What a game.
I don’t know if people really properly appreciated it while it was happening. Around the times of the second and third OTs, my Twitter timeline was mostly filled with NBA fans irritated that the game simply refused to end, while TNT simultaneously refused to find another home for the concurrent start of Game Four of the Grizzlies-Clippers series, of which national viewers ended up missing the entire first half. And it’s true that in the grand scheme of things, this game was almost completely inconsequential — barring the miraculous return of You Know Who for a second round series against the Heat, neither of these teams have much chance of surviving to the conference finals, thus making it more of a curious footnote to these playoffs, an amusing distraction amidst the actually important dramas of the first round.
Still. You won’t see a zanier, more entertaining, and in all likelihood, more unforgettable game for the remainder of this postseason than Game Four of Bulls-Nets, and probably won’t for a couple more to follow, either. By my estimation, it’s the best game we’ve seen in the first round of the playoffs since 2009, when the Bulls played the Celtics in a series that had three or four games as good as this, because that was the greatest playoff series ever. (Thibs was even asked in the postgame conference if this game reminded him of that series; unsurprisingly, he denied any such connection and looked pissed that the question had even been asked.) I gasped, I screamed, I jumped out of my seat so many times eventually I just kept standing. It was awesome.
Because there’s a chance that the team that wins the series — probably the Bulls, though I wouldn’t count out the Nets just yet — ends up getting blanked in the second round, and then NBA lore forgets about the game altogether, I wanted to make sure that there’s at least some sort of historical record of all the crazy crap that went down between the Nets and Bulls on Saturday. Here are the 10 things that’ll stick in my mind the most about this game.
10. The final score was Bulls 142, Nets 134.
Even though it was inflated with the three OTs, let’s not lose sight of how bizarre it was for so many points to be scored in this game, especially considering that the last contest between the Bulls and Nets ended at 79-76. The teams combined for 121 more points this time around, in just 15 minutes of bonus action. Even by the end of regulation, with the two teams knotted at 111-111, they had already outscored their combined total from Game Three by 67.
I saw the final score of this one flash across my screen a couple times on the TNT and ESPN tickers while I was watching the later games, and pictured how much my mind would be blown to see that final score for the first time completely out of context. Pretty hard to imagine.
9. In a game where five other players fouled out, Brook Lopez somehow ended up getting whistled just three times.
I didn’t even notice this until well after the fact. Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah all fouled out for the Bulls in this one — meaning Nazr Mohammed was playing crunch time in the third OT, actually making a couple game-saving plays, an Honorable Mention crazy thing from this game — as did Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans for the Nets. Yet Brook Lopez, the Nets’ seven-foot rim protector, who not only led the game in blocks (along with Noah) but leads the entire league for the playoffs with his 4.3 rejections per contest, plays 51 minutes and still ends with three fouls to give? How the hell is that possible?
Of course, most Bulls fans would protest that Lopez actually committed far more than three personals over the course of the game, but that referee Tony Brothers just wouldn’t blow the whistle on them. One no-call on a possible Joakim Noah and-one towards the end of the first overtime seemed particularly egregious, with Lopez clearly raking Noah across BOTH arms, and Noah seemed to draw enough contact from Lopez on a last-second drive in the second OT to get to the line as well. You’d think the home team would be the one to get the preferential treatment in a game like this, but the Nets got whistled eight fewer times than the Bulls over the course of this one, and Lopez didn’t get whistled once over three OTs, until an intentional end-of-game foul on Marco Belinelli. Bizarre.
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