The scene was all too familiar. The Bulls led 45-42 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, firmly in command of Game 3 against the 76ers. They held Philadelphia to just 1-of-10 shooting to start the second half, and following an emotional letdown Tuesday, seemed ready to regain control of the series. They were playing selfless Chicago basketball. They looked every bit the team that went 18-9 without Derrick Rose during the regular season.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rubios will watch this home video one day and laugh at how absurdly it all began.
SI.com asked several current and retired SI writers to offer reflections on the best team they ever covered as sports journalists. Here's Andy Staples on the 2005-06 Florida basketball team:
The tone of the Hawks-Bulls series has dramatically changed after Friday's Game 3. An MVP performance from the league's MVP can do that. Derrick Rose poured in a career-high 44 points, handed out seven assists and had five rebounds and the Bulls dominated the Hawks, 99-82, regaining home-court advantage in the series. The Bulls' lead is just 2-1, but momentum is squarely with the East's top seed and anything beyond five games is hard to picture at this point.
Oddly enough, the Bulls and Pacers -- two teams that forged their postseason berths on the strength of their respective defenses -- both experienced varying degrees of defensive futility in the first game of their series. The fact that the series took an offensive tilt in Game 1 favored Indiana, but Chicago was nonetheless able to pull out a victory by way of having the most dynamic offensive player on the floor. The Bulls' overall offense may not be elite, but Derrick Rose certainly is, and the likely MVP led his team on an impressive fourth quarter run to seal the game.
CHICAGO -- Luol Deng sauntered into the locker room before one of the Bulls' final regular-season matchups looking relaxed, donning a gray pullover, black compression shorts and long socks that sprouted from his flip-flops. He plopped in front of his locker for a moment, lacing up his sneakers while chatting with a reporter. His glowing white smile matched the freshly cleaned jersey behind him. He stood up and glanced at Carlos Boozer sprawled across the floor, completely absorbed in game tape, and casually strolled out the door. He was loose. He was ready to play.
Joakim Noah stories in the SI Vault
Ask new Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau the keys to strong team defense, and he sets forth the principles with the metronomic efficiency of a teller in a toll booth.
Credit the visiting Bulls for making the league's best team sweat through the fourth quarter before the Cavs completed their inevitable 112-102 win in Game 2 on Monday.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 1.)
When Knicks coach Mike D'Antonio faced the media before Thursday night's game against Toronto, he wasn't asked the usual questions. He wasn't quizzed about what it would take to stop Chris Bosh. He wasn't peppered with queries about Nate Robinson or Eddy Curry's health. And he wasn't asked about the prickly Larry Hughes.
Roy Hibbert maintains modest goals for himself.
1. "Ladies and gentlemen, Joakim Noah!" (March 11, 2007)
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Dec. 14.)
It hasn't come quickly, but three of the most prominent alumni of Florida's back-to-back NCAA championship teams -- Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer -- have reclaimed their legacy with the sort of dogged, selfless, ever-improving performances in the NBA that characterized their college careers.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The swimsuit model faked left and used her right hand against Derrick Rose. She was thinner than Tayshaun Prince but surprisingly skilled. As Marisa Miller drove by for a two-handed layup off the glass, Rose nodded with a smile to the small audience watching from the three-point line.
Rather than joining in the parade of people tripping over themselves to stamp just the right superlative on this first-round Eastern Conference playoff series between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls -- stunning, epic, incredible, exhausting, stupid and a hundred other adjectives that pale next to the videotape and memories still too wet to touch -- we'll stick with numbers, not words.
Here are five thoughts on the latest too-good-to-be-true installment of the Celtics-Bulls series, along with a couple of other Game 6s that were rumored to be taking place Thursday.
This story appears in the May 4, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated.
The only thing missing from the first two games of the Boston-Chicago series was the referee from the first Karate Kid movie standing by to officially declare the winner.
