Bulls Beaten by Heat in Game for the Ages


Mar 10

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

If you were too young to have seen it, or don’t remember, that was Michael Jordan Monday in Miami beating the Bulls in double overtime. Yes, that was Dwyane doing MJ 1987. Wade hit the game winner as time expired and had 48 points, 12 assists and four steals in the Heat’s 130-127 thriller. But perhaps most of all, which was like MJ and Bird and Magic and Kareem and Oscar and West and all the great ones, he simply refused to let the Heat lose.

“After missing those free throws (which might have clinched the game in the first overtime), and then missing that layup in whatever overtime,” said Wade, “I took it upon myself and said, ‘I’ve got to make something happen.’”

Wade had sent the game into overtime with a stone cold three pointer in the face of John Salmons, and then with the game tied with 11 seconds left and the Bulls angling for the win or triple overtime, Wade made one of the most remarkable plays you’ll ever see.

He anticipated Salmons trying to drive past Udonis Haslem as the Bulls were playing small and thought they could take advantage of a guard against a big man like Haslem.

“I knew they were going to Salmons,” said Wade. “I knew Udonis was sticking him and I know he (Salmons) likes to come back.”

Yes, Wade read the play from knowing the opponent’s tendencies, knowing when Salmons dribbles he usually likes to turn and go back against the grain.

Derrick Rose, having missed his game winning chance to end regulation, went passively to the left corner with Salmons on top. Wade was in the passing lane, intently watching Salmons. As soon as Salmons turned back to his left away from Haslem’s defense, Wade came rocketing up the lane and swiped the ball from Salmons with, now, about three seconds left.

“When I got the steal what was going through my head was we’ve got a timeout,” said Wade. “I was about to call it and then said, ‘Nah.’”

Wade took three dribbles, but didn’t have time to finish his breakaway. As he dribbled he also looked up to eye the clock above the backboard. Seeing it about to hit zeroes, he pulled up at the three point line and…

…I thought I saw Brad Miller crying. I saw shock in Joakim Noah’s disbelieving eyes as he held his head and looked around. Wade jumped on the scorers’ table and celebrated.

“It could have gone either way,” said Wade. “I’m glad it went our way. This one was one for the ages.”

It probably was the best Bulls game I’ve seen in a decade. If you missed this one, find a copy and watch it. Sure, there were plenty of chances to second guess and what ifs and could have beens. And as a Bulls fan you hate that your team lost, again to Miami, of all teams, as they did just before the All-Star break in the United Center, again having the ball with a few seconds left, losing it and being beaten at the buzzer.

But this was great basketball theater, a terrific Bulls effort of fighting back from 10 down in the fourth quarter, five behind in the last 20 seconds of the first overtime, five behind again in the last two minutes of the second overtime. You had to feel good the way the Bulls fought every moment, not always smart, as usual, and not always efficient. If there could be a character loss, this was it.

“That was probably the toughest loss,” said Ben Gordon, who was absolutely brilliant in matching Wade virtually amazing shot for amazing shot, Gordon with a season high 43 points and eight threes, five in the fourth quarter of regulation. “Both teams just kept giving each other chances to get back in the game. We were both fighting hard. That is how the game was going to end. Whoever made the last, best play was going to win the game. D. Wade made that spectacular play. He willed his team to win.”

Yes, it took one of the greatest players in the game having one of his greatest games ever to beat them.

And the Bulls did it massively shorthanded with Luol Deng getting yet another opinion and the team continuing to recommend, as it did before, more rest, this time a few weeks and what seems like it could turn into the rest of the season. Tim Thomas remained out with knee problems and Kirk Hinrich was limited to 19 minutes with a quad injury. Plus, Tyrus Thomas struggled early and when he got a technical for tossing gum after a foul call late in the third quarter, he didn’t see the floor again until Joakim Noah fouled out midway through the second overtime.

So it was the Band of Six for the Bulls. And they stuck together, and pulling this one out would have been most remarkable.

“I am very proud of the way the guys battled,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “Just disappointed in the outcome. We didn’t make plays when we had to and we had some opportunities. We made too many turnovers, but it came down to really who had the ball last. We didn’t make the play, they did, and that’s tough to swallow.”

For the Bulls, Gordon was the amazing guy we remembered from his greatest games, scoring the Bulls’ last 15 points of regulation, actually holding off the entire Heat team virtually by himself as he had outscored Miami 18-17 in the fourth quarter until Wade’s tying three.

Gordon’s 43 points came in 50 minutes. Why he didn’t get that last regulation shot to win the game was a head scratcher, though more an annoyance that shouldn’t transcend an amazing performance.

But this may be just the beginning of a wild ride to the finish for Gordon, who becomes an unrestricted free agent open to choose his next team.

