The Chicago Bulls take on the 76ers in game four of their first round matchup today at noon. If they drop this game and fall down 1-3 then it's all but over, that is, if you don't feel it's all but over already. Adding to the misery of the Bulls loss of Derrick Rose for the next 6-9 months due to ACL surgery the Bulls lost Joakim Noah to what looked like a severe ankle sprain in game three.
Chicago dropped game three despite doing everything it could possibly hope to do in order to win. They won the rebounding battle, they held Philly to a ridiculously low shooting percentage and built up a huge fourth quarter lead. Then they watched it all slip away.
Chicago was outcoached
I've been harping on this point for much of this series, but what the hell are the Bulls doing with John Lucas? I love Tom Thibodeau as coach, much like I loved Scott Skiles. I always thought Skiles had some crazy blind spot for playing Chris Duhon, and Tom Thibodeau seems to have developed a similar one for John Lucas.
C.J. Watson was playing scared last game. However, he was pushing the ball up the floor and getting it into the hands of the rest of the team. The result was the Bulls had reasonable ball flow and got reasonable looks at the basket. C.J. Watson checked out with about two minutes of the third period remaining and an eight point lead. He was +8 overall on the night. John Lucas was +0 so far on the night.
Lucas then finished the game -13 after single handedly blowing this game for Chicago. He continued to fall victim to the same trend I've pointed out for several games. He spent possession after possession after possession pounding the entire shot clock off the ball and then forcing the Bulls into a terrible shot. The Bulls don't have a bunch of bad shot makers on this team, so they didn't make any of these, and the 76ers went on to roll the Bulls.
What's going to change?
The Bulls now have the same problems they had in games 1 and 2, but they no longer have the same strengths without Joakim Noah, who will likely miss the rest of the series. Tom Thibodeau has let John Lucas completely screw up the game, and seemed to have tunnel vision on the move refusing to go back to Watson who was at least finding better offensive looks for the team.
The goal for Chicago will be the same as it has the past few games. Get into the offense earlier, move the ball, play tough defense, win the rebounding battle, limit turnovers. Can they execute the formula better this time around? Perhaps, perhaps not.
The closest you can be after three games is 2-1
It feels hopeless right now, but a win puts the Bulls right back in this thing at 2-2. I don't think the Bulls will win, nor do I think they can win the series even if they get to 2-2. The team looks like its mentally done. They failed to take a game the 76ers gift wrapped for them in game three, so it's tough to see them making an even better run without Noah.
Bulls fans ready to turn the page, are the Bulls?
I'm getting fewer comments and tweets about the actual game and more and more about what the Bulls should do in the off-season. We'll have a long, long time to discuss what went wrong in the post mortem for this season over the summer, so I'm going to defer on most of that discussion until after the Bulls are eliminated.
However, it shows that Bulls fans have already quit on this team, and after the past two games, I can't blame them. It's now up to the players to prove us wrong. It's up to the players to dig deep and find a win today. It's up to the players to show some pride and not get swept out of this thing as soon as Rose went down.l