Bulls rookie center Joakim Noah sat down at his locker and pulled a heavy gray wool sweater over his head, leaving his black ponytail tucked underneath the collar. Outside the United Center, it was 30 degrees. But Noah's mind was on the warm climes of Florida.
A new coach and a new year brought out the best in rookie Joakim Noah.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.
Yi Jianlian got off to a rocky start in his introduction to Bucks fans. On his first offensive touch in the first quarter of Milwaukee's preseason home opener against the Utah Jazz, the celebrated rookie promptly slipped and traveled. On his second touch, he dribbled the ball off his foot, and followed up that miscue with an air ball on his first shot attempt.
Before Florida could commence embarrassing Tennessee in football last Saturday, there was some basketball business to conduct: the distribution of a second set of national title rings. The Gator hoopsters, or at least all of them save for Lee Humphrey, who's plying his trade in Greece, stood before a sellout crowd at The Swamp and had their names called out over the PA system.
Last year the Central Division was the best in the East, with three teams (Pistons, Cavs, Bulls) finishing among the top five in the final regular-season standings. A fourth club, the Bucks, could well have made the playoffs were it not for a ridiculous spate of injuries. Even the Pacers had their moments before falling apart down the stretch.
Kevin Durant is not Superman. He is not faster than a speeding bullet and he can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. He doesn't have a secret identity, unless you want to call him by his middle name, Wayne. He can't even bench press 185 pounds. Really. Not once.
NEW YORK -- Allow me to add to the (albeit premature) applause in which the Boston Celtics are bathing the day after Danny Ainge's finest hour. Not only did the Celtics partner Paul Pierce with the veteran All-Star he's been needing for four years, but they also acquired that player (Ray Allen) while unloading Wally Szczerbiak and keeping Rajon Rondo, who will go into next season with newfound respect after Seattle's threatened veto while trying to include him in the trade.
NEW YORK -- Five behind-the-scenes tales from the 2007 NBA Draft:
The biggest problem with a deep NBA draft is that nobody screws up. I mean, it's possible, but the likelihood of someone picking a worthless tomato can is drastically reduced. Quite honestly, that makes things strangely anti-climactic. Almost the way a draft should be if there isn't an epidemic of mismanaged organizations. Go figure.
So say the Trail Blazers and the Sonics -- who hold the Nos. 1 and 2 picks -- as well as teams picking late in the first round and early in the second, because this is a deep draft. For the teams holding lottery picks from Nos. 3 and upward, however, there is no player certain to become an All-Star. So the pressure will be on teams like No. 3 Atlanta, No. 4 Memphis and No. 5 Boston to maximize their picks after Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are off the board.
The Declaration of Independence states "that all men are created equal." That phrase may be the defining idea that best describes democracy.
Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Awards, where the best way to prevent a sunburn when there's no sunscreen around is to have Brandan Wright use his massive 7-foot-4 wingspan to block out the sun entirely.
Also in this column: • Sticking point in a potential KG trade
Teams will be taking a close look at the medical evaluations of the top picks leading up to the June 28 draft. They'll especially focus on likely No. 1 choice Greg Oden, Joakim Noah and Al Thornton, who have been flagged with preexisting injuries by NBA doctors.
1. TRAIL BLAZERS: Greg Oden C 7' 0" Fr. Ohio State Portland built a championship team around another big man -- Bill Walton -- when they picked this high in 1974
The NBA Finals ended almost quickly as they started, but for all the draftniks whose teams were not the Spurs or Cavs it's time to look forward to next season. It's NBA Draft time. NBA general managers and scouts aren't the only ones who need to keep an eye out for prospects to draft. Every fantasy basketball manager would be wise to stay on top of the incoming rookies. Using my NBA Mock Draft at About.com as a guide (as well as SI.com's own mock), here are the potential fantasy values for 10 noteworthy players worth watching.
Also in this column: • Durant knows his own strength • Top picks carry themselves like pros
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida's Billy Donovan appears to on the verge of jumping along with his four junior stars to the NBA -- as the next coach of the Orlando Magic.
