11:07 PM CDT, May 8, 2011
Derrick Rose fell apart at the end. The Bulls fell apart in the fourth quarter. That’s the Twitter version of how the Bulls’ playoff series with Atlanta is tied at two.
That’s what’s really disconcerting about Atlanta’s 100-88 win. The guy you expect to win games down the stretch for a team that expects to own the final 12 minutes failed all over the place.
It didn’t have to be this way. The Bulls didn’t have to play so badly in Game 4 that you were looking for pencils to stick in your eyes. The Bulls could’ve come out with energy instead of refusing to match the Hawks’ urgency. The Bulls could’ve hit more than three of their 16 three-point attempts. The Bulls could’ve gotten more than five points combined from their two-guards. Taj Gibson could’ve gotten one measly rebound.
And yet, despite all that garbage, the Bulls actually were ahead after three quarters. Don’t ask me how. I don’t know. Magic, maybe. It certainly wasn’t the result of smart or good basketball, save for maybe Carlos Boozer’s amazing 18 points. It was ugly and frustrating, but still, it was a lead, and often that has been enough for Rose’s Bulls.
But not Sunday. Not even close.
Rose, who played the entire second half and scored the Bulls’ first seven points of the fourth quarter, missed two shots and committed two turnovers in an 86-second stretch inside four minutes to go. The Hawks, meanwhile, were on a 10-0 run.
I’m not looking to beat up on the kid a game after writing an ode on his Game 3 masterpiece. And it might look silly when Rose scored 13 of the Bulls’ 19 points in the final quarter. But this team is constructed for him to be that guy at that time.
You can talk about referee’s Bennett Salvatore’s inadvertent whistle that might’ve given Rose three free throws in a six-point game with 2:27 to go. Salvatore later admitted he was wrong, but still, there was nothing to make you think the Bulls would’ve completed the comeback.
That 10-point Hawks’ run I mentioned? It would become 16-4 by the time the buzzer mercifully stopped the carnage. The Bulls would get waxed 33-19 in the fourth quarter.
It got so bad that the Bulls called a timeout they didn’t have. But with 18 seconds left and down 11, it was all over except for the embarrassment.
That just doesn’t happen to the Bulls. The Bulls don’t let it happen. They’re all about defense and rebounding. They’re all about closing out.
But the Hawks torched them in the fourth quarter, hitting 13 of 20 shots, including a three. Josh Smith had nine points. Al Horford had eight. Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague had six apiece. Everybody Hawk, it seemed, got a lovely parting gift. The Bulls, as Joakim Noah put it, “got our asses kicked.’’
Hope it hurts. Hope it means something Tuesday.
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