Thursday, April 28, 2005

Halfway There

When in doubt go with...Adrian Griffin? Jannero Pargo? Eric Piatkowski?

Yes, sir.

While those three castoffs may not strike fear into the hearts of many NBA teams - nor CBA teams, for that matter - they helped key a second-quarter run that saw the Bulls turn what had been a sluggish start into what would become a rout in their favor and ultimately a 113-103 win over the Wizards.

Bulls two, Wizards zip. Let's head to D.C.

If anything sums up the Bulls it would undoubtedly be a trio of players many would consider fortunate to be on an NBA roster coming off the bench and playing major roles in a playoff victory. I mean, shouldn't these guys being logging minutes for the Hawks or Hornets? Or in Europe?

Nevermind that Griffin and Pargo barely removed their warmups in Game One. When needed, as does everyone on the Bulls roster, they grabbed their lunch pails, put on their hard helmets, and went to work. And produced.

Early on, the United Center looked like it might witness a classic letdown game. After earning their first playoff win in seven years on Sunday, the Bulls came out more lifeless than Chad Fox's elbow. They were turning the ball over, giving up fast-break points, and couldn't hit a shot, Ben Gordon included. The crowd was silent and Gilbert Arenas was going off, which was exactly what the Bulls didn't want. They were down by 13 points before you could say "Happy birthday, Andres." It looked like it might be a long night.

So in the second quarter Scott Skiles did what any coach would do in that situation. He went with...Griffin? Pargo? Piatkowski?

Yes, sir. And it worked. Pargo had that gunner's look in his eye, a strange confidence he has despite being an NBA unknown. Chalk it up to being a South Sider. When Bulls announcers Tom Dore, Red Kerr, and Scottie Pippen are demanding that Pargo get the ball to shoot, you know it's a strange situation.

Griffin, who normally provides as much offense as a Bears passing attack, hit a few shots, grabbed some rebounds, and provided solid defense, and looked as surprised as anyone else. Griffin is such a feel-good story, a guy who has played in nearly any league that would have him and now finds himself playing a part in NBA playoff wins. Good for him.

Piatkowski, who spent most of his career playing for the Clippers, naturally looked very comfortable with a large deficit in his face. Ex-Clippers are experts on such things.

With the backups having steadied the ship, the starters were suitably awakened. The Bulls finally tied the game at 35 on, fittingly, a dunk by Andres Nocioni, who had spent the previous two days listening to the Wizards claim his dominant performance in Game One was a birthday gift. Next time the Wizards blow out candles they may want to be more careful what they wish for. For instance, less primal screams from Nocioni.

After Nocioni's dunk the rout was on.

Hinrich, benched early as the starters struggled, suddenly couldn't miss, scoring nine straight points in the second quarter. He would later go on to score 21 of his 34 points in the fourth with a red-hot shooting streak that was positively Jordan- or Gordon-esque. Take your pick. His three-pointer that put the Bulls up 20 points may have been the most frenzied the United Center has been since the dynasty years. It was the ultimate death blow, although the Bulls did allow the Wizards to sneak back to within six points with just over a minute left, at which point Hinrich answered with - what else? - a three-pointer. Game, set, match.

All in all, it was a typical workmanlike performance from the Bulls, who know no other style of play. Antonio Davis, the grizzled vet, provided 18 points, a pleasant surprise. Othella Harrington, who should really be wearing a dinner jacket and handkerchief with that stylish moustache he sports, nailed a handful of jumpers. Chris Duhon was his usual productive self. Tyson Chandler, always the baddest mofo on the block, wrecked havoc in the paint, which is what he does best while providing the occasional out-of-control drive to the hoop.

The next task for the Bulls will be to steal at least one game on the Wizards' home court. This won't be easy as Wizards fans, much like Bulls fans, will be experiencing their first playoff game in years. They'll be jazzed.

Of course, anything is possible with guys like...Griffin? Pargo? Piatkowski?

Yes, sir.


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