Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do It Nice And Easy Now

Last night I had the chance to attend the first Bulls-Pistons meeting of the season. The United Center was rather full for this one (perhaps twenty-year-old rivalries still linger).

The Pistons were down 24-10 after one quarter and 48-38 at halftime. Detroit committed an unbelievable number of sloppy turnovers, and despite my childhood affilations, I found my visceral impulses occasionally switching to cheering on Bulls successes. It's embarrassing to root for a team that can barely manage double-digit quarters!

Just 18 months ago, Detroit was a couple wins away from the NBA Finals. The starting lineup, once featuring Billups/Hamilton/McDyess/R.Wallace/Prince, now features Atkins/Stuckey/B.Wallace/Jerebko/Maxiell. Other than the 1999 Bulls or the 2005 Lakers, it's hard to remember a team falling so far, so fast.

My seatmate wondered if Detroit had any chance, but I cautioned her that anything can happen in the NBA. (Ominously for the Bulls, during halftime in the United Center, television screens showed, in live time that same night, the University of Illinois men's basketball team completing a 20-point comeback against Clemson.) Sure enough, after we obtained salty pretzels, we returned to our seat in mid-quarter and Detroit had cut the deficit to five. Chicago then extended the lead to 15 by the end of the third, though.

In the fourth quarter, as she wondered aloud about whether we should leave the arena early, Detroit cut the deficit again to five points with 16 seconds left, and I officiously cited to her the scary salience of precedents like Tracy McGrady's 13 points in 35 seconds, or Reggie Miller's eight points in 9 seconds. Well, in the event, Brad Miller hit a couple free throws for Chicago and the game ended. It's never fun when low-probability events, as expected, don't materialize.

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