Chicago Bulls' Nate Robinson, right, drives to the basket as Miami Heat's Norris Cole, center, defends during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal, Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:52AM
MIAMI—Before this game, the Bulls said all the right things. We’ll take it step-by-step. We never give up. Yada yada.
No one believed in them. Didn’t matter. They believed.
After falling behind 22-4 and looking flatter than the proverbial pancake, the Bulls mustered their courage. Showing pride and resilience in a situation where no one would have blamed them for going quietly into the night, the Bulls said, ‘‘Not so fast.’’
Hitching up their baggy red shorts, the Bulls outscored Miami 71-42 during a stretch of a little more than two quarters and led 75-64 on Wednesday with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
‘‘We knew what we had to do,’’ Jimmy Butler said. ‘‘We weren’t playing defense. We weren’t challenging shots. We just got back to being the tough dogfight team that we are.’’
The bad news is, the Bulls couldn’t finish it. They wilted against the Heat 94-91.
How long will it take before the under-manned Bulls appreciate what they accomplished?
‘‘A while,’’ Butler said. ‘‘Because we’re all going to think about what we could have done to win this game. Once you settle down, that’s when you realize how far we’ve come this year.
The good news is, the Bulls bowed out with an effort they could be proud of. After a sleepy Game 4, after some lose-your-cool stuff in the games before that, the Bulls battled.
‘‘This shows how tough we are,’’ Nate Robinson said, ‘‘how much grit we have, how much fight. We’re a bunch of warriors. We love the game of basketball. We love competing at the highest level.’’
They lost. But they lost with dignity.
‘‘We have a tremendous amount of heart,’’ Butler said. ‘‘The effort we give every single day, every single night, it’s crazy.’’
It was another nonstop 48-minute performance for Butler.
‘‘I’m not tired,’’ Butler said. ‘‘I wish we would have won. I guess I’ll get plenty of rest now.’’
Robinson knows this might have been his last game with the Bulls. Brought in with Kirk Hinrich to offset the loss of Derrick Rose, Robinson played so well he’ll have plenty of options this offseason.
‘‘I’d love to [stay],’’ Robinson said. ‘‘But knowing the guys we have here, there’s probably limited space for me. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll talk to my agent and see what’s the best plan for me.’’