Call 'em the Thug-A-Bulls.
That's not a criticism at all. If I were coach Tom Thibodeau -- and with my rugged chubbiness and bulging bank account, we are often mistaken for each other -- I would do the exact same thing against the Heat.
Playing without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich (and, for all intents and purposes, without Carlos Boozer, who appears ready to do his annual postseason disappearing act), the Bulls pushed and shoved and hammered and stomped and hip-checked and elbowed their way to victory in Game 1.
It's not cheating. It's not even dirty. There are three refs on the floor, and it is their job to make the calls. It's the job of Thibodeau and his players to win the game.
The Bulls also outhustled their more-heralded opponents. And down the stretch, the Bulls -- not the Jordan/Pippen/Grant Bulls, mind you, but the Robinson/Belinelli/Gibson Bulls -- made all the clutch plays.
Playing all 48 minutes for the third straight playoff game, my Marquette homie, Jimmy Butler, had 21 points and 14 rebounds and, more importantly, made LeBron James work hard for every inch of space on the court. Sometimes that involved Butler fouling LeBron. Hard. That's why the MVP gets the big bucks.
Yes, the Bulls did more than beat the Heat -- and even did more than beat up the Heat. They flustered and demoralized LeBron, Dwyane Wade & Co., got them to do things they normally don't.
A few examples:
-- After taking a 76-69 lead that seemingly put the Heat in command with 6:22 left, the next two minutes go like this: Norris Cole fouls Nate Robinson, who makes both FTs ... 24-second violation on Heat ... Wade fouls Butler, who makes both FTs ... Ray Allen badly misses 3-pointer ... Marco Belinelli makes 3-pointer ... Mario Chalmers misses 1 of 2 FTs for Miami ... Taj Gibson makes jumper to put Chicago ahead. Neither James nor Wade even attempt a shot during this stretch.
-- With 2:21 left, James hits a FT to give Heat an 86-83 lead. Miami doesn't score again. LeBron misses his second FT ... Joakim Noah rebounds Chicago miss, leading to Belinelli's tying 3-pointer ... Chris Bosh misses jumper ... Robinson scores to put Bulls ahead to stay.
-- With Miami down 2 and the clock ticking close to the minute mark, a defensive switch leaves Belinelli on James, who immediately goes to the post for a pass that never comes. Instead, Wade, a career 29% shooter from 3-point range, launches a brick from way outside. Noah grabs the rebound, Robinson scores again and Miami players look like they've lost their best friends. Fans start heading for the exit even though their team is only down 4 and plenty of time remains.
-- James then misses a short jumper from the baseline with 29 seconds left and doesn't bother going back on defense. Again, the Heat is only down 4. Instead of trying to do something -- anything! -- to get his team back in the game, the MVP is sulking. It's one of several times either he or Wade react that way, usually because they're whining about fouls not being called.
I love watching LeBron do his thing and believe he is the best player in the world since Jordan's heyday. But Michael never would have reacted the way LeBron repeatedly did. And I've always liked Wade, another fellow Marquetter, but these days he spends almost as much time complaining as he does playing.
So there you have it ... the best player on the planet and another in the top 10 let the battered, beleaguered Bulls get into their heads and steal home-court advantage.
I still think the Heat will win the series, but only if they stop feeling sorry for themselves and stop thinking the NBA owes them another title.
I'm sure they spent the better part of a week hoping and praying that the Nets would beat the Bulls because the Heat wanted no part of this scrappy, hard-working, physical team.
Sorry, BronBron, you've got the Bulls. Deal with it.
Robbie and I had our most fun weekend of the spring.
We took in two concerts by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers -- one in suburban Washington, the other in Philly; yeah, I guess that officially makes us freakin' groupies!
The scene in Falls Church, Va. If you click on the photo to expand it and look very, very carefully, you can see me and Robbie in the very center of the picture, about three rows back.
Robbie, Roger & Me after Philly show
In Philadelphia, we introduced my brother Al and his girlfriend Sandy to our favorite band, and like all others we've indoctrinated, they had a blast. We also played bad golf, ate good food, drank a few Yuenglings (America's oldest brewery, by the way), and enjoyed the company of another brother, Lee.
Grub, grog, great tunes and family. As Roger sings (with gusto):
HERE'S TO LIFE!