PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 06: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls reacts during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers won 89-82 to go up 3-1 in the series. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bulls face elimination tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 at the United Center. Can Chicago win without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah?
Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):
The following is something that I did not expect to write: The Bulls are down 3-1 to the Philadelphia 76ers. It still seems impossible after a 50-16 regular season and number one seed in the East. But then Derrick Rose went left and his knee right and the next thing you knew the Bulls were being out-Bulls'd by Elton Brand and the 76ers. I vowed to watch these playoffs with the joy of a child, but I thought Chicago would find a way into the second round. Now? It's just depressing.
Ricky, you said on Monday in your weekly Bulls Notebook that you still believed the Bulls can win. I'm curious on a more thorough level why? What have they shown you in the last three games to persuade you? To me, at least, it looks like Philly is the harder working, more athletic and talented team. Bobby, do you agree with Ricky? Why or why not? Does Doug Collins bother you as much as he bothers me? Will Batman die in The Dark Night Rises?
Ricky O'Donnell (@TUP_Ricky):
I closed my most recent Bulls Notebook by saying my belief that the Bulls aren't dead yet is more of a vote against the 76ers than a vote for the Bulls. I'm glad to see other people on this bandwagon. On the occasion of Game 5, Chicago Tribune beat writer K.C. Johnson told WSCR "I'm really fascinated to see this game because you can't get past the fact that Philadelphia isn't that good."
Matt from Blog-a-Bull added: "The fact that the Sixers aren't very good throws a wrench in any confidence of prognostication."
Yeah, Philadelphia sucks. Unfortunately, so do the Bulls when you take away Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah while C.J. Watson and Luol Deng trudge through injuries. This is not the same Bulls team we saw secure the best record in the NBA during the regular season. The laundry is the only thing that remains constant. It's resulted in a level a play that's almost been an insult to sport. Basketball at its best is a blast. This first round series between Chicago and Philadelphia has legitimately been hard to watch. If sports are ultimately about entertainment, you won't find much here. I really can't say I'm looking forward to Game 5 tonight.
It's interesting that people around the team have noted how low the Bulls' spirits are. Perhaps it's understandable for a team that has fallen so quickly, but it's rare to see it spelled out so clearly. The Tribune's David Haugh said:
Monday at the Berto Center convinced me the only place the Bulls truly believe they are going anytime soon is on vacation. It could begin as early as Tuesday night or as late as the weekend, but the vibe suggested it definitely will start soon and beating the heat will take on new meaning for Bulls players.
In the same WSCR interview, Johnson said Game 5 has a "funeral feel to it".
Does that mean the Bulls have given up? I find that hard to believe, but who knows. We're not around the team.
As Blog-a-Bull said today, I really don't think "effort" has been the problem. Any team coached by Tom Thibodeau is going to show up to play. The question is whether the Bulls have enough talent to beat the still crappy Sixers. To which I say: I don't know. Maybe? These Bulls have just overcome so much this season that I really can't see them going out in such a whimper. I don't know how they're going to win tonight, but I expect them to. It might take a vintage Rip Hamilton performance, or another barrage of Kyle Korver threes. Someone is going to need to lift their game offensively to new heights.
Ultimately, I just can't count on this team to roll over when the competition is so uninspiring.
Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):
I can't believe you just quoted David Haugh. Yuck.
Bobby Loesch (@bobbystompy):
There are probably 84 things to address, but I'll try to limit this to a few. What's odd is I've legitimately looked forward to every game, then all of this horrible stuff happens, and I become more miserable than ever. But here's what I think.
1) Rip/Korver Crunch Time: It's staggering to me Hamilton hasn't been able to crack the crunch time lineup yet. As it is the playoffs. Like, right now. Korver supporters -- and I'm certainly no basher -- will point to his offense giving him the boost over Rip, but if you've watched these post-Rose Bulls play, you'll know Korver isn't getting even half the looks he got when the floor was more properly spaced. While Korver's defense hasn't been awful, keeping Rip on the bench still seems curious. While Hamilton isn't in his prime anymore, he's still a 20 PPG playoff scorer. No one else on the Bulls can touch that. It's a truly impressive statistic. Maybe Thibs doesn't put an emphasis on the past like that. You do have to let go at some point.
2) The Bulls can absolutely win Game 5: For all of the struggles and heartbreaks, Chicago has played close the majority of the time in this series. This 'funeral' stuff is sobering to hear, but to imply they'll just bow out completely seems unfair. The idea of the 'best' team in the NBA essentially getting swept without their best player seems almost unreal to me. Then I remember Noah has been out, too, and it makes a bit more sense. Still: tonight is on the table. I swear it is.
3) Carlos Boozer: I had to stop that sub-heading at just his name because if I gave myself more words, it likely would have ended with "Is The Worst At Everything" or "Will Kill Me" or "Is A Super Travesty" or "Should Be Nicknamed 'Rabbit Gigolo' Because He Blows So Many Bunnies", and we probably don't want that. We definitely don't want that.
History will probably look at Boozer's performance in this series as quite legitimate. On paper, he's been among the Bulls top scorers, and his rebounding has been solid, but if you actually watch the games, you can see these specific moments of super failure, where it makes you question why you'd ever watch basketball on television with a team-oriented rooting interest. Like when this pass happened, for example. Nobody throws that pass. NOBODY. There was a legitimate time where I leaped out of my chair and screamed "F--K YOU" at the television during Game 4, and it was an almost uncontrollable action. It came out of me like a sneeze or cough. It's probably because his game makes me ill like that.
But let's not pin it all on one lousy pass. How about him dribbling the ball out of bounds during crunch time in Game 4? Analysis: awful. Boozer boosters will point to shoddy officiating -- even Matt at BaB said as much -- but I'm not buying. I watched that game, and while there were bad calls, it wasn't enough to swing anything. When you are in reach to win a game on the road, you can't let things like that happen. Great players hit the shot, good players maybe hit the shot, pretenders at least put themselves in a position to brick the shot. Boozer somehow can't even get that far. This fact crushes my insides. I don't even know where we go or what the hell to do anymore.
Enjoy Game 5.