By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) It would be so fun to point and laugh at Cavaliers supposed head coach David Blatt for almost blowing Game 4 on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls. The problem is that “almost” part.
Blatt had zero timeouts remaining in the waning seconds of a tie game but decided to try to call one anyway. Had it been granted, it would have resulted in a technical foul and a chance for the Bulls to take the lead and a probably no-looking-back 3-1 series lead. But Cleveland assistant coach Tyronn Lue grabbed his sort of boss before he could have made one of the most jaw-dropping blunders in NBA history.
Looking like Easter Island Elvis pic.twitter.com/iWyktPr0Zd— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) May 10, 2015
— and this series has become one from which, regardless of the outcome, the Cavs will likely be accepting resumes in the offseason.
Still, the Cavs somehow didn’t succumb to their own incompetence, and they back-pedal to Cleveland with a victory and a tied series.
“Blatt should have been left at the airport, fired by James before his astonishing incompetence costs them anything further. That James so casually offered details of his emasculating veto is sufficient evidence that they are better off without Blatt than with him at this point, letting Lue act as James’s bench proxy.”
Yeah, Blatt is a walking joke. Again, though, we don’t get to point and laugh at him or the Cavs because they didn’t lose a game they should have. The Bulls snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday, and for the third game in a row, coach Tom Thibodeau’s squad didn’t raise its game.
His team zombied onto the court for Game 2, resting on laurels of a Game 1 upset. James and Co. slapped that team around in embarrassing fashion.
“They smashed us,” Thibodeau said after that loss.
There wasn’t even an attempt to put the Bulls’ collective foot on the throat of the opponent.
Game 3 didn’t bring another smashing but instead a buzzer-beating Bulls win at home in which a banged up Kyrie Irving was terrible and Thibodeau gave into his own stubbornness and actually put Nikola Mirotic out there. Mirotic returned the favor with 11 points that helped change the tone of the game in the second quarter. This came after he was a ghost for most of Games 1 and 2.
But the Cavs underachieved most of Game 3 as well, and yet the Bulls couldn’t distance themselves while dominating some important statistical categories. They did just enough to create the opportunity for Derrick Rose to hit a game-winner. Had that game gone to overtime? Who knows.
Overtime was what the Bulls were hoping for on the last play of Game 4. After going 8-for-25 in Game 3, James hit just 10 of 30 shots — and the 10th did the Bulls in. The Cavs had almost twice as many turnovers as the Bulls and went just 5-for-25 from behind the arc, but that couldn’t compete with the Bulls shooting 36 percent from the field and getting outrebounded. The only Bulls starter in the positive of the plus/minus stat was Joakim Noah, who has become almost as painful to watch as it is for him to move.
For the second game in a row, the Cavs were begging to be dispatched. And for the second game in a row, the Bulls looked like a team that found a $20 bill in an old worn-out pair of ugly pants and used it to buy new ugly pants.
What happened to the team from Game 1? Sure, Pau Gasol’s absence Sunday with a hamstring injury was big — the Bulls’ rim game was garbage. But since that first win against Cleveland, this has been a team that doesn’t seem to know what to do with good fortune. Thibodeau can’t make them not shoot in the 30s, but he can manage his use of timeouts better. He can foresee a small lineup being advantageous as it was in Game 3 instead of lucking into one out of necessity.
Jimmy Butler has confounded James. Rose is playing some of his best basketball this season. And still the Bulls can’t figure themselves out.
The Cavs, injured and led by a coach who’s like an infant wearing a grownup’s hat, have suddenly become a joke that just needs a finishing punchline. But the Bulls have been punchless the last three games, and a broken, befuddled team has taken two and almost three wins in a series in which it isn’t the better team right now.
Joke’s on the Bulls. And it isn’t funny.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.