Friends, I ain't got much for you after that. Stunned is a good word. Cattle-prod stunned is better. The Heat's 18-3 game-ending, series-ending, season-ending run went very much like this, if you didn't see it:
One of the things you're taught when gambling in Vegas is to never, ever say "It can't get worse." Because it will, every single time. After Game 4's OT heartbreaker, I thought it couldn't get worse. Most teams never come back from a 3-1 deficit, so I decided to just enjoy Game 5 and root for my Bulls. And then the Miami Drive-by happened.
Up 12 with three minutes left and the game almost certainly in hand, the Bulls took their foot off the gas against one of, if not the most dangerous offensive team in the NBA. What happened next will haunt the Bulls every single day until they beat the Heat in the playoffs or win the championship outright. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took Miami on an 18-3 run in two minutes and change, and faster than you can say Kurt Thomas, the lights at the United Center went out, never to come on again this season.
No consolation prizes tonight, friends, and no sugar-coating either. Chicago did everything it had to do to win again, and still blew it's fourth straight game in the fourth quarter. And like some kind of sick movie, each fourth quarter meltdown was worse than the one that preceded it, finishing tonight with an all-time stomach punch. I can barely feel my legs right now.
Derrick Rose went from Mariano Rivera to Mitch Williams in this series, wilting in the game's, and the season's, final possession. No sense of control, no sense of purpose, a whole lot of panic. As he handed off to Kyle Korver (which doesn't get him open, by the way) Rose herked and jerked his way back to the ball before getting his desperation heave blocked at the buzzer. He looked like a shell of the MVP we've seen all season as he walked off the floor. Let me paint it two different ways: Rose finished with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds. On the other hand he went 9-29 from the floor with four turnovers. Credit the Miami Heat defense for making Rose more uncomfortable than a million dental appointments. The league's MVP was, I hate to say it, solved to a certain extent by Erik Spoelstra's schemes and the Heat's talent.
I feel bad for a lot of people, but Luol Deng probably most of all. Deng filled his averages again with 18/7/4 and ignited the crowd early with a brilliant breakaway dunk on LeBron. Deng had no intention of going fishing after today's game, and whether it's a testament to him or a condemnation of Rose (in this game, I still love the kid), I found myself wishing Deng would get the ball on the final possession.
It was going so well for Chicago, with Kurt Thomas coming in and making a huge impact for the Bulls, both on the floor and with the energy he brought to the arena. His four points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes and Ronnie Brewer's 10 points -- including what seemed like a dagger 3 late in the fourth quarter (off a Thomas offensive board) -- should have been more than enough for the Bulls to get back to Miami for Game 6.
Then LeBron and Wade went on a 10 point run in about a minute, with two 3's from James (both undefended) and a 4-point play from Wade when Rose fouled him on a three from the angle. You just kept waiting for the Bulls to get it together, to get that one last stop and a hoop on the other end to put an end to the madness. And it just never came. James' shots fell without touching the net, and the Bulls offense was a clogged toilet for the last 5 minutes of regulation.
And so, after allowing us all to dream of Game 6 and what could have been, the season is over in gunshot-quick fashion and we're left crying over the body. Next year the Bulls will have almost 30 million dollars invested in their starting frontcourt. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer were flat-out awful in this game, both finishing the game with five points, and eight and six rebounds respectively. Thomas and Taj Gibson were on the floor in the game's final minutes as Thibs went with what was working, because the Bulls' starting frontcourt simply was not. I want to strap Boozer to a chair, tape his eyelids open and make him watch every failed defensive rotation he made this year. He might be done by the time training camp rolls around. Noah on the other hand regressed mightily in this series, especially on the offensive end. After really coming out strong against the Pacers and Hawks in this postseason, he looked like his 2007 rookie self against the Heat. Noah desperately needs to find his own offense during the offseason so he can become the complete player the Bulls need down low. Were I him I'd start with that lefty hook that actually show some promise and develop two counter-moves. There's your summer, Jo.
In the days ahead perhaps this won't feel as bad. The Bulls are young, growing as a team, with a solid core and the arrow pointing up. From the top of the organization to the bottom there is a lot to smile about, but right now I can't think about any of those things. Because of all the teams in all the places in all the situations, the Miami Heat pulled the drive-by that will live in infamy and shot this brilliant season dead.
Enjoy your adult beverages, ladies and gents. And don't forget to pour some out for the Bulls.