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Updated: April 30, 2014 7:26AM
Derrick Rose was in their ears just minutes after the disappointing 75-69 elimination game Tuesday night.
“Like Derrick said, we’re going to really remember tonight,’’ a somber Taj Gibson said. “We’re going to really remember this series, and when we hit the gate running next year we’re going to remember a lot of people.’’
It must have been quite the “Rudy’’ speech by Rose, following the end of the Bulls season at the hands of the Washington Wizards.
And it was nice of their MVP to play motivational speaker.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they needed Rose with them on the court, playing point guard.
That became more and more evident as the series went on, as the Bulls offense again stalled when they needed it most – Game 5 and down three games to one.
With no one to turn to in crunch time, as well as Joakim Noah battling a sore left knee and Taj Gibson forced out of the game midway through the fourth quarter when he rolled his left ankle, the Bulls simply looked like a team that had been running on fumes and finally came to a sad, slow stall.
“How they wouldn’t quit,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said, when asked what the 2013-14 team left in his memory. “When I look at the team, we took a couple of big hits the last couple of years, actually the last three years. The lock-out year, Derrick missed half of that season. They fought like crazy that year. Of course he missed all of last season, and then this season. And then the trade of Luol [Deng]. We’re 12-19 and you’re sitting there saying, ‘OK, what are we going to do?’
“These guys, they fought like crazy to make sure we had a good season. When a team commits to playing as a team, playing together and playing for one another, they give you everything they have, there’s nothing more you can ask for. I think other people would have just laid down and we didn’t do that.’’
Not until Game 5. And it wasn’t laying down, as much as just collapsing.
With Gibson sidelined in that final quarter and just 4:09 left in their playoff lives, Jimmy Butler hit a three from the corner to cut the Wizards lead to just five.
Carlos Boozer cut it to three with a jumper, but John Wall answered at the 2:30 mark. A Nene foul put D.J. Augustin at the line, as the point guard again kept the deficit to three.
Then the legs suddenly looked like jelly as Washington got offensive rebound after offensive rebound. When Boozer missed a lay-up with 42 seconds left and then Butler missed one with 18 seconds left, the United Center instantly deflated.
So did the season.
“I think we’re a good team,’’ Noah said. “We’re trying to find a way to get over that hump, to get to the next level. The only thing I can do is get better individually, be ready for next season. Like I said, right now, I don’t know what the future holds in terms of who’s going to be here and stuff.
“All I can say is I appreciate the guys who were here this year. I’ve never been around a group of guys who worked their [butts] off from beginning to end.’’