7:55 PM:Five minutes or so to game time: I’m sitting in front of my TV at Casa Kharpertian, waiting for NBA League Pass to come on. I’m not sure how many of you have League Pass, but the music they have during “commercials” is horrible. It’s the most bland, generic power-chord-guitar music I’ve ever heard. But I’ll find a way to live. How else am I going to enjoy Bulls-Nets?
Speaking of which, the Bulls are starting their normal 5 tonight against the Nets despite the fact that they’ve locked up the #1 seed. Tom Thibodeau is either a genius or they’re going to wear out in the playoffs. The answer, of course, is the former: Thibs is brilliant, and has maximized that roster. I give the Nets almost no chance tonight.
7:59 PM: Before the game, from gsloots: “Not sure where this offseason leads, but can’t help to feel a little upset that I can’t root for a Favors/Kyrie Irving lead in Brooklyn.”
Same here, but Deron Williams is worth that cost. Besides, Kyrie is almost guaranteed to go #1, and the Nets aren’t exactly guaranteed the #1 pick (remember John Wall?).
8:04 PM: If the Bulls win tonight, they guarantee at least a coin flip for home-court in the Finals. The Spurs would have to lose to guarantee it, if the Spurs win, it’ll coin-flip. I guess this game means more to the Bulls than I thought.
(Also, once the game starts I’m going to countdown from the game time.)
8:10 PM:Glad to see that the Bulls still have that same intro music. I always thought it was the coolest thing growing up.
Also, njnets416 on Twitter asked who the Nets might re-sign this coming free agency other than Humphries. They’ll probably pick up the option on Ben Uzoh, but I doubt any of the free agents will be back. Brandan Wright’s option won’t be picked up. Maybe Sasha at the right price, but the Nets probably shouldn’t offer him that price. Truthfully, we’ll probably see a whole new team again next year.
First Quarter, 11:01: Dan Gadzuric just won an awkward tip that was about a foot in Noah’s direction. Gadzuric didn’t jump, Noah jumped and completely missed it, and Gadzuric reached over and tipped it backwards. The Nets immediately turn it over and Chicago scores. Basically what I expected.
7:11: First time-out, Nets down 9-8. There’s no doubt why Chicago’s defense is so phenomenal. Noah’s timing is impeccable, both on his feet and with his hands. That’s a quality you want in your center – you want a guy who’s able to stay on his feet against good counter-moves, who can step out to contest, and put his hands up at the correct times. Plus, he always busts his butt down low. Brook doesn’t have that defensively, but his offense is so good that you need him out there.
The Nets look completely scattered, but that’s their identity right now – a team literally without direction. The other General (Deron) isn’t there to lead the troops, and most of the soldiers are playing their last game in a New Jersey uniform. Given the sloppiness so far, it’s amazing that they’re only down one – but when it’s early and Stephen Graham has hit a three, anything is possible.
5:26: Gadzuric just took a jumper and Chicago’s crew just busted out laughing.
2:08: Stephen Graham is on weird-fire right now. He’s knocked down three jumpers, and I mean knocked down. Not-touching-the-rim swishes. Meanwhile, Noah & Boozer are running the crap out of Brook Lopez & Johan Petro. It’s almost like they’re showing off.
Travis Outlaw airballs his 493,295th jumper of the season. I realized something earlier this year: Outlaw can be a useful basketball player if you don’t have to rely on him for anything. I was talking to my dad about that, and he busted out laughing, because it sounds like a joke. But I’m serious. If Outlaw is your ninth man, and you don’t really expect anything from him, and he never has to handle the ball, or post up, or do anything but play defense, and you hope he hits his open jumpers but don’t really need it… He can be effective.
This isn’t that team. This isn’t the team for him. Outlaw deserves to be somewhere that he can blend into the background as a second-string 3/4. That’s his NBA destiny, and it’s not happening in New Jersey.
End of the First: Nets down 26-20 after 1. Brook Lopez has missed five of his six shots. But let’s recap the last 3 possessions:
1) Ben Uzoh dribbled around for 21 seconds, dumped it off to Petro, and Petro swished an 18-footer.
2) Ben Uzoh dribbled around for 15 seconds, threw it inside to Petro, who got called for a three-second violation.
3) Ben Uzoh dribbled around for 12 seconds, gave it to Petro, who dribbled around for a few more, then threw up a terrible inside shot and was bailed out by a questionable foul call.
Sometimes I hate basketball.
Second quarter, 10:25: Bulls widening this lead. 33-20 now. Getting ugly fast. Not that that’s unexpected. Outlaw airball count: 2.
6:23: Nets first make of the quarter comes almost four minutes in, on an iso by Farmar that he just pulled up into a jumper. They just don’t care about running any offense right now. It’s either the “stand-there” or the “pick-and-roll-and-run-around.” The only shots they’ve made have been off weird offensive sets that either broke or never furthered the goal of putting the ball in the basket. On that last one, Sasha barreled into two defenders, threw a risky interior pass that Wright barely caught, and Wright turned around and hit a terrible shot. It was a good make, because of the toughness of the shot, but bad offense means bad players are taking tough shots late in the shot clock.
2:33: Jordan Farmar just absolutely clowned Derrick Rose off a crossover and then buried a three as Rose tried to recover. I’m literally in shock. Farmar looks like a legit NBA guard right now. I know it’s just a three-minute stretch, he’s just been knocking down shots and playing the pesky 1-guard on defense. Don’t you worry, though: he’s still not throwing credible entry post passes.
