By: Tim Van Duyne
The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavs were playing a crucial game five on Tuesday night. The Bulls came out strong in the first quarter. The Cavs dominated in the second period. After the third quarter the Cavs led the Bulls 80-71.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
At first glance, it looked like Taj Gibson made a punk move and kicked the Cavs token scrappy-bad-try hard-energy guy Matthew Dellavedova, but upon replay the whole world saw what really happened.
Gibson and Dellavedova were both going for a rebound early in the fourth quarter of the Bulls/Cavs game five – an extremely important and pivotal game – Gibson fell on top of the smaller Dellavedova and then you can see clear as day Dellavedova locking his legs together to prevent Gibson from playing on. Gibson being a grown-ass-man took exception to the actual PUNK move pulled by Dellavedova, and Gibson violently tried getting his leg loose, which, live, looked like he tried to kick Dellavedova. From what I saw, he wasn’t trying to kick Dellavedova, he was trying to get his leg free.
The officiating crew, led by Joey Crawford who has shown in the past that he likes to make the game more about him than the game on the floor, went to the scorer’s table and deliberated on what to do with the scuffle. Everyone, including the broadcast crew of Marv Albert and Chris Weber thought there should be no call, as both players were at fault. Then, a stunned Albert sees what everyone else is seeing, a Quicken Loans Arena employee escorting Gibson back to the locker room. Albert didn’t say anything at first sight of the escort, probably because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Then we find out that after watching the replay that all of America has watched, Crawford hit Gibson with a flagarant two, which calls for an immediate ejection of Gibson and two free throws and the ball for the Cavs.
I was livid at home watching this transpire.
Crawford completely ignored the fact that Dellavedova instigated the whole scuffle. He resorted to a cheap play of leg locking Gibson. Crawford wanted a way to impact the game, like he so often tries to do, and he sure did by ejecting the Bulls’ best rim protector and only low-post option.
This ejection gave all the momentum to the Cavs. It gave even more life to the Cleveland crowd. And it allowed the punk Dellavedova to stay in the game. He received nothing for his role in the scuffle.
At the time of the ejection, the Bulls trailed the Cavs 83-73 with 10:25 to play in the fourth quarter (an eternity in NBA basketball). Dellavedova would go on to make both of his flagarant free throws. He then assisted on a Kyrie Irving layup on the Cavs’ next possession. J.R. Smith nailed a three. And then, what felt like the final nail in the coffin, Dellavedova threw a cross-court alley-oop to Tristan Thompson to put the Cavs up 17 less than two minutes after the Gibson ejection.
Not only did the refs get the call wrong, the Bulls lost their best low-post player and the Cavs gained momentum from the crowd and went on a run the Bulls couldn’t bounce back from.
What hurts the most is the Bulls never gave up. Chicago went on a 24-9 run and actually cut the lead to two points with just over a minute left. Derrick Rose grabbed a 50-50 ball at the Cavs free-throw line and raced to the other end, fittingly the little-punk Dellavedova was in front of Rose and tried to take a charge, Rose blew by him and put up a hook shot, but…LeBron James stalked Rose the whole way down the floor and came across the lane to block Rose’s potential game-tying layup. You could hear the air oozing out of the Bulls’ comeback balloon.
The Bulls couldn’t come up with a big board with :20 seconds to play. Iman Shumpert, who has been huge all series, grabbed the tip from Joakim Noah and dished off to Irving. Irving was fouled and made both free throws to pretty much end the Bulls’ chances of winning.
Although we don’t know what would have happened if Gibson was able to play out the rest of the game, it’s hard to not think the Bulls would have had a better chance with #22 in there.
The Cavs held off the Bulls and won 106-101 to take a 3-2 series lead heading into game six in Chicago. Bulls fans hope Pau Gasol’s hamstring will be better for game six on Thursday and that Gibson will get a chance to play the whole game.
If not, it will be another disappointing playoff loss to a LeBron-led team.