Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls show heart in face of adversity


Although they were eliminated from the playoffs in five games by the Heat, the gritty Bulls fought to the end and never gave up.

WEB VOTE Which player’s absence has hurt his team most in the NBA playoffs?

Say this for the gritty, resilient, short-handed Bulls: They did not succumb meekly here Wednesday.

Overcoming an early 18-point hole, Chicago served up a valiant, admirable effort before squandering an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and missing two 25-foot three-point attempts in the final 16 seconds that could have tied the score.

Nate Robinson missed the first, a decent look that bounced off on a night he scored 21.

Carlos Boozer rebounded, and Jimmy Butler ended up with a good look on his three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left.

“I was wide open, and I just missed the shot,” Butler said. “Had a good look. I’ll take that any day. [But] we’re proud of our guys. We put on a hell of a fight. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”

For a while, it looked as though the Bulls might send this back to Chicago for a Game 6. Down 22-4 early, Chicago outscored the Heat, 45-21, in the final 17:24 of the first half, then extended its lead to 77-69 after three.

But the Bulls mustered just 14 points in the fourth quarter on 6 for 18 shooting, with four turnovers.

They weren’t especially sharp defensively in the fourth, and their luck with Shane Battier ran out, as Battier — who missed several open threes in this series — drained two of them to fuel the Heat’s rally early in the fourth.

This was Boozer’s signature moment of this series — his 19 points before halftime were his most in a first half of a playoff game, and he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, game highs in both categories.

But he also missed an 11-foot jumper with 1:07 left and the Bulls down 94-91.

“I’m proud of my guys,” he said. “We didn’t cry about anything.”

Earlier in the series, Derrick Rose told Boozer: “If they put Battier on you, run his [butt] over.” Boozer had some success against Battier, but Battier held up well in the fourth.

After shooting 0 for 12 in Game 4, Robinson missed his first two shots and picked up two fouls in the first 4:29. He had some good moments when he returned — including four three-pointers and six assists — but closed 6 for 15 from the field and had four turnovers.

“God tested me, and I’ll pass the test tonight,” Robinson promised several hours before the game, adding: “It will be that much sweeter if we get the win tonight to prove you [doubters] wrong.”

Afterward, Robinson said the Bulls’ rally from 18 down “shows how tough we are, how much grit we have. We’re a bunch of warriors. I’m disappointed. This [stinks].”

Robinson said when the Bulls were down big early, “I told my guys … ‘Shots are going to fall.’ We gathered our composure.”

Joakim Noah had nine rebounds but just one block and scored only three points on 1 for 5 shooting. The Bulls also hurt themselves by missing 7 of 24 free throws, with Boozer missing 5 of 11.

Afterward, the Bulls spoke optimistically about their chances of challenging the Heat when healthy. Chicago played this series without Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who didn’t play all season because of knee surgery.

“If we’re [healthy in the playoffs] next year, we’ll be scary,” Boozer said.

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