To say the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers are standing on common ground is accurate. On Friday, a former League MVP named Derrick Rose hit a jumper at the buzzer to win the game and give the Bulls a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals series.
On Sunday, a four-time MVP named LeBron James hit a fade away jumper from the left corner as time expired to rescue the Cavs from falling into a 3-1 hole.
Due to the heroics of King James, the series is knotted at 2-2 and what seemed to be a series tailor-made for Chicago to win, is now a tossup, especially if Pau Gasol has to miss anymore games.
With Gasol out, the absence of Cleveland's Kevin Love is less detrimental to the Cavs' hopes. It can be argued that Gasol is more important to Chicago’s well being than Love is to the Cavs’ survival. In any event, the dynamics of both teams change without those multifaceted veterans on the court. In Game 3 Gasol re-aggravated a right hamstring injury he has been dealing with. He took an MRI on Saturday and it revealed merely the strain, but he was unable to go last night.
Consequently, Rose was forced to carry a bigger offensive load and he turned back the clock with a 31-point performance to complement his fellow backcourt assassin Jimmy Butler's (19 points) usual stellar play.
This has got to be a fulfilling series for Rose, who gave the haters fair warning to beware. He said he would come back this season and play. Not only has he returned from injury, he has carried a tremendous burden in this series and exceeded the expectations of most fans, who more than anything just want to see Rose finish the season healthy again.
The loss was tough for Chicago who was at home and in control of the series, but the silver lining in losing (if there is one) was definitely the fabo play of D-Rose.
Some might attribute Kyrie Irving's janky foot to Rose's big night. Irving is obviously hampered and in the words of NBA TV analyst Rick Fox, "compromised" by his troubled foot.
In the past two games Irving is scoring at a miserably low clip of 11.5 points per game and has shot just 5/23 from the field. Regardless of why Rose is killing the comp, seeing him shake and bake, pop jumpers, explode and be the best player on the court again was certainly a sight for sore eyes.
That's the beauty of the NBA Playoffs. It’s a game-by-game, pressure situation. That's why my barber -- a soccer fanatic from Jamaica -who won’t watch an NBA game during the 82-game regular season is totally dialed in once the postseason begins. He says it's a different vibe.
He's right. The NBA Playoffs is sobering to those teams drunk in love off regular season success. It's also a time when expecting the unexpected becomes the norm and the game's truly elite stars usually seem to distinguish themselves in some way.
With this series tied, Tuesday's Game 5 is critical. Which Derrick Rose will show up? How will Kyrie's foot hold up? Will LeBron shoot 10-for-30 again and get away with it? Will Gasol suit up? Throw the predictions out of the window with this series and the team that wins will be the one that's healthiest in the end.