In their second playoff game against the Washington Wizards, the Chicago Bulls allowed yet another 4th quarter lead to slip away on their home floor. After losing their star point guard Derrick Rose to a knee injury in late-November, all throughout the regular season the Bulls have battled through adversity, overcome odds, and exceeded expectations. Now, playing as home favorites in the playoffs, it appears that their short comings may have finally gotten the best of them. They fought hard as they have all year long, but once again they fell down the stretch as their offense went cold. They squandered a ten-point fourth quarter lead, while missing their final ten shots of regulation. All while their best scorer Rose, could only sit and watch from the bench. As his teammates allowed game two of the best-of-seven series to slip away, along with possibly the team’s season. Now the team must head on the road to Washington, trailing the series 2-0.
The biggest issue for the Bulls on Tuesday night, was once again extended scoring droughts, which has been a theme all season. They led 87-77 with just 6:59 to play. They had dominated the game since trailing by as much as 17 in the first half. Then, they scored only four points for the remainder of 4th quarter, as the Wizards went on a 12-4 run to force overtime. Then the Bulls cold streak continued into overtime, as Washington continued their run by scoring the first six points of the extra-period.
Still, with 2.4 seconds remaining, and trailing by just two points. Kirk Heinrich was fouled while driving to the basket, and had a chance to tie the game. Potentially keeping the Bulls alive, and forcing a second overtime. However, Heinrich bricked the first free throw attempt. Forcing him to miss the second attempt on purpose, hoping the Bulls could grab an offensive rebound and score from the field to tie the game. He executed the miss off the back iron of the rim, but Washington grabbed the rebound and the clock expired.
The Bulls watched game two slip right through finger-tips, and most would probably say that they watched their season slip away on Tuesday evening as well.
Taj Gibson, as he has all season, gave Chicago a huge spark off the bench. He wound up playing 36 minutes, and posting a double-double in the process. Scoring 22 points and snagging 10 rebounds. Defensive Player of the Year; Joakim Noah also pitched in with his second consecutive double-double to start the series. Scoring 20 points and notching 10 boards.
The Bulls scored under 100 points in 57 contests this season, the worst in the NBA. The trend continues into the post-season, as they have also failed to do so in their first two playoff match ups. They pride themselves on their ability to win with sound fundamentals, hustle, and great defense. However, if they cannot find a way to muster up some kind of offense heading into Washington, they might not have a chance at keeping up with the likes of John Wall, Nene Hilario, and Bradley Beal. Who have led the way scoring so far for the Wizards.
A lot was made of the Wizards youth and lack of experience heading into the series. However, after their performance in the first two games of this series, its unlikely that people will continue to underestimate them. Youngsters John Wall and Bradley Beal are growing up before our eyes, and have looked absolutely non-phased playing in pivotal situations on the road in their first post-season experience.
The Wizards have made the shots and got stops they needed to late in the game, while the Bulls have simply failed to do so. They’ve flat-out looked like the better team so far, and the talks around Chicago of the Bulls not needing the scoring threats that they lost in Derrick Rose and Luol Deng have certainly silenced over the past few evenings. It is desperation mode for the Bulls now, as they head to Washington after dropping both game’s one and two on their home floor. In order to save their season from slipping away entirely, they will have to dig deep and possibly give their best showing of the season. Although, you’d be best served not to count this team out completely quite yet. No team has shown more heart and determination than Chicago this season. It would be highly uncharacteristic of them to simply go quiet into the night, and allow Washington to run away in this series without putting up a fight.
Commentary by Richard Glenn