He’s scored 34 and 43 points in his last two games. And with the Bulls likely shorthanded the rest of the season with Deng down, Gordon is going to have a load of scoring opportunities. So he will make it an even tougher decision for the Bulls about whether to resign him and whether the Bulls can afford not to given the way he can score like no one else on the roster, like few even in the NBA.

“He is sensational,” enthused Heat coach Erick Spoelstra. “He has such an incredible determination. He never seems like he fatigues. He just keeps on running off screens. If he throws it to someone else and you relax for a second he’s still working to get to an open gap. He was about as on fire as I’ve seen anyone in this building. Even when we were trying to trap him and get to him and make him pass he comes at you with so much focus and determination. He seemed to continually find open gaps for his three.”

Rose had 23 points playing 55 minutes. Salmons had 29 points playing 54 minutes. Miller played 46 minutes off the bench, Noah 44 as he had 15 rebounds and 11 points. And despite virtually no relief and Wade coming at them from every angle, the Bulls were coming hard right to the end.

After Miami led 124-119 with 2:18 left in the second overtime after a rim hanging, screaming Michael Beasley slam dunk off a Wade lob for a three point play, Rose came back with a driving layup. Wade then was fouled and made one of two for a 125-121 Miami lead. Gordon missed, but Miller got the rebound as the Bulls continued to dominate the offensive boards and had a 25-12 edge in second chance points. Gordon then was fouled and made both free throws.

Salmons then blocked a Beasley jumper as it was amazing the lack of fatigue among these fighting few Bulls. Haslem got the rebound, but Thomas blocked his attempt, extending his team record and current league best streak to 25 games with at least one block. Thomas then took a jumper, but made up for the miss by following Rose’s rebound and miss with a two hand follow slam for a 125 tie with one minute left in the second overtime.

Wade, of course, then zig zagged his way past Rose like Gale Sayers in the open field, past Miller coming up to defend the screen and too fast to the basket for Thomas to get there with help. So the Heat led 127-125 with 45 seconds left.

Salmons then took a handoff from Rose, drove right and pulled up at the top of the key to tie it at 127 with 37 seconds left. And then it looked like another great Bulls chance. The Bulls had finally begun to trap Wade in the first overtime after they didn’t at the end of regulation when Wade hit the tying shot.

No real disrespect to his teammates, but it’s a Miami team that would have difficulty scoring 50 points in an empty gym without Wade. That’s how the Bulls got back in the game to open the fourth quarter 10 down: Wade was on the bench.

This time Wade drove and was met by Miller and passed out to Haslem at the free throw line. He missed and Rose grabbed a tough rebound going above Wade and Beasley. So here was the Bulls chance. They had the ball, a tie game and 14 seconds left.

Del Negro’s screams for timeout were going unheeded as the Bulls headed up court, so Del Negro actually seemed in the offense running along with the players and yelling for timeout. One was called as Del Negro got to half court.

The play was for Salmons in the mismatch.

THE PLAY was made by Wade.

“Expect the unexpected with him,” said Michael Beasley, playing off the NBA commercial. “The things he does. The shots he makes. That guy is awesome.”

You hate if you are a Bulls fan to see your team lose one like this. Though it shouldn’t be any great surprise. The team with the biggest star usually wins these kinds of games. It’s Miami with Wade as the Heat went to 34-29. And if Miami does win 50 games after 15 last season, it would be no shame to look past LeBron and vote Wade the league MVP.

“If Mr. Dwyane Tyrone Wade is not legitimately considered as an MVP candidate then I don’t know what he needs to do,” said Spoelstra. “We’re going to be a playoff contender and night after night he’s making incredible plays, like this one tonight. I think he wanted to add a little bit more to his lore. That last play is kind of the epitome of the season he is having right now.”

Wade leads the NBA in scoring and it was his 30th game of at least 30 points. He leads the league in 40-point games with nine and has scored at least 40 in five of the last nine games. This is the kind of stuff Jordan did circa 1987 and 1988, when he had few teammates who could score and faced constant double and triple teaming and simply willed the Bulls to wins.

If you are a Bulls fans and say, “Why us?” then you begin to understand what opponents went through all those years against Jordan and the Bulls.

It was a crushing loss for the Bulls, who fell to 29-35 and continue to lose on the road, though this one was hardly like any of the others in a 10-24 road record. It will be tough against Orlando Wednesday after having gone so many minutes, and Friday’s game in Philadelphia is a big one with 76ers in reach and slumping. The Bulls are very much in a real playoff race now, and making you smile seeing the kind of effort they put in Monday.

And there were even hints early that there was something special to come.

The Bulls bolted out early as Miami tried to get something going with Jermaine O’Neal, who wasn’t anywhere to be seen when it mattered as he’s barely able to jump anymore and is agonizingly slow. The Bulls got up 13-3 as Gordon was hot early, and shortly thereafter was diving and wrestling on the floor with Haslem for a loose ball. Yes, Ben came to play.

