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After the Chicago Bulls’ epic third quarter collapse in Game 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers, I spent several hours going back through the tape and analyzing just what the heck went wrong. Of course, then the Bulls went out and did pretty much the same thing in Game 3, only this time, it was in the fourth quarter. Needless to say, I don’t think I can stomach another few hours of watching a painful Bulls collapse, so you won’t be getting 2000 words with all the gory details.
But you will get some of them. So here we go.
After a Rip Hamilton three put the Bulls up 14 with just over 10 minutes left, Chicago was in the drivers seat. The defense looked like it had regained that elite edge and the Bulls were attacking the offensive glass like maniacs. Defense and rebounding were two things I said needed to happen in my Game 3 preview, and the Bulls were doing them very well. And despite what turned out to be a very badly sprained ankle for Joakim Noah, I had confidence that the Bulls would close the game out and grab a pivotal victory.
Then poof, everything went to hell.
Kyle Korver bricked two shots. Rip Hamilton missed three straight shots and two free throws. Carlos Boozer missed three straight shots. And all this time, Luol Deng and his one arm were being suffocated by Andre Iguodala. Those four guys are probably the Bulls’ four best scorers/shooters sans Derrick Rose, and none of them could step up when it counted.
As the noose tightened and the Sixers started to make their run, the offense became more and more disjointed. Possessions devolved into little John Lucas III dribbling around the top of the key for a while before firing up a tough shot or passing to somebody else for a tough shot. The Sixers had answers for everything, and any confidence the Bulls had was being slowly and painfully taken away from them.
When Omer Asik stepped to the line with the Bulls clinging to a one-point lead with 2:29 left, it really hit me just how dire the situation was. The Bulls were relying on Lucas and Asik (a 45.6 percent free throw shooter) to close out a road playoff game, which is really not a good look for the Bulls. Those guys are nice role players, but if you are pinning your hopes on them coming through in tough playoff moments, welp, you saw what happened.
Like clockwork, Asik missed both free throws and soon enough, the Sixers would surge ahead. At that point, it not only seemed like the game was over, but that the season was over as well.
While the Bulls’ season is certainly not over yet, things are not looking good. I hate using the term “must win” in a game that’s not actually a must win, but Game 4 on Sunday is about as close to a must win as you can get. Unfortunately, I have a hard time picturing this Bulls team sans Rose and Noah recovering from such a demoralizing meltdown. I will cling onto a thread of hope until the Bulls are officially bounced, but right now, I simply cannot say with confidence that they will win this series.
The Bulls’ season is currently on the ropes. Let’s see if they feel sorry for themselves and pack it in or fight back and do all they can to overcome the odds.