For those who do not have the stomach to dwell too much on reading about a loss, I will give you three glaring things to think about, and then, if you wish, you are excused from reading any more.
1. Luol Deng makes a shot less than three minutes into the game, then steals the inbounds pass and scores again...two free points.
2. Shaq misses a slam dunk, and later LeBron misses a lay-up...four missed points.
3. Mo Williams, probably the Cavaliers' best free-throw shooter, misses his first two attempts, and three of five overall...let's be charitable and say two missed points.
Okay, that sums up the game for those who prefer the Reader's Digest Condensed Version.
For the rest of us...the Cavaliers fell behind in the third quarter tonight by 21 points, finally woke up and stormed back to somehow get to within one, and then held their breath as an Anthony Parker three-point attempt from mid-court missed wide right at the buzzer, and the Chicago Bulls escaped from the United Center with a 108-106 victory, narrowing their deficit in this first-round series to two games to one.
I wish that I had detailed game stats, points in the paint, etc, but unfortunately I do not. What I do have is the knowledge that Cleveland missed eleven free throws tonight, after making 22 of 24 on Monday in Cleveland. What I do have is a vision burned into my retinas of Kirk Hinrich looking like Pete Maravich or Larry Bird tonight, draining jumper after jumper, and Derrick Rose playing...well, like a superstar.
For so long, for three quarters actually, it looked as if Cleveland might suffer a blow-out, the kind you take back to your hotel, file and forget. An eleven-point deficit after the first quarter remained at exactly eleven points at the half, and at the end of the third quarter as well, For me, what did the Cavs in, more than the missed free throws and more than an errant inbounds pass or a missed gimme of a basket, was the Bulls coming out in the third quarter and immediately going on a 12-2 run (and 16-2, spanning the end of the half and the opening of the 3rd), to take a 21-point lead, at 68-47 Cleveland proceeded to go on an eleven point run of its own, to cut it to eight, but with Hinrich and Rose consistently hitting jumpers and floaters in the lane, the Bulls managed to never relinquish their lead.
Oh but the Cavs got close. They cut it to 94-92 as Antawn Jamison went on a mini-run about halfway into the final quarter, but here came the Bulls again, pushing it out to eight and maintaining that lead at 104-96, before first Mo Williams and then LeBron James buried threes and, shockingly, the lead was again just two.
Anderson Varejao missed a crucial free throw in the final minute which could have got the Cavs to within one, but instead missed, and the ensuing forced foul and two free throws from Brad Miller, and it was a two-possession game. Then Mo made another three, and the game was closer than it had been at any time since a 12-11 Bulls first quarter margin.
Once again the Cavaliers were forced to foul. Deng made the first, missed the second, Tony Parker came charging down the right side like Josh Cribbs returning a kickoff, and let fly...
There are a thousand things that could be said about this game. A timely offensive rebound and put-back by Joakim Noah late in the game, a very questionable charging call on LeBron James at around the two-minute mark...and on and on and on.
Be sure to check out CavsBloggers recap, probably tomorrow. I am sure it will be much more full of salient numbers and a more balanced recap. I joked the other day that I do the "hot-blooded" recap right after the game, and he does the cool, measured and calmer recap later...it feels that way tonight, for sure.
A couple of weeks ago, when the Cavs lost to the Bulls by one point and LeBron James rested, in a game which more than any other let Chicago make a final bid for the eight seed, I headlined my recap "Cavs Lose a Battle Before a Possible War". Now it may be that this game will be a wake-up call and that the Cavs will come out angry and hungry on Sunday, in game four. But I would not be at all surprised if this series really does become a war.