Would the Bulls be up 3-1 without the Noah injury? I'm not sure if the answer to this question poses relief or simply greater depression. Both games were down to one possession in crunch time and had ending totals that blew up due to intentional fouling.
I have no doubts that this series would be at least 3-1 if the Bulls had Rose, but I'm thinking at this point that Noah's absence, at a minimum, has us at 2-2, and quite possibly 3-1 as well. Perhaps I'm looking to escape the paradox of being depressed over the fact that this cast isn't good enough to beat Philly without Rose and at the same time not being crushed that I feel they would have won a title if not for an injury that we'll always wonder if it could have been prevented.
The "What if" game is one for losers, but that's about all the Bulls have left in this post season. One more shot at redemption and a bunch of "what if"s. The Bulls were killed by two things in the last game, not recovering quickly enough on Spencer Hawes, and Jrue Holiday attacking the team. Noah could have helped with both. Maybe it wouldn't have been enough, maybe the Bulls would still be down 3-1. We'll never know. Just like we'll never know what would happen if Tom Thibodeau had pulled Rose for that final two minutes.
Tom Thibodeau will tell us that they have enough to win, that the next guy needs to step up. What else can he say? In reality, the Bulls do have enough to win. They could have won either of the past two games with an additional shot that fell or one that didn't for Philly.
In the case of game four, simply not playing 5-8 may have been enough, but the officials hosed the Bulls repeatedly in the game [mitigated somewhat by the 76ers horrific foul shooting until the closing free throws].
Its been a tough pill to swallow for Bulls fans, and at this rate, I'll almost be glad when it's over. It's hard to watch this team without the specter of what could have been hanging in the room. It'd be hard to get excited about a win [not that we can test this theory out], knowing the inevitable doom that's still coming.
Maybe it's simply starting to kick in now that the Bulls are on the cusp of elimination or perhaps it's just a Monday thing, but as a sports fan, this is the most depressed I've ever been about this team. I've never been bothered by a bad team, the expectations are that they'll be bad. However, to take one of those rare, magical title shots, and turn it into this.
To take those expectations of winning a title this season and wondering if they've completely doomed their chances to ever get one? It's tough to take. Maybe the Bulls can pull one out tomorrow and give us one last good feeling on the way out the door, but it will only be a temporary relief for an off-season full of question.
[ps, apologies on no Bulls Beat this weekend as the day games always screw with my recording schedule]