In the end, the Bulls slowed Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on Friday. They didn't give up a layup line or a ton of points inside the paint. They forced Norris Cole to beat them from the perimeter and Chris Bosh to knock down mid-range jumpers. Honestly, that's probably about as much as you can ask for.
It was enough for the gritty Bulls to hang around until the end of the game. It was enough for Chicago to be right there, but it wasn't enough to win.
That's the problem Chicago faces, even when more or less everything goes right, the Bulls are still probably 5-10 underdogs to the Heat. If things go wrong, we get a 40 point blow out.
The media has done a nice job of playing this series off like Chicago has a chance, discussing the little things they can do to try to win. Just get Carlos Boozer more involved! Nate Robinson needs to make better decisions! The biggest thing that would help Chicago is to get a more even whistle. That also seems like the least likely thing to happen.
LeBron James comically said he's not a flopper. The guy who faked getting punched to the face then winked at the camera after the refs bought the call said he's not a flopper. That's right LeBron, you've proven you're an inventor of contact and then even let the crowd in on the joke. That's FAR worse than merely flopping.
Nazr Mohammed has to be better than that though, you got inside LeBron's head, you got him making stupid physical plays like the time he drew a flagrant for just elbowing Carlos Boozer simply because he was pissed at Taj Gibson. LeBron was getting that pissed off and flustered again. At that point, Nazr had to know to just keep nudging LeBron, keep pushing him.
LeBron has one of the three most impressive physical packages I've ever seen on the basketball court (MJ, Shaq, and LeBron), but he's shown that you can get into his head. He's shown he can lose a whole series because you can get into his head. He's shown that once you get into his head that he might not close a game so well.
I won't say he's mentally soft, because when you're note in his head, he's a stone cold killer on the court. However, he can be flustered, and Chicago's one of those teams that's had success doing that to him.
For the Bulls, tonight is the same formula as the previous games. Go out there and play physical, play with hustle, play every possession like it's your last. Dive for every loose ball, sky for every rebound, maintain your defensive responsibilities, and try to swing the ball from side to side on offense to get an open look.
Down Rose, Hinrich, and Deng, this team has maybe 8th seed talent right now. If they played with this group all year, it's dicey whether or not they make the playoffs quite honestly. The talent gap is too large, and Chicago appears to be running on hatred alone.
These teams don't like each other. There's no pregame hugs, handshakes, and BSing. Like every other game of this series, the Bulls enter this one as massive underdogs. There's no magic secret for them to win. They need something to go unreasonably well and Miami to play poorly for that to happen (amazing three point shooting? massive rebounding edge?).
It all seems quite unlikely, but in order to see an amazing upset, you first need to risk watching a beat down, and tonight the beat down is more likely, but amazing is still sitting there in the corner as a possibility.