The Bulls' season may not be over, but it's at the very last commercial before the end of the show.
They once again blew a double-digit lead in the 2nd half- this one in the final seven minutes- and lost Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Washington Wizards.
Starting at the end, the officials sent Hinrich to the line with 2.4 seconds left in overtime, giving the Bulls a chance to send the game to a second extra session. But the veteran- who absolutely has to make those FTs in this situation- missed the first, and it really wasn't close. That was the official end of the game, though the Bulls blew this one in regulation.
Thibs made the right adjustments in this one, going to the bench early and stopping an impressive 29-12 Wiz run to start the game. The Bulls finally fought their way back into the game, taking their first lead at 65-64 on a Dunleavy jumper with 5:06 left in the 3rd quarter. They continued to play well, getting the lead to 75-70 after 36 minutes.
A pair of free throws by Butler put the Bulls up 87-77 with 6:59 to play, and it certainly looked as if the series would head back to Washington tied at a game apiece. But after Hinrich's 19-footer gave the Bulls a 91-85 lead with 3:53 to play, they wouldn't score another point in regulation.
Augustin missed a 3 and a short runner, Noah made a horrible pass for a turnover, Hinrich missed two long jumpers, and Augustin missed a short jumper- and when the officials ruled a jump ball on the ensuing rebound, even though Gibson had the ball and called time-out before Nene jumped on his back for a jump ball, things didn't look good.
But there were 10.5 seconds left, and if the Bulls win the tap, they have five seconds on the shot clock. Somehow, Joey Crawford missed Nene blatantly grabbing Taj's arm on the jump ball, and the game wound up going into overtime.
The Wizards dominated the extra five minutes, the Bulls refusing to score until it was too late. They trailed by six after going scoreless for the first 3:45 of OT, but a generous offensive foul called against John Wall gave them another chance, and they cut the lead to two on a pair of free throws by Noah with 34.7 seconds left.
Bradley Beal missed a 15-footer, and Hinrich drew the foul with 2.4 seconds left and a chance to salvage another blown second-half lead. But the veteran missed the first one well long, and the game was over.
Augustin saved the game in the first quarter, and he finished with team-highs of 25 points and 7 rebounds. But he was only 2/8 from the field in the 4th quarter, missing all three of his 3pt attempts. He didn't take a single shot in the OT session, which can be blamed equally on his own lack of aggressiveness and the team's complete lack of spacing. Gibson had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Noah had 20/12, but it just wasn't enough down the stretch.
Noah has to get more aggressive when Nene is guarding him so closely 20 feet from the basket. He is quicker than Nene and should be able to drive at will in that situation, but he hasn't done so in the first two games of this series.
If there is anything positive to take away from this, it's the fact that this team has been at its best when things look their worst. They were 14-18 after trading away their leading scorer (Luol Deng) and seemingly headed for the lottery. But they turned the season around to get where they are, and they still have time to turn this series around.
The Wizards are no better at home than they are on the road, finishing the season with identical 22-19 records in home and away games. The Bulls were 21-20 on the road this season, and they famously won the franchise's first ever Game 7 on the road last season at Brooklyn.
There is still time for a surprise ending after that final commercial, because the Bulls can certainly play much better. It's not like they've been dominated, they've had leads of over 10 points in the second half of each game.
19 teams have lost the first two games of a playoff series at home, and the "good" news is that three of them came back to win the series.
But if this Bulls team doesn't come out with a statement win in Game 3, it will be time to roll the final credits on this season.