Bulls lose first two games at home; Wizards earn OT win
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter April 22, 2014 10:46PM
Do you think the Bulls can still win the series?
- VIDEO: Taj Gibson ticked off at question during press conference
- VIDEO: Wizards’ Beal on his altercation with Hinrich
Updated: April 23, 2014 7:14AM
It was the young, upstart Washington Wizards that were supposed to wilt late in games, when the spotlight shines the brightest.
As far as physical play, it was the Wizards that were expected to be spending extra time in the ice tub after games.
And by the time the best-of-seven first-round series was headed to the nation’s capital on Friday, it was supposed to be the Wizards that were down 0-2, backs uncomfortably against the wall, searching for answers.
Following the 101-99 overtime loss at the United Center, the Bulls couldn’t have been more wrong in every department.
Thanks to 26 points from second-year guard Bradley Beal, and six straight points from Nene in the overtime, Washington has full control of the series, up two games and rolling back home.
They’re watching a great regular season suddenly put on life support.
“Just regroup, go back to the film,’’ Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “It feels like we’re a fingernail short every time. A couple plays here and there, a couple tough calls, but got to play through it.
“It’s the playoffs, it’s a 12-round fight.’’
And right now, it’s a fight that’s close to being stopped.
Not that the Bulls didn’t have their chances. After falling behind as much as 17 points in the first half, there was Kirk Hinrich, standing at the free throw line with 2.4 seconds left with a chance to make both and send it into a second overtime.
Hinrich missed the first, and then tried to purposely miss the second with the Bulls hoping for a prayer. It wasn’t answered.
“I went up there thinking I would knock them down,’’ Hinrich said. “I just couldn’t do it. However, I really felt that I should have made the layup [that drew the foul]. I was not fatigued. That was not a factor for me.
“Just give them credit. They did a great job defensively. They got it to overtime and won it.’’
What hurt even more was the Bulls had been 18-for-22 from the free throw line before Hinrich’s misses.
“Yeah, I was surprised,’’ Gibson said of Hinrich missing the first free throw. “Things like that are going to happen. He’s a tremendous player. He’s been great for us all year long, been in that situation many times. If that happened in that time again, I would still go with Kirk. He’s one of the captains on this team, one of the veterans on this team. I was just a little shocked when he missed, but it happens like that, he’s human.’’
The bigger issue for the Bulls was once again extended scoring lulls. They built the lead up to 10 in the fourth with 6:59 left, but scored just four points until the horn went off to send it to overtime.
“Hard-fought,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We dug ourselves a big hole early, expended a lot of energy to get out of that hole, and came up short.
“I thought we had some good looks. Got to do better. It’s going to come down to we had the lead in both fourth quarters, didn’t close it out.’’
All of a sudden, all that talk about life being just fine without Derrick Rose or Luol Deng – basically a go-to offensive player – has become a lot quieter.
“I’m not sure,’’ Joakim Noah said, when asked how it will turnaround. “But we have to find a way. Throughout the year, it hasn’t been pretty at times. But we’re a team that finds a way. The last two games, we fell short. We’re disappointed. But we’re not going to stop fighting.’’