TELANDER: Game 7 victory a work of heart
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org May 4, 2013 11:20PM
Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets - Game Seven
Updated: June 6, 2013 7:22AM
NEW YORK — How did they do this?
How did the mutilated, nauseated, eviscerated Bulls gallop past the higher-seeded Brooklyn Nets, kicking their soft borough butts 99-93 in a seventh game on the Nets’ home court?
Amazing, but they did it.
This was a game the home team is meant to win. It’s why you play the regular season, as Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo put it earlier.
There were ‘‘Black Out’’ T-shirts, rally towels, a throbbing sub-sub-woofer bass playing Jay-Z poetry and dance music low lines that rattled the floor like an earthquake. There was dreadlocked-to-the-waist ring announcer David Diamante roaring for Brooklyn to stand up. And none of it was enough for the Nets.
They have some heart examinations to perform, but that’s their problem. The Bulls, man, they don’t need to check — because they have guts.
Imagine a playoff fivesome on the floor at one time, three-fifths of which is made up of Nazr Mohammed, Marquis Teague and Daequan Cook? That was the Bulls for a spell Saturday night.
I mean, those three guys were basically available to anybody in the league who wanted them before this season.
Teague, the 29th pick in the 2012 draft, should barely have played at all this season. There were guys named Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose ahead of him. Oh, and a bouncing superball named Nate Robinson. And anybody could’ve had li’l Nate in 2012 for a one-year deal like the Bulls gave him.
Cook? The 26-year-old swingman with his fifth team in six seasons was picked out of the waiver dumpster by the Bulls in January.
Mohammed? He’s playing for his eighth NBA team and is 7,000 years old.
Oh, and there was Marco Belinelli, the pride of San Giovanni in Persiceto, in the province of Bologna, lighting up the Nets for 10 points and four rebounds in the first half, 24 and six for the game. Who wanted that marginal man who had only played for pitiful teams?
Uh, da Bulls!
And then, what about Joakim Noah?
The Bulls center, who had been lurching through the end of the season and the playoffs with huge feet that were killing him with plantar fasciitis, abruptly looked like Tinker Bell with toe shoes on.
He finally got ‘‘The Tornado’’ to drop through the net on a couple of mid-range jumpers over Nets center Brook Lopez, who had been daring him to launch the sidewinder. Then Noah went to the rack and owned it.
Dunks, layups, small hooks, rebounds, blocks, garbage that nobody else wanted, he got it all. His line against fellow All-Star center Lopez was amazing: 24 points, 14 rebounds (seven offensive), six blocks, two assists and a steal in just under 41 minutes.
The Bulls seemed so crippled just in Game 6 that it didn’t appear as if anybody would play in Game 7. Funny what a day off can do.
‘‘We need people to step up,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said after that game. He always says that, like it’s that simple.
And maybe it is. For once, Rose’s absence didn’t feel like the most powerful force in the gym. He was there in the locker room, carrying his young son in his arm, laughing and enjoying the moment with his teammates.
They all know, as does Rose, that the Miami Heat is the reward for winning Round 1. The Heat is tough, something the Nets are not. Indeed, they only surged at the end of the season and took the higher seed from the Bulls, who — as mentioned ad nauseam this season — were highly injured.
The Bulls had ACLs and spinal taps and wounded feet and barfing in waste cans. They had Hinrich missing 22 regular-season games and three of seven postseason games with injuries to every part of his body except his spleen. (I think.) They had Luol Deng living in ice, then sick as a dog. Noah missed 16 games.
And always, there was no Rose.
The vapor of the knee-damaged but maybe-ready All-Star hung over the second half of this season like mist over a graveyard. But the Bulls rose from the near-dead and used everybody they could, and moved on.
‘‘We think we’re a very good team,’’ said Teague, who has hardly said anything all season. Four points and three assists will do that for you.
‘‘Watch my bunions,’’ yelled swingman Jimmy Butler, who played every second of the game. ‘‘Watch my bunions!’’
He was yelling to Noah as the center galumphed barefoot through the locker room.
The feet may hurt, but the soul’s all good.