Watching Nate Robinson in the playoffs lots of thoughts enter my mind. Would the Bulls really be better off if Derrick Rose came back right now? Can the Bulls afford to keep Nate next year? Will they try? How much money has Nate made for himself with this playoff series?
It was a risk for Nate Robinson to come to Chicago. The prevailing thought at the time was he'd be the third string point guard after Rose returned, and Marquis Teague might even push him down to fourth string. He took a non guaranteed contract to come here. Now, he's the unlikeliest of playoff superstars, leading one of the most dramatic comebacks in Bulls history against the Nets, playing through illness and puking in a bucket in game six, and closing out the Miami Heat, in Miami, in game one of the second round.
I knew Nate Robinson would be one of my favorite Bulls this year when we signed him, but I never imagined this. I never imagined Nate Robinson carrying the Bulls to playoff victory after playoff victory. I thought he'd be fun, hit a few big dunks, swish a few threes and pump up the crowd, but little Nate has become a Bulls icon. There's no longer a decision about whether you bring Nate back or not. You offer the full MMLE at him and just hope he says yes. Nate may have earned himself more though.
How did this happen?
The Bulls shouldn't have had a chance. There should have been no hope. There's no way that the Bulls could beat the Heat without Derrick Rose. There sure as hell isn't any way they could beat them without Rose, Hinrich, and Deng.
It just couldn't happen. Can't. Not going to. Won't. Definitely not.
Until it did.
Miami has more talent. Immeasurably more talent. I don't need to tell you how talented, you already know. This is one of the best team's in the history of the NBA, but they don't have the heart of the Chicago Bulls. They'll still likely go on to win the series and the NBA title. However, they just got smacked in the mouth.
They just got reminded that no matter how talented you are, you have to work to beat Chicago. They got reminded that you can't walk into a game against the Bulls and try and coast to victory. You've got to put in your 48 minutes. You've got to punch the clock and go to work.
The Heat were outcoached, outworked, and outplayed in game one.
Nate Robinson was a superstar in the clutch while LeBron was simply ordinary. With the game on the line, Robinson hit a fadeaway jumper and drove in for a floater to build the lead the Bulls wouldn't relinquish. Joakim Noah killed the Heat on the glass all night long, and Jimmy Butler threw himself into the paint to draw fouls. It was a beautiful game by Chicago even if somewhat of an aberration.
Miami missed a ton of foul shots, didn't get to the line as frequently as Chicago, shot horribly from the three point line, and terribly from the field overall. In the end, all the areas the Bulls won this game in are areas Miami would typically crush Chicago in [with the exception of rebounding where Chicago will likely always hold an advantage]. Despite all of that, the Bulls still barely pulled the game out.
In that sense, I don't feel confident about the series, but I don't know if I'd feel confident if Chicago were up 3-0. The Heat are in my head. I'm scared. I should buy a dog. The good news is that I'm not playing the games, and our guys, our wonderful guys, they believe. They aren't afraid. They look forward to the fight, to the challenge, to proving themselves, to winning.
It's amazing and wonderful. This season won't likely end with an NBA title, nor will it likely go past the second round, but it's not a throw away season. This is some of the most heart you'll ever see left on a basketball court watching this team. If you can't appreciate that then I'm driving to your house and personally pulling your fan card.
The Bulls went to a full bench mob at one point with Teague, Mohammed, and Cook in the game at the same time. The Bulls couldn't even consistently get the ball into the front court, turning it over repeatedly. The Bulls may need to keep Belinelli in with Teague rather than Cook to increase the ball handling ability of the team.
Rip Hamilton is somehow behind Deaquon Cook in the rotation. I don't know if he's hurt or in the dog house, but something's going on there. Daequon Cook is a nightmare on the court. He's a shooter who can't shoot. He's been abysmal all season long. Hamilton jacks up too many shots, but he can dribble and score occasionally. He's a better passer as well.
Boozer struggles shouldn't surprise
I predicted Boozer would have a great series against the Nets, but I think he'll be terrible against the Heat. Chris Bosh and Udanis Haslem can both bother him defensively much better, and his role as an interior defender is far more crucial against the attacking Miami offense.
Look for plenty more moments where Boozer sits at crucial points against the Heat, because I don't expect him to turn it around. Taj Gibson, for whatever reason, always seems to play well against Miami, so I think the Bulls will ride him more. He's perhaps energized by having to work so hard on defense the whole game. He plays to his strengths against the Heat where the Bulls desperately need a big man who can cut off penetration and challenge shots.
Winning game one is like buying a powerball ticket
I don't think the Bulls will ultimately win the series. If they did, it would be one of the greatest upsets in the history of the NBA [likely the greatest], but a game one win allows us to dream. It allows us to play what if. It allows us to hope. It gives us one more reminder of how awesome these guys are.
All the complaints about what the Bulls did this summer in letting go the supporting cast seem rather silly now. The non-Rose group this year carried the Bulls further than the non-Rose group last year [which went 1-4 in the playoffs against a far worse team in Philly than Brooklyn]. Yes, the Bulls probably miss Asik, but Belinelli's had more big playoff moments than Korver ever had for us. Nate Robinson's looked like a freakin all-star, and Jimmy Butler has blossomed with Ronnie Brewer's minutes opened up.
With one game down, I don't expect the Bulls to be satisfied, but I do expect Miami to come back with a vengeance. Now it's a series. Let's go.