NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 51:
Chicago Bulls 93 @ Utah Jazz 89
(Insert long prolonged sigh here)
A FRUSTRATING FINISH!
This was a pretty crazy game. The Jazz, led by Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were killing the Bulls in the first quarter, early. They wanted this and were dominating inside against Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Jamaal Tinsley was finding them off of mini-breaks, but they were also being aggressive and going to the hole for everything. They drew fouls. They scored one on one. They threw it down. Of course Chicago kept chipping away with their strong defense and some absurd shooting from Nate Robinson.
The bench players started to come in for both injury depleted teams around the end of the first quarter -- and the Bulls got 7 quick points from Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli. Our guys did not respond in kind, and the Bulls led 31-27 after one. The second quarter saw our young bigs (Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter) get in on the scoring action, and got the crowd back into the game with thunderous dunks -- but Chicago kept increasing the lead -- finishing the first half up 58 - 50.
Halftime came and went with the ESPN people talking about our free agents, instead of talking about this game. This game was far from over and I can honestly say that the 3rd quarter had the Jazz play their best defense in three years. They won the quarter 19-11 and would go into the fourth with the game time, on their home court. Marvin Williams, Al, Paul, and Randy Foye all played the entire third quarter, and the Jazz went on 9-2 and 6-0 runs to get us back in position to win it. And it was done with team defense. Seriously. It was so much fun to watch.
The fourth quarter was a sea-saw battle. The Bulls took an early lead, then the Jazz went on an 8-2 run with a crazy lineup of Alec Burks, Randy Foye, Marvin Williams, Derrick Favors, and Al Jefferson. For the middle part of the fourth there was no quarter given by either team, but nothing gained by the Bulls. Eventually, though, things turned for the worst as we ran out of gas on offense after an absolutely brilliant 2nd half of Al Jefferson (8-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 offensive, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block). Carlos Boozer got hot, scored 11 points in the quarter, and the Bulls pulled away with a 7-0 run.
Chicago was tired, missing two rotation guys, but turned up the defensive heat down the stretch and stole this game. We were also missing rotation guys (three!), hung tough with a team that has a few All-Stars on it, and made little mistakes all game long that hurt us -- but were things we can learn from. The Jazz shot very poorly from the FT line, missing even the technical foul shots. The Jazz also made countless dumb passes that became turn overs. Randy Foye and Jamaal Tinsley combined for 12 assists, but also 5 turn overs. Paul Millsap had 3 turn overs of his own. In a low posession game (which this game became in the second half as we slowed it down) these turn overs ended up being a bigger deal than their final tally (*only* 12 turn overs for the Jazz -- but we only ended up scoring 89 points).
In the preview I felt that in a game without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, and Earl Watson that the game would be ultimately decided by the competing frontcourts. Taj Gibson was his usual effective self off the bench (7/9 fg, finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 blocks). Carlos Boozer took over on offense down the stretch, and Noah shut down Jefferson during their decisive run to finish the game. That doesn't mean our bigs were "the lesser". They just ran out of gas at the end.
Al Jefferson had a season high 32 points, and added 13 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, and 1 assist. Paul Millsap had 21 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. Both guys went to the FT line 5 times each, but made *only* a combined 7 / 10. One more point here or there from the FT sure would have helped -- but I'm not going to blame it on the FT shooting of our starting bigs. Favors and Kanter were okay. They were exciting to watch, but did not play their best defense of the season.
Marvin Williams and Alec Burks played solid defense on Luol Deng and Nate Robinson when they were on the floor. They got crucial fourth quarter minutes as well. Marvin hit a three, did a lot of great stuff on defense, and added 6 defensive boards and 1 block. Alec also hit a three, and a long no mans land jumper. He had 2 strong defensive boards to go along with his 4 assists and 0 turn overs. Their length and athleticism were well used in complimentary roles. However, the second guessing exists -- should they have played more? Should they have been put on different guys earlier in the game?
Second guessing will always exist for a game like tonight. I was certain of one thing -- that when we went up for what seemed like for good, that it would really suck if we lost.
And we lost.
And it sucks.
And I hate Chicago. I hate losing to them. And it sucks that we lost because Carlos Boozer decided to score 11 of his 19 points in the 4th quarter tonight down the stretch.