Playoffs: Bulls unable to hang with Heat
With their expectations built sky high, total collapse was not what Chicago Bulls fans had in mind for their team heading into games 5 and 6 with the Miami Heat. Certainly not after Chicago had convincingly out-played Miami in all phases of games 3 and 4 in Chicago.
The Bulls offensive and defensive collapse in the final two games was in stark contrast to the quick-energy, sharp-shooting, drives to the basket and stifling defense they generated in the previous two games. Featuring effective pick and rolls and screen rolls, the faster, more energetic Bulls had buzzed around older Miami and made their opponent seem old and slow in Chicago’s two home games.
The sequence of events that ensued will no doubt linger in the minds of tortured Bulls fans and will go on to become the stuff of legend: In the 3rd quarter of game 5 the Bulls were ahead 55-50 at the 8-minute mark in Miami, with the Shaq on the bench with fouls and Dwayne Wade nursing a bruised hip in the locker room. Who could blame Bulls fans at that point for readying themselves for the next playoff round?
Yet it did not happen. Dwyane Wade donned his cape a la Michael, limped back onto the court and by sheer will and inspiring example, put the Heat in front to stay. Throughout that game, Chicago had no answer, even with the Heat seemingly telling them, “take us…” Chicago stayed on the perimeter, rarely taking it to the basket and the heat toughed out the win. The Bulls were done.
“How could this happen?” howled suffering Bulls fans.
It was both tired legs and emotional letdown. There was precious little time between games. With just from Sunday night in Chicago to Tuesday in Miami, the Bulls had little time to rest. Also factor in mental exhaustion: after winning two in Chicago, an extra day could have helped.
Then for game 6 in Chicago, it was clear either the Bulls would respond and force Miami into a game 7, or they would succumb.
In the end, and to the chagrin of Coach Skiles, they appeared to go like willing lambs to the slaughter. After forcing an advantage, they suddenly fell apart, as though programmed for two wins and no more.
Plus, give Miami credit. The veteran depth and surplus of go-to talent collected by Pat Riley precisely for the playoffs was particularly effective at the end of games 5 and 6. Furthermore, Riley’s ability to motivate ranks him among the best coaches in NBA history. Not to mention his expert skill in making adjustments throughout a playoff series.
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