Last week, we attributed the Bulls loss against the Grizzlies to a lack of inside presence. Well this week, they adjusted and welcomed back teammates, Kevin Russell and Abdel Affo, looking very forward to ending their three-game slump against the Heat, the league’s first-ranked team.
As the game got under way, the Bulls made it clear that they were a different squad than the Heat had seen in their season opener. Looking to neutralize Andy Vo, the league’s leading scorer, Abdel Affo came out aggressive, challenging and altering almost every shot taken within the paint. He would finish the game with a league-high 6 blocks, contributing 19 boards and 17 points along the way.
Although smaller, the Heat were quick to adapt as they shifted from a half-court offence to a more effective, faster-paced running game that really saw Robert Luu display his excellence as an established point guard. Luu, who came off a dismal 4 of 18 shooting game against the Raptors went off for 40 points against the Heat, including 4 of 5 from three-point land. Most impressively, he turned the ball over but only once throughout all 48 minutes.
As A. Vo struggled to nail his jumpers (7-18 FG), he managed to contribute in other ways as he picked off 7 steals and grabbed 6 boards to go with his 19 points. By halftime, the game was still up for grabs as the Bulls trailed only 28-25.
In the second half, the Heat really took advantage of their fast-break capabilities, as they would cause all sorts of trouble for guard Jean-Philippe Lallemand who committed 7 turnovers on 2 of 9 shooting for 8 points. And despite another strong output from their off-guard, Paul Younan (21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), the Bulls seemed sluggish, at times, often fouling the opposing guards and putting them on the line. The Heat would up their lead to 7 points after three quarters.
In the fourth, Shady Abdalla (9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) turned it on to bring the Bulls back within 3 points with 35 seconds remaining. Feeling the hot hand, he attempted the game tying three-pointer that clanged off the back-rim, only to fall into Bobby Luu’s hands. Abdalla, forced to put Luu on the line, fouled out of the game in the dying seconds. Final score, 75-67.
The next game, between the Raptors and Grizzlies, proved to be no less entertaining as it boiled down to a few final possessions.
And for the sake of keeping interest, let’s skip past the first-half which featured the lowest scoring in Jammi history, a 18-15 lead in favor of the Grizzlies. But neither Mo Aly nor Sheeraz Chaudhry, of the Grizzlies, seemed to notice low-scoring as they posted 14 points, 15 boards, and 12 points, 9 boards respectively.
On the other side, the Raptors would never go away, thanks largely to Max Bien-Aimé’s clutch shooting; he would go on to post 14 points and 6 rebounds, a performance which would ultimately haunt the Grizz, who trailed 42-40 late in the game.
With 30 seconds left, and trailing by only 2, the Grizzlies inbounded the ball. A pass which was picked off by, who else, Max Bien-Aimé. With the ball ending up in Charles Loic Danan’s (6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) hands, the Grizzlies were forced to put him on the line for a pair of free throws. Luckily for them, Danan missed both shots which gave the Grizzlies one more chance to make amends.
Inbounding the ball to Chaudhry, the forward ambitiously attacked the basket but lacked a little control doing so as he was called for an offensive foul following a strong post-up move. The Raptors would hold on, 42-40.
The Good: A continuous series of floaters by Robert Luu, one which featured a coast-to-coast sprint past Abdalla, dodging Labarces's attempt at taking a charge, and a tear-drop over the outstretched arm of Affo.
The Bad: A 25% field-goal percentage, shot by the Grizzlies who somehow actually outscored the Raptors for most of the game.
The Highlight: A two-hand block by Abdel Affo who spiked the ball out of bounds, early in the first quarter. Not a bad debut for the Bulls center.
Photo Credit: Ameed El-Ghoul - Sphinx Photography