Game 6: CJ Watson and the Crucial Mistake
What a sad, depressing night for Bulls fans. Everyone knows that if we won Game 6, we were 100% winning Game 7. The momentum, the UC crowd backing us – there was just no way we would lose that game. After holding Philadelphia to a grand total of 15 points in the 3rd quarter, the Bulls finally were playing with some life. They played some of the best half-court defense I’ve ever seen, smothering every player and refusing to let anyone into the paint. It was honestly masterful to watch that defense work for the final 23 minutes and 55 seconds. This game was all but won. And then one crucial mistake and two missed free throws later, the Philadelphia 76ers ripped our hearts out of our chests and eliminated our beloved Bulls. But before I get into that crucial mistake, exactly who or what else led to the brutal end of our 2011-12 season?
1) Carlos Boozer. Wow. How many times has this name been brought up in my posts over the last few days? I can’t go more than two blog posts without ripping this man apart. By now, I would assume most of you know how I feel about Boozer, and as long as you saw him play just 5 minutes last night, there’s no way you’d disagree with me. So there’s no point in me restating why I dislike him so much. His performance last night, though, cannot go unnoticed. I want him out of Chicago, and I want him out RIGHT NOW. I felt like screaming “SERENITY NOW” multiple times last night just to calm myself down (Seinfeld reference for all you non-Seinfeld people). Amnesty, please! Anyways, Boozer finished with 3 points on 1/11 shooting and 1 free throw attempt in 27 minutes, none of which – and I repeat, NONE – came in the 4th quarter. Coach Thibs went back to his old ways and decided that, despite Boozer’s $75 million contract, it wasn’t worth it to have him in the game during the most important 12 minutes of the season. And I am perfectly fine with that. The 5-man-unit of Watson-Hamilton-Deng-Gibson-Asik was working extremely well, and we had to ride it. Just to reiterate how truly bad Boozer has been, I updated Boozer’s 2012 playoff stats from my previous post on my own and found that, after tonight’s game, his scoring average per 48 minutes dropped from 21.6 to 19.4, and his field goal percentage dropped from 46.8% to 42.2%. Absolutely awful. If Boozer remains a Bull next season and magically becomes good again, I will be the first to admit I was wrong about him. But I don’t see it happening.
2) 3-Point Shooting. No one could hit the backside of a barn from beyond the arc last night. Nothing was falling for us. Obviously, every team has nights like these. Unfortunately for the Bulls, this night came at the worst time. They shot 38.1% in games 1-5. They shot 15.4% (2/13) in Game 6. Although Luol Deng played a really good game, he is a very streaky three point shooter. He made big shot after big shot on Tuesday night. Ended up 0/5 from distance last night. It happens. I won’t lose sleep over this aspect of the game at all, but it would have been nice to at least see… wait, what’s that guy’s name? People think he looks like Ashton Kutcher but he really doesn’t? Oh yeah, Kyle Korver. Where the hell was this dude all series long? Between games 3-6, he scored – get this – 5 POINTS! He shot 1/7 from three in games 3-5 and didn’t even bother attempting a single shot in 5 minutes during Game 6. What a joke. If he wasn’t completely in Thibodeau’s doghouse before this series, he’s now farther back than… well, I can’t really think of a comparison, but it’s as far back as you can possibly go. It will probably take longer than the year Korver has left on his contract for Thibodeau to actually take him off his leash. Don’t be surprised if the Bulls try shopping him or finding a replacement for him all summer long.
3) Did you know: last night’s result is the first time a team has been out-rebounded by 23+ in a playoff game and won since 1986, when Washington beat Philadelphia in Game 1 of the first round (Bulls won the rebound battle 56-33)? This has nothing to do with why the Bulls lost in any way, shape or form. I just found it to be an astonishing stat, and I also feel that making three points instead of two is way more legit. Good things come in threes. Someone should tell Kyle Korver that, by the way.
Now on to the main inspiration for this post – CJ Watson and the Crucial Mistake (If anyone writes a book about this disastrous series, you’re welcome to use this title. Just make sure you compensate me for it. Thanks). Watching the end of last night’s game was painful. CJ Watson should be flat-out disgusted with himself. He made one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen a point guard make in a professional basketball game. His poor shot selection throughout the series was one thing (he shot 23% in six games), and his inability to create any offense whatsoever was another thing. But when you’re a career 80% free throw shooter, and your team’s up 1 with 5 seconds left in the most important game of the season, why the dickens (I heard someone say this once and it sounded funny, so what the hell?) would you dish the ball off to a career 48% free throw shooter and make him win the game for you? I went INSANE when this play transpired because right then and there, I had a terrible feeling that it was over for us, even with a 1 point lead. Forget the fact that, a) a blatant flagrant foul on Omer was not called and b) no one got back on defense after the second missed free throw to stop the one-man freight train that is Andre Iguodala. We should have NEVER been in that position in the first place. All CJ had to do was hold the ball, let them foul him, and sink at least one free throw. That would have made it a two point game, and at the very least forced Philly, who had no time outs remaining, mind you, to go coast to coast and get a quick two off to send it into OT or throw up a contested/low-percentage three to try and win it (this is the worst case scenario, because I have a hard time believing CJ would’ve missed both free throws, but who knows).
I cannot believe the stupidity on Watson’s part, and I will never forget that decision to give up the ball for the rest of my life. It proved that, once and for all, CJ Watson is not the answer to our backup point guard of the future (neither is Lucas). There are a number of mediocre point guards that we can grab late in the first round of the draft if necessary (Marquis Teague, Tony Wroten) or middle of the second round (Scott Machado) to breed throughout the offseason. Free agency and trading are other options as well (dare I ask, Kirk Hinrich, anyone?). Maybe I’m just being hard on Watson because I’m angry. I probably am. We all know he’s likely going to be on our roster next season because the Bulls will probably pick up his team option. But it does not hurt to explore other point guard options (I will get into free agents and draft analysis at a later date).
I can live with another regular season with Watson as our starter while Rose is out. And I think that next year, the Bulls will come back stronger from this. But if, god forbid, Rose is not healthy for the start of the playoffs next season, it may very well be the same old story for Bulls fans. Sad and depressing.