Halftime: 50-43, Bulls are up. The Nets have stayed in this game so far by getting to the line, hitting threes, and hitting lucky shots. Plain and simple. They’re not creating good offense, they’re making shots they don’t normally make. That’s not a great recipe for long-term success, but the Nets are only down 7 for now.
Meanwhile, with about a minute left, the future MVP roared in anger after missing a shot and free throws. I mean roared. No one on the Nets ever gets that angry. No one cares that much.
Reader Hanif writes in about the future of the Nets: “‘I’m excited about the prospect of seeing a run-and-gun Nets offense next season. I have a good feeling D-Will will re-sign in 2012 for Brooklyn’s campaign and I strongly believe the Nets should develop Brook Lopez, bulk him up and work on rebounding and defense.”
However, he also adds: “If I were G.M., Travis Outlaw would be the first to go.” I’d love to agree with you, Hanif, but there aren’t a lot of trade scenarios that other teams would agree to that would move Outlaw, unless he was packaged with Lopez. It’s not that easy. (However, we will have some trade ideas up soon. Am I a hypocrite? Maybe.)
Third quarter, 9:38: This is the enigma of Jordan Farmar. After flashing from irrelevant to fantastic, he’s now dropped back down to lethargic. He looks like a guy at 4:30 on a Friday who can’t wait for his work day to end so he can enjoy the weekend. Except the weekend is probably going to be 18 months because your union is going on strike.
Somehow, though, the Nets have cut the lead to 1 – capped by a ridiculous Dan Gadzuric and-1 that looked absolutely awful and somehow dropped through perfectly.
8:41: Derrick Rose’s first “oh man, this guy is MVP” moments. After struggling early, he hits a gorgeous layup while bouncing off defenders, then fires a perfect pass in to Deng for a slam. I get the MVP hype, I guarantee you. He’s not number one on my ballot, but it’s not like the case is absurd. (I have him third.)
5:55: It hasn’t stopped. The Nets are still making ridiculous shots off inherently broken plays. The Farmar jumper puts them up one. Brook Lopez then makes a great and-one (note: that wasn’t a broken play). I feel like there’s magic in the air.
4:39: There is a timeout break. The break was called by Chicago. It was called because New Jersey is up eight. I’m also not sure what universe I’m in.
Vivek writes: “Don’t look now, but Jordan Farmar has kind of outplayed Rose thus far. How long do you give this? 30 seconds? 60 seconds?”
Actually, it’s been like this all game. Rose is probably just saving himself for the playoffs. Still, he doesn’t look good, and Farmar is back to looking good again. I’m just at a loss for words, because logically, this doesn’t make sense. The Nets are a bad team taking poor-quality shots, handling a good team taking decent shots.
Basketball is clearly not played in a linear, logical world.
End of the 3rd: This is making sense again. Stephen Graham is throwing up wild shots and getting called for charges, Travis Outlaw is kicking it out to Brandan Wright for shock 18-footers, and Derrick Rose is taking over offensively. A surprising lead has turned into a tie game after 3. Unless Thibodeau rests everyone in the fourth, I doubt the Nets pull it off.
Fourth quarter, 8:52: Travis Outlaw hit a stepback jumper and a 3 on successive possessions. On a related note, I just started twitching uncontrollably.
8:09: Derrick Rose has been pressing tonight. I’m not entirely sure why, but he just seems like he wants to win a little too much – more than usual, and he’s forcing Nets-like shots and missing free throws as a result. Meanwhile, Travis Outlaw just proved that we’re in Bizarro World by burying another off-balance jumper, putting the Nets up 6. Where was this guy for 81 games?
6:49: Jordan Farmar and Derrick Rose switched bodies on a dare for this game. That’s the only logical explanation. Farmar has 17 with 11 assists, Rose has only one assist and isn’t shooting well. Meanwhile, Graham is showing a surprising amount of emotion in this game: getting (unfairly) called for a technical, then twice drawing offensive fouls – once on a flop. He then was yelling and pumping his fist as the Nets got the ball back. Didn’t see that coming.
2:25: We’re watching a supporting cast right now. I mean a literal one, or I guess a literary one. The Nets are background characters in the story of the Chicago Bulls right now. The Bulls, the Bulls reserves fighting to the last second to secure a seemingly meaningless victory is what this game is about. The fans, who shouldn’t really care, are booing like it’s the NBA Finals. The team cares about winning, every single second. The Bulls are breathing meaning into this game, and the Nets are just standing idly by, a casualty of the nature of basketball’s narrative. I normally hate those ideas – they’re often rooted in odd subjectivity – but I can’t help to imagine that’s what we’re watching.
1:33: In crunch time, the Nets run a two-man game with Petro & Farmar. Of course.
1:30: And it works. Of course.
:22.8: Nets get lucky on a tip between Gibson and Petro; Gibson beats Petro so soundly that he actually tips it out of bounds, giving it back to Jersey. The Nets run two offensive plays through Lopez – one a nice spin move on Kurt Thomas, the other a nice move that led to his shot being pounded to the glass. Still, that’s where you’ve got to go. Chicago makes a free throw to make the lead 93-90. Anything is possible.
:00:00: Nets run a curl play for Farmar, he gets a decent look but it doesn’t fall. Gibson out-hustles Outlaw for the rebound, knocks down two free throws. The game goes back-and-forth for a bit, but the end is predictable. This game is about the Bulls, and the Nets are just the necessary background music. This game was a final statement from Chicago heading into the postseason: we will not take plays off.
The Bulls will keep playing on. The Nets’ curtain is closed. A season defined by its constant change has finally become static. The win-loss percentage is unremarkable, the team unsurprising. But the ride was wild, strange, and confusing at too many times. I hope next season comes sooner than expected.