By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Please. Make it stop.
Enough of the torn ACLs. Enough of the plantar fasciitis. Enough of the deeply bruised muscles and aching backs.
No more x-rays, MRIs and cortisone shots.
And for the love of God, let’s hope another spinal tap is never performed again.
The Bulls deserve a world’s worth of credit for the way they have overachieved despite an incredible amount of injuries and unheard of complications from treatments. But now it’s time to stop the pain and the suffering.
It’s time to put the bull down.
Monday night’s 88-65 loss to the Heat signaled the unofficial end for the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls, who are now just one more defeat away from a merciful exile to the offseason. With late-arriving fans battling traffic and an early start, the United Center at tip-off felt like that awkward moment at the beginning of a wake when only the most devoted are standing in an empty room with a dead body.
Meanwhile, the rest of the attendees were stuck on the Eisenhower wondering, “Do I really need to go to this thing?”
And much like a wake, the late-arriving crowd didn’t miss much.
With 5:15 left in the first quarter, the Bulls only had four points and the atmosphere inside the United Center was more like a preseason contest than a must-win playoff game against the hated Miami Heat.
And one could only wonder if Tom Thibodeau finally waived the white flag when he put Richard Hamilton in the game with 10:19 left in the second quarter and his team trailing 30-17.
Moments before tip-off, the Bulls surprisingly ruled Luol Deng active, but that declaration must have only applied to his pulse as Deng wasn’t even seen on the bench at any point in the game.
As usual, the Bulls battled hard, but it was rarely ever pretty. They won the rebounding margin 46-36 but that hardly mattered when it came to the score, which the Heat controlled from start to finish. The effort was there, but so was Bad Nate (who hurt his shoulder and went 0-for-12), Clumsy Boozer and Airball Belinelli. There were too many bad decisions and Joakim Noah passes landing in the fifth row.
When it was over, the Bulls had set franchise playoff lows for points scored in a game (65), points scored in a quarter (nine in the third), fewest field goals in a game (19) and lowest field goal percentage in a game (.257).
Afterwards, Tom Thibodeau denied that his team was tired and beat up, but when Rip Hamilton is guarding LeBron James, you know it needs to end. Hell, even a Luvabull suffered a leg injury Monday night while dancing (in true Bulls fashion, she gutted it out and finished the dance).
When the Bulls won Game 1 in Miami, the only reaction was to laugh. The result didn’t make much sense then and it makes even less sense now.
But if there was ever a team that deserved a ton of credit for losing a series in five games, this is it. When Derrick Rose decided not to return when he was cleared by doctors in February, the Bulls immediately had no chance against the Heat in the playoffs. With Deng and Kirk Hinrich out too, it’s a miracle they won one game.
“I believe in this team,” Thibodeau said. “I think they’ve shown all year they have a tough mindset.”
They do, but when you consider realistic expectations, the one win against the Heat was about all a Bulls fan could ask for.
The series isn’t quite over yet, but it should be. The Bulls fought admirably all season, but there’s a time for everything to end.
That time is Wednesday night in Miami.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge and read more of his columns here.