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Bulls on brink of elimination after 88-65 loss to Heat

Bulls guard Nate Robinssits court after losing ball thled LeBrJames dunk second quarter game four an Eastern Conference semifinal series

Bulls guard Nate Robinson sits on the court after losing the ball that led to a LeBron James dunk in the second quarter in game four of an Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat Monday May 13, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 14, 2013 12:15PM



Rip Hamilton was doing his best after Monday night’s 88-65 loss to the Heat to not “rock the boat.’’

No worries, Rip. When the boat is taking on water and sinking by the minute, rocking it should be the least of your concerns.

Thanks to a complete display of offensive ineptitude by the Bulls at the United Center in Game 4, the Bulls moved to the brink of elimination, down 3-1 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal, and headed to South Beach for what could be the close-out game on Wednesday night.

And they’re going there with far more questions than answers, especially after setting franchise-playoff lows with the 65 points (previous low was 69 against Detroit, May 5, 2007), a 25.7 shooting percentage (previous low was 31.1 percent against Detroit, June 3, 1990) and the fewest points in a quarter, as they scored nine against Miami in the third (previous low was 10 against the Heat in 2011).

Add in Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf), Luol Deng (complications from a spinal tap) and Derrick Rose (left knee) still missing in the series, with no sign that they will be ready for Game 5.

And then finally, there’s Hamilton, who had been missing throughout the postseason, playing a combined 10 minutes before Monday, but getting 22 minutes in the loss to the Heat, and actually showing some life with his 11 points.

Asked why coach Tom Thibodeau had been ignoring him throughout, Hamilton was walking that fine line between biting his tongue and spouting off.

“We definitely talked,’’ Hamilton said of Thibodeau. “It’s hard to understand. One of the biggest things for me was [the playoffs] was the purpose I was brought here. When you don’t play it makes it hard, especially because I love these situations.’’

Asked if the explanation given by Thibodeau was sufficient for him, Hamilton responded, “I’ll let you figure it out.’’

“Not be able to help my teammates has been rough, but I try to stay positive,’’ Hamilton said. “Try not to rock the boat.’’

As far as what type of role Hamilton could play in Game 5, he couldn’t hurt at this point.

Miami jumped on the Bulls from the tip, building a 13-4 first quarter lead. By the end of that quarter, Miami was up 21-15, but shooting 59 percent from the field compared to just 27 percent for the Bulls. It was a trend that didn’t change much, as LeBron James carried the Heat, scoring a game-high 27 points, as well as grabbing seven rebounds and handing out eight assists.

The best thing the Bulls had going for them? Carlos Boozer scoring 14 points, but shooting 3-for-14 to do it.

Then there was Nate Robinson, who was handed the key to the city after his heroics against Brooklyn and in Game 1 against the Heat. Miami figured a few things out, suffocating the guard with double-teams, and forcing him into an 0-for-12, four turnover night.

“Of course it hurts,’’ Robinson said. “It feels like someone just stabbed you in the back. But you got to pull that knife out, heal that wound, and keep pushing.’’

But what’s left to push for the Bulls? The defending champs hope nothing come Wednesday. Robinson has a different idea.

“There’s a lot left in the tank,’’ Robinson said. “One thing about it is you never know when that beautiful story is going to happen. Down 3-1, you never know. Taking Game 7, you never know. Winning, it’s going to be a beautiful story to tell my kids one day, so we don’t count ourselves out. Never that.’’



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