NBA Playoffs Game Four: Don’t Worry About the Bulls

Why Bennett Salvatore’s no-call was a symptom of the loss, not a cause; why the Bulls are somewhere in between the Bad Boys and the Iverson 76ers; hopeful signs for the Bulls; and more

The chatter today is about Bennett Salvatore’s no-call on Jamal Crawford: Crawford leaped on a Derrick Rose fake, Rose leaped into Crawford, Salvatore blew his whistle but didn’t call a foul, then later said it was a foul.

I have only one thing to say about the no-call. Crawford was leaping to Rose’s left; Rose leaped back and to his left to draw contact, resulting in an ugly heave that missed the basket by five feet. If Rose had gone forward and to his right, he would have had a better shot—an actual shot—and still might have gotten enough contact for the foul.

By playground rules, this is chicanery. Which is fine: shots weren’t falling, Rose was pressing, and the Bulls were losing control of the game. Salvatore made a mistake… but on some level, at least on an aesthetic one, justice was served. The no-call was a symptom of what happened in the last few minutes, not a cause.

(Speaking of justice, in a fair world the Bulls should have been given the win on Rose’s ridiculous putback dunk on his own miss.)

But I still think the Bulls are going to pull this out. Last night they played badly, while the Hawks played very well (Josh Smith came close to a triple-double, and Jeff Teague made some unlikely shots), and it was still a nail-biter up until the last three minutes. Kyle Korver was atrocious (1-8, 0-5 from downtown), which is unusual, and Luol Deng was off as well. Carlos Boozer, meanwhile, had his outside shot working, and looked more spry than he’s been since the toe injury. And Rose had 14 shots at the rim to go along with 11 free-throw attempts, which, as Jeff Fogle of HoopData notes, suggests his ankle is fine.

The biggest concern, to me, is that there’s not a lot of precedent for a team whose best offensive weapon is a (relatively) short point guard going all the way. The last team to do so was the Bad Boy-era Pistons, but they had a better offensive balance between Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, better than the Bulls currently have with Rose and Deng. The 2000-2001 76ers had a short, fast, strong, MVP-winning point guard in Allen Iverson, and they lost in the Finals… but the Bulls have a better supporting cast around Rose, and the 76ers ran into one of the best teams of the 90s, with a young Kobe Bryant and Shaq in his prime. The Bulls are somewhere in between, which isn’t a bad place to be.

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