By Nick Shepkowski-

UNITED CENTER (CBS) Good thing my alarm clock went off, otherwise I would have missed the thrilling finish to Tuesday night’s Game 5 matchup Tuesday night at United Center.  For a team that had so much promise before the playoffs began, the last week has been nearly impossible to tolerate for basketball, but more specifically Bulls, fans.  A team once full of promise now looks the part of a clunker, even in pulling off a playoff victory.

Real quick, does anyone remember the 2006 Kentucky Derby? For those who don’t it was a horse named Barbaro that won the race by the longest distance of any horse in the last 60 years.  Barbaro immediately became the “next” likely horse to win the Triple Crown, something that hadn’t been done in 28 years previous to that. Just a couple of weeks later it was the same Barbaro who was hobbling down the front stretch at Pimlico after shattering his leg in the opening moments of the Preakness Stakes. Barbaro never raced again and was euthanized to be put out of its misery that following winter.

After watching Game 5 of the Bulls and 76ers series on Tuesday night, it made me feel as if I was watching Barbaro again, painfully stumbling down the track. Despite still holding a 3-2 edge in the best of seven series, the Philadelphia 76ers are all the characteristics of an NBA eight seed. They can’t score with any consistency as their half-court offense is atrocious, they can’t shoot to save their lives from the outside and they have nobody that can take over a game with any regularity.

With that said, they still sit one win away from eliminating the Bulls and moving on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Tuesday night’s game on the west side of Chicago will go down as one of the most difficult NBA playoff games one will ever watch as both teams combined to shoot just 36.8 percent from the floor, but it’s been the whole series that has been a letdown in terms of delivering a tolerable product.

Outside of a few ridiculous sports radio callers who are incredibly out of touch with reality, nobody is going to tell you the Bulls are anywhere near the same team without Derrick Rose.  However, the league’s reigning MVP (I can only say that a few more times) doesn’t mean a team should stop getting back on defense and continuously have ridiculous turnovers like we’ve seen for the better part of this series.

Despite not entering the post-season as the favorites to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the Bulls felt like they were coming off of a jeweled victory in the regular season with all they accomplished, specifically finishing with the league’s best record despite not having their superstar for a large part of the season.

With the few potential wins remaining on the season and a likely butt-kicking from the Boston Celtics awaiting in the next round, these playoffs have turned into everything they weren’t supposed to be for the Chicago Bulls.

Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer on The McNeil and Spiegel Show, weekdays 9am-1pm on 670 The Score. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Shep670.

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