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Bulls on brink of elimination after Game 4 loss

Updated: April 28, 2014 10:02AM



WASHINGTON — Put it on Carlos Boozer.

With Wizards forward Nene suspended for Game 4, the $15 million man should have been able to muscle his way to more than eight points and five fouls in 24 minutes.

Throw it on the entire starting unit, which allowed a young, upstart team to grab the momentum while taking a 14-0 lead before the Bulls even realized that the national anthem was finished.

Point at D.J. Augustin, who picked up three quick fouls that rendered his afternoon to 22 minutes of waste.

Pick a Bulls player not named Taj Gibson and rip him for the 98-89 loss to the Wizards on Sunday because there was plenty of blame to go around.

Then calmly take a breath and realize that it’s almost over. The frustration, the disappointment of the 2013-14 season, it’s all set to end Tuesday at the United Center, unless the Bulls can show some life down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

“As I told you before, you can’t put it on any one guy,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s our team. Readiness to play is me. They have to do their job. They have to get out there, they have to execute. I’ve got to have them ready, and so that’s disappointing and it’s got to change. It’s got to change, or our season will be over.’’

Even more disappointing was that Gibson’s career-high 32 points became almost uneventful. He appeared to be the only Bulls big man who understood he needed to attack the Wizards up front without Nene.

“I feel like we didn’t take advantage of it,’’ Gibson said. “I feel like we were too relaxed. In this league, you can’t be relaxed. Just because one of their starters is out, you’ve got to have that dog mentality. You’ve got to step on their necks right away.’’

The only thing the Bulls seemed to be stepping on was the life-support chord that was keeping their playoff hopes alive.

With Trevor Booker starting for Nene — who was averaging 17 points per game in the postseason — the Wizards might have been smaller, but they also played quicker. That was evident in the first four minutes, when they grabbed a 14-0 lead.

Trevor Ariza, who hurt the Bulls all game, nailed two of his six three-pointers in the opening run.

“We were pretty disappointed in the way we lost Game 3,’’ Ariza said. “We had to come out here and take care of business, and that’s what we did.’’

The Bulls cut the deficit to eight in the fourth quarter, but they never seemed to make the Wizards uncomfortable.

“It seems like at times we get overhyped with this thinking that we’re going to be OK, we’re just that good. But in this league, it’s not about how talented you are,’’ Gibson said. “It’s about how hard you work and how much effort you put in when you start the game off, man. I don’t think we did that.’’

Luckily for the Bulls, they will have at least one more game to respond. Will that mean lineup changes or a better sense of will? That remains to be seen.

“Well, we can do a lot of things,’’ Thibodeau said. “I know to win a playoff series it takes four, so we’re going to concentrate on getting two, and then we’ll go from there.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops



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