Hey Bulls fans… I know I haven’t been around… So tough to write about so many consecutive losses for Chicago, and I also oddly think I was still a bit dazed by Derrick’s ACL tear. So many emotions. Feeling bad for him and his family as they go through this rough time, lamenting a Bulls season full of promise, but stymied by injury, and finally just anger that this was happening to MY team. You feel bad when it happens to players on other teams, but its just so different when one of your own, especially a kid like Derrick Rose, so committed to bringing another title back to Chicago goes down.
Now that there has been a little distance created between his injury, the Bulls collapse and finally the abrupt end to our season, I’m able to write again.
- Game 1 – PHI 91 CHI 103 – Game one had the Bulls looking great. The Rip/Rose backcourt was phenomenal (no matter what people say about Rip, this game, along with others, showed that Rip WAS the right fit and was ready to earn his money doing the job he was hired for), and Derrick’s ability to penetrate kept just enough pressure on Philly to allow the rest of the Bulls scoring threats room to operate. I’m convinced that we would not have lost one game to them had Rose remained healthy.
- Game 2 – PHI 109 CHI 92 – Game two… So full of emotion. Chicago still reeling, D.Rose presents game ball. So much press about how the Bulls should STILL be able to handle Philadelphia easily, blah, blah, blah. Well, you still gotta play the games. The first half was decent. Bulls played defense, typical grinder from them. The second half unfortunately saw the wheels fall off. If Philly was supposed to feel sorry for the Bulls for losing D.Rose, someone forgot to tell them. They end up ROUTING the Bulls on their home floor. They just turned the Bulls over, and they got out and ran. Press repeat. Over and over again… At this point, even though I was disgusted with this loss, I thought we just needed to get out on the road. No distractions. No Derrick Rose. No title ghosts, just play basketball.
- Game 3 – CHI 74 PHI 79 – Both game three and game four would just be winnable games that the Bulls weren’t able to pull out in the end. It didn’t help that now, the 76er’s, who struggled to get to the line in the regular season were getting there with a vengeance. To their credit, they put pressure on the Bulls defense by driving the ball over and over again. Who was going to stop them? Boozer? Noah played a great game and unfortunately would go down with what looked to be a high ankle sprain while taking the ball coast to coast… This injury would end up being the nail in the Bulls coffin. We lost a 14 pt lead because the Bulls hit an offensive wall. They just couldn’t score the ball and the 76ers capitalized. Thibs was stoically STILL blustering in the post game presser: “…We have more than enough to win.” “…Next man up.” Yeah, ok coach. Still going to be an uphill climb.
- Game 4 – CHI 82 PHI 89 – We played from behind in this one, but still kept it close enough to win the game. Boozer got HAMMERED in the lane with no call and while many analysts say that its pretty bush league to blame the refs, I WILL say that some of these calls (and non-calls) at critical times in these games, DID sway momentum and provide great opportunities for Philadelphia to win. Is it the only reason the Bulls kept coming up short? Of course not, but there were just enough calls that did not go the Bulls way to indicate that it was one of the reasons. Say what you will, I watch a lot of basketball and the Bulls were on the end of some pretty terrible officiating.
- Game 5 – PHI 69 CHI 77 – Elimination game time… 76ers still garbage so you kind of got the feeling that they wouldn’t be able to close the series out on the road. Collins was also blustering about the past and grandstanding with all these platitudes about how important game 5 was so not surprising that Bulls gutted this one out. It was a grinder… Ugly game. Deng hit three three’s and finally became relevant offensively. Those three’s brick and we might lose, it was that close. Taj was a beast. He twisted his ankle but came back into the game. I was just happy I didn’t have to see Philadelphia celebrate on the Bulls home floor. Especially Evan Turner. His little grin and weird voice just make my skin crawl.
- Game 6 – CHI 78 PHI 79 – Bulls did everything to win this game and force a game 7, and then did everything possible to lose it down the stretch. Rip balled and I can’t believe he was stuffed on the bench for most of these contests… What was Thibs thinking? CJ just had a horrible series. He clearly lost his confidence and once that happens, you just can’t compete on an NBA level. Its impossible. Omer, even though he couldn’t knock down some critical free throws, played phenomenal defense and I can’t be mad at him. Taj continued to be a monster and gave a gutsy performance on a bum ankle. Bulls fought hard, but oddly, Philly just continued to get the lucky breaks down the stretch to convert FT’s and win the game.
In the end, it just wasn’t meant to be. The Bulls are a hard driving team, and many aren’t saying this but maybe they ARE built for an 82 game season. Nick Friedell seems to think that the players were “gassed” and didn’t have enough in the tank in the end, but that is not consistent with the energy and effort that they played with in the first game with a healthy D.Rose. I think next season will have its challenges, but I still believe that the Bulls will be a force. They got the #1 seed the last two seasons because they work hard. I don’t think that they are obsessed with having it. I still believe in the character, will and heart of this team and I’ll be there to see them taking the next step as a ball club.