The same issues that have plagued the Bulls through most of their first-round series against the Wizards in Game 4 and it cost them another game as they fell 98-89 and head back home facing a 3-1 hole.
The Bulls have been used to battling through adversity and having their backs against the wall over the past two seasons, but winning three straight against a team they haven’t been able to get a handle on might be too big of a task to expect.
Washington was without Nene, which gave the Bulls all the more reason to enter the game with the necessary intensity of a team desperate to tie the series and head back to their homecourt. Instead, the Wizards turned the table and went on a 14-0 run to start the game, seemingly taking most of the fight out of their opponent.
“I think our team has a good understanding of how good they are because they played so many games without [Nene] and we were following them closely. And I thought they played a great game,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They came out with a great intensity. They got us in a hole. We fought like crazy to get out of it and then we didn’t close the second quarter as well as we would have liked. Second half, same thing. Third quarter, another big hole. Fight like crazy, try to come back and then you expend so much energy, you have maybe a crack at the end and we couldn’t get to the loose ball, the second shot.
“We’ve talked about it a lot: You’ve got to start fast, you’ve got to finish strong, do all those things. You have to play for 48 minutes and there’s a lot of things that lead to it. You’ve got to be ready for the speed and intensity of the game. We turn the ball over too much. That was a huge problem and when you look at how teams get three-point shots, it’s usually in transition and off the second shot. So that hurt us.”
The Bulls actually held Washington to 40 percent shooting – their lowest shooting percentage of the series – but the Wizards went 8-for-19 from three and got 30 points from Trevor Ariza, who nailed six of those three’s. Washington also forced 16 turnovers which they turned into 29 points.
Taj Gibson scored a career-playoff-high 32 points, shaking off for his second big game of the series.
He took the loss in stride, choosing not to think of possible elimination and correcting the mistakes that continue to be an issue for the Bulls.
“Well, you’ve got to move on,” Gibson said. “You’ve got to watch film. You’ve got to understand that you’ve got to come out the right way. Look at how we played last year. It’s all about the quickest to four. We really had Brooklyn down, 3-1, and they kind of just fought back. We’ve got to have that same mentality. It’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality.”
The Bulls have never overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
You know they’re in trouble when you have to seriously ask can they match the Wizards intensity on Tuesday to extend the series?
“They’ve had that sense of urgency in the first quarter every time,” Joakim Noah said. “It’s on us to change it. We’re getting punched in the mouth every time in the first quarter. We’ve got to find a way to change that. It’s really disappointing. But you can’t look backwards. You’ve just got to move on. Like I said, it’s the first to four.”