The Boston Celtics can claim they are cursed after tumbling in the lottery for the second time in a decade. But the truth, confirmed yet again by Tuesday's miserable result, is that they never should have traded for Sebastian Telfair.
Baron Davis remembers Golden State's last playoff appearance vividly. And if you don't think that's an accomplishment, well, you don't know how long it's been since the Warriors made the postseason.
ATLANTA -- As Florida's Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green -- affectionately known as the Oh-Fours -- pointed to a sea of orange-clad Gator fans after winning their second straight national championship on Monday night, the crowd chanted, "One more year." Some of the Gators don't need another year, as they are ready to move on to the NBA, but others could use one more year of college to improve their draft stock. Here's a look at the underclassmen who should stay in college and who are ready to enter the draft.
Take a good, hard look, America. In an era of me-first gunners, one-year supernovas (see you in the NBA, Kevin Durant) and attention spans the length of a YouTube clip, it may be a long, long time before we see another college basketball team like these Florida Gators. Just listen to forward Corey Brewer, a.k.a. the Drunken Dribbler (for his swerving forays to the hoop), who was as sober as a reverend (for a little while, at least) after his Gators claimed their second straight national title on Monday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "I feel like we're one of the best college basketball teams to ever play the game," Brewer said after Florida's 84-75 victory over Ohio State. "You can argue about it, but I'd put us up against anybody."
ATLANTA -- It was a surreal but ultimately fitting image. Having whooped it up together on the court, completed the requisite trophy presentation and taken their turns cutting down the net, the Florida Gators reassembled on the stage -- a place they've become all too familiar with -- one last time and turned their heads to the Georgia Dome video board.
When we gathered at the Sports Illustrated offices in New York back in October to map out our college basketball preseason issue, I was as insistent as anyone that we select Kansas, not Florida, as our preseason No. 1 team. It's only now, with the convenient benefit of hindsight, that I realize looking back that my heart wasn't really in it.
Florida (34-5) vs. Ohio State (35-3) Monday, 9:18 p.m ET, CBS Georgia Dome (57,000)
ATLANTA -- It wasn't enough that the score was rapidly getting out of hand, or that the UCLA's first team All-American, Arron Afflalo, had managed to vanish from a 50,000-seat arena for the first 34 minutes of the game, or that nearly the entire Bruins frontcourt had either fouled out or was about to. No, just to add insult to injury, Florida's backup power forward, Chris Richard, proceeded to posterize UCLA's Alfred Aboya with one of those monstrous, dehumanizing, bench-raising slam dunks -- and draw the foul while doing it.
ATLANTA -- At 1:30 p.m. Friday, the doors to Ohio State's Georgia Dome locker room opened, and a not-so-small army of reporters and cameramen immediately bolted to the near-right corner to surround a particular 7-foot center. At that point, mind you, I could not have told you for certain that the subject at the center of this paparazzi was in fact Greg Oden, because, unfortunately, I was stuck in about the eighth row of the circle.
When the final buzzer sounded on Florida's Elite Eight victory over Oregon on Sunday, a group of arena employees immediately leapt to work erecting a temporary stage on the court for the Gators' trophy presentation. The guy who appeared to be doing most of the work was wearing an Ohio State "Block O" baseball cap.
Joakim Noah sat in front of his locker Friday night, sweaty, smiling and still breathing a little heavy. One reporter after another wanted to know the specifics of Florida's latest NCAA tourney scare in which the defending champs found themselves tied with pesky underdog Butler with less than three minutes to go, but Noah was feeling a tad more philosophical.
It probably won't mean much to Purdue at this moment, and it won't lessen the sting of being knocked out of the NCAA tournament by defending national champion Florida, but the Gators players and coach were full of compliments for the Boilermakers on Sunday.
With 11:49 remaining in Florida's SEC coronation at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, Albert the Alligator grabbed a broom from one of the ballboys during a timeout. The Florida mascot started sweeping the court, tidying up the same floor the Gators hope to take three weeks from now at the Final Four.