You don't really have to beat the Chicago Bulls. Just let them stand at the perimeter and launch low-percentage shots or make impossible passes. If that doesn't work, just wait. Eventually, their imbecile coach -- named Vinny of the Black -- will summon from the bench an Argentine madman named Andres Nocioni. The Bulls tend to beat themselves.
I know this because I'm a Bulls fan. Always have been -- even for this past grueling decade that has followed Jordan's retirement.
Story lines galore: The last game of the season's first half, matching up not just the two guys that the Bulls had to choose from with the first pick in the 2008 Draft but a rematch of the two point guards who collided in last year's NCAA title game -- Derrick Rose and Mario Chalmers, who's been looking like a second-round steal and who gives Rose fits as a defender. Also, both teams are battling off court to acquire Suns star forward Amare Stoudemire.
But the real story line: "Luvabulls" dancer Shanon Lersch against Heat dancer (and Boca native) Ashley Allen, both of whom were picked to be in this month's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Before we go to the game coverage, a promise: The cheerleader from the winning team will do a video victory dance for Juice readers.
In the first quarter... Ahem! Text is over here, guys. Thanks... Miami spread the points around and shooting guard Ben Gordon carried the Bulls offense. By the second quarter, the Bulls realized they were lagging far behind their prolific turnover rate and started throwing the ball away.
In the third quarter, just when this was looking like a slopfest, things got interesting. Around the 4:30 mark, Rose rebounded a Dwyane Wade jumper then bolted upcourt, knifing through three Heat defenders to the rim. Unimpressed, Wade grabbed the ball in the next possession, blew past a Bulls defender, then dunked it in the face of the aforementioned Nocioni.
The Bulls' run was short-lived, and the Heat stretched the lead to 14 behind a flourish by Beasley, who was blocking shots on one end, nailing threes at the other. If only he always played this inspired! Even after Nocioni hit a three at the end of the quarter, the momentum was squarely on Miami's side. I think I speak for the whole Bulls Nation when I say, I was tempted to walk away from this game, but dammit, I believed. Believed like a fool.
I should also mention, by the way, that I watched this game on Justintv.com, which as best I can tell is a psych experiment in which researchers give sports fans a tiny screen of their favorite team's game, free of charge, alongside which they place a chat room filled with hate speech. I guess the idea is to see how much racial invective said fan will endure just to watch his team play. Three hours, in my case.
Anyway, the Bulls made a fierce run in the fourth, as the lead made the Heat get lazy. Chicago had clawed to within three when after a missed jumper by Wade gave them the ball with 13 seconds. Then -- just...wow -- as Gordon prepared to take one of his patented leaning, wild-ass three pointers, Daequan Cook of the Heat fouled him. Gordon sunk the free throws. Game tied.
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With 6.5 seconds left, Marion tried to inbound it to Wade, who dropped it. The Bulls snatched it up and called a TO. Crowd: wild. Then the Bulls tried in-bounding it, and they tossed it away. Crowd: stunned silence. Clearly, nobody was going to win this game until one team proved themselves a more able loser, which the Bulls did on the following possession, giving up a lay up to Shawn Marion at the buzzer. Ball game. (Video highlights here)
Well, fine. I wanted to play Ashley Allen's video anyway. Ashley, your victory jig, por favor.