Bulls never expected Miami to bring this Heat
Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy.
It may not be quite the Fitzgerald-level drama yet, but it speaks to how quickly the Bulls have gone from America's champ for defeating the Evil Empire, to trailing 2-1 to Miami and looking as bad off the court as they do on it, managing in the process to make Chris Bosh and his teammates sympathetic figures.
You had Joakim Noah playing terrible and then acting worse when he hurled an anti-gay slur at a fan.
You had Derrick Rose spending most of his game day Sunday walking back remarks he made -- or claims not to have made -- about an epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs in the NBA.
You had Carlos Boozer paying for his pre-series comments about the Heat having only two great players, leading Chris Bosh to average 25 points through three games to Boozer's 16.
"You can find inspiration in all different ways," Bosh said after a big Game 3. "It does nothing but help. I think about it when I'm shooting."
Thanks, Carlos. No one realized you were so good that you could afford to ignite Bosh.
If Boozer would even dream of guarding someone it might alter the story a bit, and even his 26-point, 17-rebound night doesn't change much, because if he were a legit second scoring option in crunchtime, Rose wouldn't be alone out there.
And then you had Taj Gibson talking trash to Bosh just as Bosh was beating Gibson to the hole.
Memo to Taj: If you're going to taunt the guy with the ball, you might want to stop the guy with the ball.
What's amazing is after two games the Bulls were clearly the better team and found themselves in good shape tied at 1-1.
You had to believe that if Game 2 was as good as Miami could play, the Bulls were in command.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the NBA Finals: The Heat played its best game of the 2011 playoffs in Game 3 -- maybe its best game of 2010-11 -- and had its way with the Bulls at both ends of the court.
Miami had LeBron James playing his very best Magic Johnson role, the way James really loves to play the game.
He scores (22 points) when needed, dishes (10 assists), rebounds (6) and defends (2 steals, 2 blocks), but mostly he does a little of everything until it becomes necessary to take over the game and score 10 in the fourth.
Miami already was up 10 when the Heat summed up the game in one sequence. With 5:10 remaining, Miami swarmed Rose, forced him into a bad pass, and James stole it and went the length of the court.
Kyle Korver looked like a small, frightened child trying to stop LBJ, who was fouled but dropped it on Korver, screamed at him, stepped all over him and whipped up the crowd.
The Bulls looked truly dejected and defeated for the first time this season, while losing back-to-back games for the first time in three months.
Rose played, looked and sounded frustrated, and it's understandable. There's no room for him to get anywhere, so he's talking about giving up the ball more and looking for easy buckets for teammates.
And that's exactly what Miami wants him to do.
They know he must win games by himself and they know there are no easy buckets for the Bulls, who have no second option on offense and no one other than Rose to stop a run.
They have no threat from behind the arc so Miami doubles Rose, packs the lane and dares anyone to shoot.
And that's how quickly the series has turned.
Miami has made adjustments with Erik Spoelstra getting help from Pat Riley, but coach of the year Tom Thibodeau appeared out of answers Sunday.
He can start by getting rid of the high screen-and-roll, which is merely drawing help from Miami's bigs and doing nothing to free Rose.
Let Rose take their guards off the dribble and get him out on the run by outworking Miami on the boards.
The Bulls also are taking too much time getting into their half-court offense, and Miami is too long and athletic once it's set on defense.
It would help, too, if Noah and Boozer could make a layup.
Defensively, the Bulls have a real problem because Boozer couldn't guard your grandmother.
He doesn't slide and he doesn't help, so when the Bulls double James or Dwyane Wade, Boozer almost always fails to rotate and someone's wide open.
It's amazing in a short series how a single game can change the mood and the storyline, and if the Bulls win Game 4, all is forgotten and it swings back in their favor just that fast.
No, the world didn't end Saturday night, nor did the Bulls' season end Sunday.
But the fairy tale is over and it's no longer good guys vs. bad guys, the sweet and innocent Bulls against the selfish and greedy Heat.
It's just the Bulls vs. the Heat, and Miami has too many good players when they're playing together.
We'll find out Tuesday night if the Bulls have come up with an answer for that.
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.