By Nick Shepkowski –
UNITED CENTER (CBS) – A quick look at the Bulls roster on Thursday night would look more like that of an Emergency Room receptionist than an NBA roster:
Kirk Hinrich out with a hobbled calf, Luol Deng out with what was thought to be the flu but eventually turned into a meningitis scare and Taj Gibson was battling the flu.
And then add in Tom Thibodeau letting it be known 90 minutes before tip-off that Nate Robinson also had a bout with the flu. Keeping this as a respectable score would be seen by many as a moral victory if this was a regular season game. It was of course an NBA playoff game, however, and even in coming within a last-second three of going to overtime, the last thing on any Bulls player or coaches’mind was an excuse.
The extremely shorthanded Bulls still managed to keep things close in Game 6 vs. the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately for the Bulls, this is the NBA Playoffs and being shorthanded eventually catches up. In this case, it means the Bulls are on the verge of becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to lose a playoff series after holding a 3-1 series advantage and the first since the 2006 Lakers to do so.
Despite having a roster in which only six players saw more than five minutes of action, the Bulls played out a physically demanding game. Thanks to a second half that saw them surrender just 35 points (after giving up 60 in the first), the Bulls were in it until a Marco Belinelli three point attempt was missed in the closing seconds.
As gritty as the Bulls performance was, it’s the NBA Playoffs and effort point don’t count for a win. In the Bulls locker room, the last thing anyone was searching for was an excuse, starting with their head coach.
“We’ve been short-handed most of the year,” Tom Thibodeau said. “Guys have been called upon all year to get the job done and I feel we’re more than capable.”
Thanks to a huge first quarter by Belinelli (22 points for the game) and Jimmy Butler playing all 48 minutes, the shorthanded Bulls gave Brooklyn all it could handle, as the Nets seemingly tried to keep the Bulls in the game with mental mistakes throughout the second half. Well, part mental mistakes and other part Bulls improved second half defense.
Nate Robinson, who was battling the flu and seen vomiting on the Bulls bench, finished with 18 points, while playing 42 minutes. After a draining game for him, Robinson sat quietly at his locker before addressing the media:
“You just have got to muster up enough energy,” Robinson said. “No excuses.”
As for if injury and flu-ridden team will be cured by Saturday’s Game 7, Robinson knows what kind of Bulls team is going to show up.
“We’re going to be ready to play regardless,” Robinson added.
Carlos Boozer finished the night with 14 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Even in being one of the few healthy Bulls at this point, he wasn’t looking for any excuses for his teammates.
“Stuff happens, you’ve gotta deal with what’s in front of you and that’s what’s in front of us, so we can’t cry about it.” Boozer said, “We’re not that type of team – we have no excuses here, just get it done”
Joakim Noah played through the pain of Plantar fasciitis yet again but couldn’t hold in his excitement for Game 7, despite the grueling loss.
“I just want to go play right now” Noah said shortly after Thursday’s game.
“We’re ready to kick some ass.”
In addition to covering the Bulls for CBSChicago.com, Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer for The McNeil and Spiegel Show and a weekend host on The Score. For Bulls information all season long, follow him on Twitter @Shep670.