The closer we get to the end of the 2015-16 NBA season, the more we realize that while teams will continue to jockey for the best possible postseason position, there are actually only a handful of teams that have what it takes to get to the top of the mountain. For as we’ve seen before, once the playoffs get underway, it’s a whole other ball game. Back in the 2011 playoffs, the Chicago Bulls learned this the hard way.
After finishing the regular season with a 62-20 record, the Bulls — led by then-MVP Derrick Rose — entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, fully intent on returning the organization to its former glory. Unfortunately, this group would hit a roadblock in the conference finals courtesy of the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Miami Heat.
While the series would conclude with the Bulls falling four games to one, there was a time early in the matchup when it appeared as if Chicago had the physical advantages necessary to outmuscle the ultra-talented group from South Beach. And if there was one play that epitomized this observation, it occurred during the first game of the series when Bulls power forward Taj Gibson put D-Wade on a poster. So sit back, relax, and enjoy another edition of “Throwback Throwdowns.”
On May 11, 2011, the Chicago Bulls hosted the Miami Heat at the United Center for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This was the matchup that NBA fans wanted to see. More importantly, it was the one that most basketball purists out there hoped would result in Miami’s elimination from the postseason. And for a brief moment in time, it actually seemed like this was a possibility.
With 10:47 remaining in the second quarter, the Heat had the ball, up 25-22. Yet, all Chicago needed was a single sequence to shift the momentum in its favor. Given the strength of that particular Bulls team, it should come as no surprise that this all started on the defensive end of the floor. Miami’s Mario Chalmers couldn’t hold onto the ball, and it wound up in the hands of Chicago’s Luol Deng. Without wasting any time, he launched a two-handed overhead outlet pass across half court to point guard C.J. Watson.
The Bulls — now with a three-on-one advantage as Wade was the only one back for Miami — were off to the races. Watson took one dribble toward the basketball before dropping the ball off to a trailing Gibson who received the pass, took off on two feet, and thundered home a two-handed jam in the face of a helpless Wade. And one! The crowd absolutely erupted. That’s how you make a statement.
Chicago went on to win Game 1 by a score 103-82. Unfortunately, Miami would take the next four contests and the series before ultimately losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. But for one moment, the Bulls certainly had the look of a contender and Gibson, a force to be reckoned with. You got to love the NBA playoffs.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.