By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) On Thursday night, you may have wanted to lean on the classic scene from The Simpsons that has become metaphor and meme for many a sports blowout. It’s the one in which the Estonian dwarf actor playing the Krusty Burglar gets pummeled severely by Homer, who’s acting as Krusty the Clown during a promotion of the new Krusty Burger (the one with Ketchup) and isn’t in on the bit.
But no. There was no sympathy in viewing that drone strike disguised as a Bulls-Bucks game on Thursday in Milwaukee. This was impressive in its heinousness.
The Bulls were in full bloodlust mode in closing out their first-round series with the Bucks. This wasn’t a playoff game, though. This was catharsis. This was a superior team letting off built-up steam after allowing an obviously inferior squad take two games in a row.
This wasn’t a mere attempt to get rid of the Bucks and move on to the Cleveland Cavaliers next Monday night. This was an understanding that the game would be won and that the opponent needed to feel pain in public, to be humiliated in front of its home crowd, to be pantsed and pointed and laughed at.
And holy hell did it feel good.
The Bucks are usually a group that otherwise elicits no feelings of villainy. They’re young, up-and-coming, raw and exciting. But in this series they decided to let their older brothers from a few miles south on I-94 know they weren’t going to be ignored. So they got chippy while scraping out a couple wins against a Bulls team that stopped taking its opponent seriously for a spell.
Then the Bulls decided that going to a Game 6 after winning the first three was embarrassing enough, wiped the blood from their collective lip and looked at it, then grew fire-eyed. Winning a postseason game by a 120-66 score is jaw dropping in itself.
But it was more than the score. It was the palpable disdain for the Bucks with which the Bulls played Thursday that — if you can divorce yourself from asking why coach Tom Thibodeau kept in key players in a game that was over at halftime, a dead horse in the third quarter and a sadistic beating of that horse in the fourth quarter — was remarkable in its tactical approach to shaming an opponent.
The Bulls went movie-mode. Take your pick. It was Keyser Soze (Thibodeau) executing the Hungarians (Milwaukee) and his own family (Joakim Noah finally exited the game for good with 6:42 left and the Bulls up by 40) in a display of true power.
Oh, you went to school in Milwaukee, Jimmy Butler, and think these are some nice people up here who don’t deserve this?
It was the Bulls letting the Bucks understand very early on that this wasn’t to the death but, rather, to the pain.
Cody Westerlund noted after the game that, “As he made his way down the hallway to leave the Bradley Center Thursday night, Tom Thibodeau was all smiles. At this time of the year, it’s an unusual emotion for the laser-focused Bulls coach, but it represented the sense of relief carried by him and his team.”
That wasn’t relief, Cody. That was pleasure. That was Thibodeau erotica — 48 minutes of maniacal laughter acted out as a postmodern art piece of a supposed basketball game.
That was satisfaction in stripping a carcass clean. And now the Bulls have a long weekend to keep the taste of blood on their tongues. They encounter a wounded-yet-dangerous foe in the Cavs.
Cleveland has no Kevin Love for the entire series and no J.R. Smith for the first two games, and Chicago has definitely picked up the red scent. (The Bulls may be missing Mike Dunleavy for Game 1 as well after some Game 6 scuffles against the Bucks, but such is the price for unleashing that fury.)
The platitudes about “The Cavs are good team” and “We respect them a lot” and “LeBron should be our next president” are all out there. But there’s evidence that the Bulls aren’t done gorging themselves.
Referencing his notorious loathing of the city, Noah said Thursday, “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m very excited to go to Cleveland.”
If he speaks for the whole team, it’s very possible the desire to destroy with extreme prejudice that the Bulls displayed exiting Milwaukee carries over to the next series. That would be impressive, too.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.