Bulls center Joakim Noah leaves the floor after his team's season-ending… (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune )
So that’s it then.
The plucky Bulls gave it all they had, but their season is over after a 75-69 loss to Washington at the United Center on Tuesday. The Wizards eliminated the Bulls four games to one in their first-round playoff series.
Believe it or not, the Bulls' chances to win Game 5 hinged on the health of Mike Dunleavy's injured left thumb. Could he score anywhere close to 35 points again, like in Game 3? Or at least pass to someone who could?
OK, so maybe we're overstating that appendage's importance a tiny bit. But it makes for a good visual, so here's what earned a thumbs up or down from Tuesday's do-or-die game.
Thumbs down: The crowd
Right at tipoff, about half the seats at the United Center were empty. Not the kind of start the Bulls needed. The fans who were there did roar for Taj Gibson when he was shown on the scoreboard.
Thumbs up: Joakim Noah’s energy
Midway through the quarter, he stole the ball from Nene on one end, and on the next possession drove the lane and scored to make it 8-8. Just Noah being Noah.
Thumbs down: Carlos Boozer’s struggles
You hate to say it, but Carlos Boozer seems to get more layups attempts blocked than anyone in the league. It must be tough being 6-foot-9.
Thumbs down: Bulls’ marksmanship
The Bulls shot just 6-for-23 in the first quarter, a woeful 26 percent. That included 0-for-5 from 3-point range. That’s no fun.
Score: Washington 23, Bulls 15
Thumbs down: Bulls’ luck
Sometimes, even when they played terrific defense, deflected passes and dove on the floor for loose balls, the Bulls still managed to give up a 3-point bucket. Sigh.
Thumbs up: Taj Gibson
He looked like the only player the Wizards feared at all when he touched the ball. They flat-out vacated the paint when he streaked through for one of his patented one-handed, hammer dunks. BTW, he tied for the Bulls lead with nine points in the first half.
Thumbs down: The refs
Sure, they’re an easy target. And no single call makes or breaks the game. But it looked like Taj Gibson had a clean block on Bradley Beal; a foul was called and stifled the Bulls’ mini-momentum. Oh well.
Thumbs up: Jimmy Butler’s flexibility
In a four-second span, Butler made a diving, leaning save on the baseline under the basket, then ran to the corner and drilled a 3-pointer to pull his team within one. Impressive.
Score: Bulls 41, Washington 41
Thumbs up: Nene's shooting touch
Disclaimer: This is simply an endorsement of his uncanny ability to knock down shots like a guard, despite being 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds. It is not a vote in support of him goading Jimmy Butler in Game 3 or deflating the Bulls' spirits time after time.
Thumbs up: Joakim Noah’s pain tolerance
The newly minted NBA defensive player of the year had two blocks in the third quarter despite limping upcourt from time to time.
Thumbs down: Bulls' offense
Yeah, it was even more frustrating than usual in the third quarter. The Bulls put up 11 points. Eleven. Think about that.
Score: Washington 61, Bulls 52
Thumbs up: Benny the Bull
The tireless mascot had some sweet alley-oops to guys leaping off trampolines between quarters. Too bad D.J. Augustin couldn't borrow one. Because he's short. Oh, never mind.
Thumbs down: John Wall’s shoe size
Had the Washington guard's foot been just a little smaller, Taj Gibson might not have sprained his ankle when he landed after going for a rebound. Stupid genetics.
Thumbs up: The Bulls' heart
Maybe we're going soft. Yet when you look at how the team performed on the whole, without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng for most of the year, it’s possible this was as far as they could go. Still a bummer of an ending though.
Score: Washington 75, Bulls 69.
Game over. Season over. Let the Derrick Rose Watch begin in earnest.
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