Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bulls vs Heat Game 2 Recap: Pardon The Udonis

Pardon the who?!? You read correct, Udonis Haslem. The forgotten man in Miami who missed the majority of the Heat season and had played all of 9 minutes of the 2011 playoffs going into tonight. But there was Mr. Florida basketball carrying the Heat through the latter part of the third quarter and first couple minutes of the 4th when the Big 3 was silent. Haslem's been around for a while now. He's the only other hold over from the 06 championship team besides Wade, and he holds the distinction of being the only player in history to win championships at the high school, college and pro level in Florida as well as the last person on Earth still rocking corn rows. Bottle kept telling me how important he was to the team, but nobody listens to Bottle (even if he's right more often than that squid). And right Bottle was again this time; Haslem scored 11 in the third alone, including two Taj Gibson like dunks from out of nowhere.

It probably speaks more to the sad state of Miami big men than anything else that a guy scoring 15 points is national news, but Haslem gave Miami the spark that they needed as they sleep walked through the first 2 quarters. Besides his unexpected play, though, the other storyline of last night's game was the defense. As Hater J pointed out, it was almost like watching Riley's Miami teams of the '90s out there for some stretches. I half expected Dan Majerle to hit a 3 at some point. LeBron himself had warned people not to expect high scoring this series, and this game definitely lived up to that hype. With the extra days in between games in this series, (game 3 is being played some time before the 4th of July) both coaching staffs will be able to tweak their defenses, (something they specialize in) and last night it showed. The Heat were excellent at cutting off Rose's paths to the basket and the Bulls defense was it's usual suffocating self for most of the game. This isn't to say that Chicago didn't have their chances. All the threes that they were hitting in game 1 weren't going down this time. Kyle Korver, in particular, continued his recent struggles, and he appears to be totally distracted since the announcement that he'll be Charlie Sheen's replacement on Two and a Half Men. Being the slow white guy that he is, he's virtually useless if he's not connecting on at least a couple shots from outside. Reggie Miller suggested during the broadcast that Thibs might have to sit him if this keeps up, and I might have to agree with that.

The final storyline of this unsightly game was the continuation of the sudden transformation to Mr. Clutch by LeBron James. The guy who was branded a choke artist by everyone from Hater J to his own fellow players (he didn't receive one vote on S.I.'s player poll of who should take the last shot) has miraculously transformed himself into the closer. Of course, the perception of Bron as not a big time player was a little overblown anyway. He's hit big shots before in his career (game winners vs. Washington, the buzzer beater vs. Orlando, his domination in Detroit) but last year's meltdown is still fresh in most people's minds (game 5 at least, he still had a great game 6), and some people are just haters. He's changed his late game strategy a bit, though, taking long 3s with confidence and relatively simple pull up jumpers going to his left or right, rather than the ugly lay-up flings that weren't working earlier in the season in crunch time. Even superstar athletic freaks of nature need some confidence some times and he seems to be shooting with supreme confidence late in games now. I don't like the Heat but it has more to do with Riley and the "big 3"'s attitudes as well as residual hate from the 90's (although if you told the 14 year old Bagels that I would be rooting for the Bulls one day, I'd probably smack you with my Jansport). I never doubted any of their skills or abilities.

Now, the series heads to South Beach. In keeping with the league's Green initiative, the players will walk from Chicago to save jet fuel, hence the long lay-off. We'll see how the supporting cast plays away from home (my man Taj seems to feed off the energy of the crowd and vice versa), if Udonis keeps up his Lazarus like comeback and if the Bulls can snap out of their offensive funk. Should be fun.

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