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Frozen Moments: The Game that Nearly Killed Me

 

You’ll recall that the goal of Frozen Moments is to find a play outside the frenzied final minutes of a close game that had an impact on the game — or at least felt like it had one.

In this epic, ulcer-inducing 121-118 Bulls win, there were so many key moments in the last 30 seconds of regulation and the two overtimes that it’s almost impossible to even remember what came before, let alone isolate a key moment from the first 46 minutes of the game.

Just think, in the last 30 seconds of regulation and the two OTs, we had:

• Not just one, but both teams electing not to foul when nursing a three-point lead with fewer than 12 seconds to go. (Bryan Roy will have more on this).

• Clutch missed free throws by Tyrus Thomas (with 19 seconds left in the 4th quarter and the Bulls up by two); Kirk Hinrich (with 26 seconds left to go in the first overtime and the Bulls down by one–after the clean path foul on Scal); by Paul Pierce, with the chance to put Boston up by three, 109-106, with 18 seconds left in the first overtime; and by Ben Gordon (with nine seconds left in first overtime and the Bulls trailing 108-106–after the hard Glen Davis foul that nearly killed Gordon, and, if I’m being honest, I sort of wish it had at least temporarily incapacitated him).

Look at that–three really great free throw shooters missed free throws in a 17-second span of the first overtime. You think shooting free throws under pressure is easy?

• Two separate misses on lay-ups by Glen Davis, one with 2:15 to go in regulation and the Celtics up, 90-89, and the other with 19 seconds left in regulation and the Celtics trailing 95-93. In fairness, both were contested, but if they kept a stat for lay-ups missed per minute, I’m convinced Davis would lead the NBA. (Also in fairness–Baby had huge rebounds down the stretch of this game).

• Doc’s decision to bring Tony Allen off the bench cold to defend Ben Gordon with the game tied at 93-93.

At least three Pantheon Clutch Shots–Gordon’s insane runner over Glen Davis and Tony Allen to give the Bulls a 95-93 lead with 31 seconds left in regulation; Ray Allen’s three-pointer to send the Celtics into overtime; and, of course, Ben Gordon’s testicle-grabbing three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left at the end of the first overtime, a shot he never should have gotten the chance to take. (Again, watch for Bryan Roy’s post on this).

So, what are the Forgotten Frozen Moments? I’ll give you two, and then a third that is cheating a bit, since it’s a play that happened in overtime.

Frozen Moment #1: Tyrus Thomas’ Foul on Ray Allen, 2:49 to go in the 3rd quarter, 65-58 Chicago.

The Bulls have taken control of the game, having held the Celtics to 3-of-12 shooting over the first 9:11 of the quarter. The Celtics stayed close because they got Chicago into the penalty early and ended up shooting 13-of-13 at the line in the quarter.

The most egregious Bulls foul happens here, as Ray Allen springs free on the left wing for a three-pointer, which he misses. But Thomas has charged out for the challenge, and, as is common with him, gotten just a bit of control–enough that he runs into Allen and fouls him. Ray makes all three free throws, igniting a 12-0 spurt that puts Boston up by five, 70-65, at the end of the period.

Frozen Moment #2: Kendrick Perkins’ Fifth Foul

With 2:56 to go in regulation, the Celtics have a chance to take control of the game. Big Baby, playing his worst offensive game of the series, sinks a jumper with 3:35 left to put the Celtics up, 90-87, and then draws a Derrick Rose charge on the Bulls’ next possession.

The Celtics come back on offense with a chance to go up by five, but Davis misses a jumper. Perkins skies over Noah to grab the rebound and settles into post position on the left block–where he’s had his way with Noah throughout the series. He takes a bounce and sets up for his favorite move, the drop-step right-handed hook shot. Except he’s whistled for wrapping his left arm around Noah, a violation that, frankly, I’ve seen Perk commit more blatantly dozens of times.

Ben Gordon scores on the other end, and Perk fouls out with 1:06 to go on what looked to be an accidental trip on Gordon.

Frozen Moment #3: John Salmons’ Giant Overtime Three

As I said, this one is cheating a bit, since this occurred at a high-leverage time in the game. But amid all the clutch shot-making, this one could get lost in the shuffle.

The Celtics have opened a 105-100 lead with 2:00 left in the first OT after the C’s hit five straight shots to start overtime–a three by Scal (!) and two jumpers each by Pierce and Allen. The game felt like it was ours. Five straight clutch jumpers–it’s tough to lose after a streak like that.

And the Bulls’ next possession looked awful–Salmons held the ball 26 feet away from the hoop on the left wing and…just held it some more, with Pierce watching him, his left hand extended. Salmons rose up for the jumper, and as he did, I thought, great, that’s exactly the shot we want here. Pierce contested nicely–not a super-aggressive contest, which the shot didn’t warrant, but good enough–and the shot went down to cut the lead to 105-103.

A monster, monster shot–and one I’d live with again in that situation.

This game was ours, folks. Credit to the Bulls, but the Celtics had this game in their grasp in the first overtime.

Onto Boston for Game 5.

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