What do you do when half the team has the flu, Deng can't go, Kirk can't go, Nate Robinson is throwing up in a bucket during timeouts, and you're playing a team with more talent than you have already? Well, you take them to the brink and fall just a bit short.
There's no such thing as a moral victory, and there sure as hell isn't such a thing in the playoffs. Much like game five, the Bulls scrapped and fought. They kept it close. This time they didn't drop the rope at the end. They had a pretty good look for Marco Belinelli to tie that was off the mark, and Joakim Noah stepped out of bounds chasing the rebound to give them a second chance.
Both teams looked smooth for a half and fell into ratchety, mechanical offenses prone to large slumps in the second half. I'm not going to rip into this Bulls team for losing last night. I'm going to go ahead and disagree with Tom Thibodeau who said they had more than enough to win between the third and fourth quarters.
This team gave you everything last night. Everything they had. Sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. That was the case last night for Chicago.
Sometimes life tells you it's not meant to be
Do you get that feeling with this Bulls team? If this season were a play, it'd be a great tragedy. They keep bouncing back, bouncing back, but every time they get close to a happy ending they watch it ripped away from them with more bad news.
It started with Derrick Rose's ACL and lack of comeback dashing any real hope in the playoffs. Then Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson suffer injuries that make their ability to play questionable. Chicago fights through it with gutsy effort after gutsy effort to take control, then Kirk Hinrich goes out possibly for the series.
You get to game six and already down a man half the team comes down with the flu. I asked how Brooklyn could get off the mat after a game five collapse and well, one method is for the Bulls to suffer more injuries, more illnesses, and have to their talent pool stripped even more. I'd say I don't want to take anything away from Brooklyn, but honestly, I do.
If I owned the Nets, I'd be giving them the "if you had half the heart of Rudy you'd have made all pro" speech by now. Looking at the teams on paper with whom can presently suit up, it's ridiculous that Chicago can even keep it close.
How will the story end? It seems like every day as a Bulls fan you figure things can't get any worse. You actually expect them to get better. You figure, someone has to come back from injury this game. We've already had as much bad news as we're likely to get. Famous last words.
Well I feel that way again now. I feel like it can't get worse. I feel like it will get somewhat better by Saturday, and you know what. I think the Bulls can win. This Nets team is soft, and say what you want about the Bulls, but they're Chicago tough.
I've typically been pretty pessimistic about the teams chances to do anything this year. I've picked against them in nearly every big game, every big moment, I thought they'd win far less [and that was before everyone got hurt], and I didn't think they had it in them.
But they proved me wrong. Over and over again. They proved me wrong against Miami. Twice. They proved me wrong against the Knicks, four times. They proved me wrong against this Nets team several times. If the Bulls are down to Teague, Belinelli, Hamilton, Radmanovic and Mohammed next game and all five have to play 48 minutes, I still think they'll find a way to win Saturday.
After a season of non belief, after watching this tragedy unfold, through the tough losses and incredible wins, this team has won my heart and my faith. They don't have more than enough to win. They don't have remotely enough to win, but that's never stopped them from winning before.