Drink: Yellow Tail Merlot
Yesterday, the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat to sweep the season series and move into sole possession of second in the East. Tonight saw them face the Chris Paul-less Hornets team at the UC. If there was ever a letdown game, this would seem to be it. Even with Paul, the Hornets are about eight-seed talent in the West. Without Paul (and Trevor Ariza), the Cavs would gives this team a run for their money.
The craziest thing about these so-called “letdown games” is that the players seem to ever-so aware of them, yet it happens nonetheless. When asked about the last two wins (against Orlando and Miami) and the upcoming game tonight, Joakim Noah said, “Those are two big wins. And we also know that we can beat the top teams, and we can also lose to the bottom teams if we don’t come with the right mindset. So we’re just focused right now. Obviously, it feels great right now to beat Miami but we know we still have a ways to go.” Its like that friend you call several times to make sure he will be one time, he gets all offended, and then later you and your other friends are sitting around asking, “Where the f@*# is Neil?” With that said, throw out a guess on how this one played out…
From the get-go, the Bulls lacked energy, especially on the defensive end (where it is most important). With the Hornets being what they are right now, the Bulls were able to get some easy looks early on – with Boozer making the most of it. This whole game saw the Bulls looking like they were about to take over, only to see the Hornets come right back (usually through slack defense by the Bulls). As early as the second quarter, the Bulls could have put away New Orleans. Yet, at the half the game was all knotted up at 43. For whatever reason, we knew Neil would let us down and yet we were surprised.
Yes, the Bulls eventually won the game, but the game was still in doubt with less than a minute left. Hell, Rose started the fourth (which he rarely does) and only sat for a few minutes before coming back to close out the game. In the sorry state that the Hornets are in, this game should not have been a contest. Screw it, Neil is not showing, let’s get the hell out of here.
On the plus side, Derrick Rose actually hit two threes. In the previous three games, Rose chucked up and missed 14 consecutive threes. Tonight, he was a modest 2-6 from long range, but even that was a major breath of fresh air. In addition to Rose’s three point “success” was the continually improving play of Omer Asik. It is a huge benefit for the Bulls to have a great high-energy hustle center in Joakim Noah and be able to give him rest while Asik comes in, providing some inspired ball. Omer’s game is hardly complete (I think his hands are actually made of stone), but the young Turk comes into provide very good defense and rebounding prowess.
Overall, this was an ugly game, one in which the Bulls were lucky to be playing a battered opponent. But as the old saying goes (and I am sure someone said it in the locker room), a win is a win. The Bulls players can sleep in their beds tonight and hopefully travel to Charlotte (to face a Bobcats team who has beat them twice this year) on Wednesday a little more rested and focused.