The Bulls spent considerable time in a zone, though it wasn’t particularly effective as Miami routinely got into the middle. It wasn’t a good night for Tyrus Thomas until late, and Miami crept back within 26-22 after one quarter.

Like last week against Milwaukee, which has an awful bench, the Bulls took advantage of Miami’s weak reserves with runout scores from Gordon and Hinrich to take a 39-26 lead when Miami called Wade back in.

The Bulls messed up some matchups with Gordon on Wade early, though played in and out of a zone and later went mostly with Salmons and Hinrich, though Hinrich was limited by his injury.

The Heat hit the Bulls late in the second with a 10-0 run and a long Wade three to end the first half got Miami up 54-52.

The Heat shredded that zone midway through the third with Wade and Beasley getting inside easily and took a 68-61 lead. Del Negro called it off out of a timeout. But the Bulls went the entire third quarter without an assist, Thomas had his meltdown and left with about 2:30 left and Miami took a 14-point lead before going into the fourth ahead 84-74.

Fortunately for the Bulls, the Heat tried to rest Wade again and Chris Quinn and James Jones threw up some wild misses and Joel Anthony flailed around and the Bulls got back within 87-84 with Wade returning.

So here’s when it really got interesting.

The Bulls began to trap Wade, so it was shocking later when he pulled up for that regulation tying three as they left Salmons out alone on him on an island.

Miami led 96-91 with 4:30 left when Gordon went absolutely Gordon.

He double clutched a three with Daequan Cook running by him and then curled over a screen for another three and a rare show of emotion for him as he signaled with three fingers. That made it 97-96 Bulls in a game that seemed lost.

The Bulls trapped Wade into a turnover and Gordon faked Wade into a slip and scored over O’Neal. After Cook responded with a jumper and Wade with one of two free throws around a Salmons miss, Gordon faded to the wing and hit another three for a 103-99 Bulls lead with 1:51 left in regulation.

“I was just trying to get a good look every time and I was right on line every time,” said Gordon. “It was a good feeling but all those shots I made do not mean anything because we ended up losing the game. It was definitely a disappointment.”

This is what Vinny should have said: Anyone else shoots, they’re out of the game.

Nevertheless, Rose committed an offensive foul on a drive after a Mario Chalmers score. Rose then missed on another drive after the Heat missed following two offensive rebounds. And now it was down to seconds. With 20 left and a 103-101 lead, Gordon was fouled and—ouch—made just one of two for the three-point lead.

Wade then took the ball, dribbled down to 11 seconds and faced up a 26 footer over Salmons for the tie. As I said, at that point let anyone else on that team see if they even have the nerve to try a three.

Still, the Bulls had one more shot.

But the play was for Rose as Gordon drifted into the right corner and stayed there, floating out for a possible wing pass as Rose drove in and missed the running bank shot and Noah the off balance follow.

Though Gordon would not say anything, his play to open the first overtime suggested he was clearly upset being denied that last shot chance, especially on this night.

Gordon squeezed off a pair of misses to open the first overtime, and the Bulls fell behind 113-109. Del Negro often is criticized about his play calling, but he came out of a timeout then with a beauty. Salmons passed in and took a handoff pass with Rose setting a terrific, Stockton-like back screen. Gordon was fanned out across the court so the Heat couldn’t leave him, and Salmons blew in for a slam dunk and three-point play and the Bulls were back down one with 1:15 left.

Jamario Moon slammed a lob from Wade, and Gordon came back with a three. But the Bulls looked sunk when they had to foul Wade trailing by two and with under 24 seconds left. But Wade, shockingly, missed both, giving the Bulls unexpected life. Rose drove and hit Salmons, who was fouled and coolly made both for the tie at 117 with three seconds left.

Salmons was terrific in place of Deng, which also will give the Bulls pause assuming Deng returns this season. Even if he doesn’t, the question will be where Salmons plays, thus raising questions about Gordon as well. Would he return and accept being a sixth man? Would Deng play behind Salmons? Should Salmons be the reserve?

The Heat had one last shot and made a heck of a play with Wade coming over a screen and Salmons trailing on the inbounds pass. Noah stepped out too far and Wade blew past him and seemed about to dunk to win the game. But Salmons cut down the heart of the lane, forcing Wade to try a tougher reverse, which rolled off the rim.

“We stayed with them the whole game,” said Salmons. “They had chances to put it away. We had chances to put it away. It was a hard fought game. It was a tough game to lose. We never gave up. We fought to the end. They were the better team. If we can compete like that every game especially on the road, we will be fine.”

So into the second overtime they went in what was becoming a true classic.

And so it came down to Salmons and Wade, the Bulls deciding to go to Salmons for the game winner after Salmons had just tied the game at 127 with an 18 footer with 37 seconds left.

“He (Salmons) had Haslem on him, and had just hit some shots,” explained Del Negro. “Wade just made a great play. That’s what superstars do.”

Yes, the Bulls were right there. Just one superstar short.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: