Joakim Noah shouldn’t have to worry about trying to find something to do next time he’s in Cleveland, because I don’t expect him to be back for a while. While I did think the Cavaliers would sweep these Bulls prior to the series tipping off, I would have certainly heard the argument that they could stretch this thing out into a 5th and final game. However, I don’t think there’s a chance for that anymore. Like it was when you brought your A-game to the driveway in junior high against your older – JV squad playing - brother, the Bulls just couldn’t find a way to outlast these Cavaliers after playing it to a draw (77-77) through three. And as deflating as it was to consistently get bullied and beat by that bigger brother, it had to be equally deflating for these Bulls tonight. They gave the Cavaliers their best shot at it, and still lost by ten (112-102)…thanks for coming out fellas.And thanks for finding it necessary to decide to get into an on-court verbal sparring match with LeBron too. If you read somewhere that trash-talking always rattles James, and will certainly throw him off his game, you might need to give that Phonics book another look. He feeds of that stuff, and turns it into not only moments in time that will be forever immortalized on the walls of 13-year old kids everywhere (featuring James Johnson), but also long range in your face bombs launched to humiliate the guy that’s guarding him. He served up both tonight, and finished with a line that read 40-8-8…and a message sent that said simply: it’s over.
But while LeBron played flawlessly, I’m not going to pretend the Cavaliers did as a team. Sure, you had to figure this one would be tighter than it was the first time out, but I wouldn’t say the Bulls made all that many adjustments that allowed them to keep it closer for longer. Facts are, Mo didn’t shoot it as well as he did on Saturday (2 of 8 from the field) - though he was attacking the rim for most of the game and got himself to the FT line (8 of 8 from the stripe) which allowed him to finish with 12 points 6 assists - and Shaq didn’t play the game he did in Game 1 either (8 points 7 boards in only 15 minutes). Big Fella got into some early foul trouble, and failed to connect on a couple gimmies in close, but with that said, neither played particularly bad either, and you’ll have that from time to time.
The difference between this year’s version of the Cavaliers and last year’s is you can afford an off-night from your second best player (Mo last season) when you have now guys like Jamison - real glad he’s here – who can step up and get you 14-4-3 will going 6 of 12 from the field, as well as Jamario Moon who can jump in off the bench and do what he did tonight. The Goose man himself went 4 of 5 from three, and a couple of those were at critical junctures of the game. Credit him for knocking them down, credit his teammates for finding him, credit James for forcing the whole team to guard him and leave Moon wide open, but also do credit Mike Brown for pushing that button. There was some debate as to whether or not Moon would find himself in this rotation a couple weeks ago, but Brown sent him out there, and he was a big spark of the bench with goosenecks all around…how’d the Globetrotters let this guy go by the way?
As far as Mr. Noah, unfortunately he didn’t play like he sucks, as much as it pains me to write that. He did finish with a double-double that read 25-13. So did Rose too as far as playing well, shooting a slightly better percentage (10 of 24) to finish with 23 points and 8 dimes. But even with those two scoring more points, grabbing more rebounds, and dishing out more assists than any two Cavaliers not named LeBron James, it still wasn’t enough. And that’s with Noah playing out of his mind after a pedestrian first game, and Luol Deng showing up at the same time with 20 points of his own in assist of those two. Maybe it would be different if Del Negro hadn’t trimmed that mullet a little tighter than he used to rock it, and maybe it will be different if all three of those guys (Noah, Rose, and Deng) go for 20+ each next time out with the home crowd behind them. But chances are he can’t grow his hair back out that fast, and those guys probably all won’t have that type of game again at the same time on Thursday either. But even if they do, chances are they’ll lose again anyways, just like they did tonight.
Here’s hoping the Cavs blow the Bulls out of the United Center in Game three, and Paxson takes another run at Vinny during the 3rd quarter…that would be entertaining. The rest of this series however, I don’t think will be…unless you’re from that boring town of Cleveland.
Check in with us Thursday one-hour before Game 3 tips off for the Wine and Gold Pregame Podcast. That’s right, Glenn and I are back for the rest of the postseason…tell a friend.