the severity of a player's infraction or his intentions in leaving the bench.
First off, this argument is complete bullsh*t in this setting. This is a court of basketball, not law. The only goal is to create an even playing field on which the best players and team can prevail. That goal has been thwarted here. Considerations of rule of law, procedural and substantive due process, and equal protection are out of place in this context. Second, the rule sucks. Officials are asked to make judgment calls all the time: was that defender still moving, who initiated contact, does Sheed's tantrum deserve a second T? Even this rule asks the league to determine whether an altercation was on-going when the players left the bench. That judgment call is why Tim Duncan wasn't suspended when he wandered out to the key area from the bench while the game was going on the other night. And if the NBA wants to pretend that it has formal legal system to govern player's actions, well the law is full of judgment calls. Prosecutors decide whether or not to prosecute a crime, judge's weigh the relevance and improper prejudicial value of evidence, and juries (notoriously terrible decision making bodies) determine defendants' intentions all the time. Instead of sticking to their arena of competition, the league seems to be trying to govern itself by playing at something it doesn't really understand. The end result is that the Suns got screwed, and whether the rule was applied consistently or not, the integrity of this year's playoffs are undermined.
Um, now that that rant is over, we return you to your regularly scheduled blog. Go Bulls.