Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Jordan (left) and Malone:
Ghosts of playoffs past for
Bulls and Wizards/Bullets
You know, for a playoff-hardened veteran fan like myself, having been through the ringer with the Red Wings and Pistons during deep playoff runs, it's kind of fun to watch the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards play at being NBA playoff teams.
Neither team has qualified for the playoffs much lately; the Bulls haven't made it since their last championship in 1998, and the Wizards weren't even the Wizards the last time they won a playoff game -- in 1988. They were the Bullets, and they extended the Pistons to a fifth and deciding game in the first round that year. Jeff Malone was a deadeye shooter, and he nearly led an upset, much like his teammate Bernard King did to Detroit in 1984.
So these are two playoff neophytes, basically, and it's rather amusing to see each team knock the snot out of the other -- on its home court. The road team hasn't really come close to winning a game in this series, which is 2-2 going into tonight's Game 5 in Chicago. Pistons coach Larry Brown says a playoff series doesn't really start until a team wins on the road. I guess this series, then, isn't going to start, even after seven games.
Players like the Wizards' Arenas (left)
and the Bulls' Chandler have a lot to
learn about playoff basketball
Chicago will win it, 4-3, because four games are in Chicago, and neither team has shown it can win on the road in the playoffs.
It takes a certain toughness, in the head, to grind out victory in the postseason in your opponent's gym. Witness the defending champion Pistons.
In their just-finished first rounder against the 76'ers, the Pistons won the first two games handily, as expected, at the Palace. Then they were blitzed in Game 3 in Philly, thanks to a fourth quarter Sixer onslaught. The fans were shrieking. And in Game 4, with the crowd again going bonkers, the Pistons found themselves down nine points with about six minutes to play. A less experienced, less hardened team would probably have wilted and the series would have been tied. Instead, the Pistons dug down deep, played clutch defense, even more clutch offense, and they came away with a 97-92 overtime win. The series ended two nights later.
It will just have to take some time for teams like the Bulls and Wizards to gain such moxie. A win on the other team's home court would be nice, though, to get that moxie faster.
I don't see it, so the Bulls will be second round fodder for the Miami Heat.