It was do or die for the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night at the United Center, and the Bulls failed to keep their season alive after a 75-69 loss, as the Washington Wizards advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals taking the series 4-1.
About three minutes into the game, the teams were tied at eight points apiece. Washington was quickly able to create a five-point lead, and it only built upon it as the period progressed. Chicago only scored five points in the latter end of the first quarter resulting in a 23-15 deficit 12 minutes into the game.
The Wizards extended their lead to 12 early on in the second quarter, but it wasn’t long until that double-digit deficit was erased. Kirk Hinrich hit a three from the top of the key. He later would assist on a one-handed dunk from Taj Gibson as well as knock down a three from the left corner. That combination of baskets brought the Bulls within six points of a tie, 32-26.
Chicago continued its efficient offense to outscore Washington 26-18 in the second period, which was also enough to tie the game at 41 come halftime. The Bulls’ were still shooting poorly with 34.9 percent from the field in the first half, but one thing that made a large difference was turnovers.
Washington committed eight turnovers in the first half while Chicago had only one. As a result of the several turnovers, the Bulls scored 12 points. The Bulls also managed to out-rebound the Wizards 11-8 in the second quarter after being beat 14-9 in the first quarter.
The Bulls stayed closed to the Wizards for the first half of the third quarter, but it was downhill from there. Chicago only scored four points in the last six minutes of the period. In the period as a whole, the Bulls only put up 11 points to the Wizards’ 20 to put themselves in a 61-52 deficit heading into the final quarter.
Chicago scored seven points early on in the fourth to cut its deficit down to six points. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Taj Gibson badly rolled his ankle and was forced to sit out the rest of the game. At the 7:24 mark of the period, though, Hinrich hit a three that brought the Bulls within three points of a tie, 65-62, but it wasn’t of much help. The Bulls quickly allowed their deficit to be extended yet again, but it wasn’t over yet.
A pair of free throws from D.J. Augustin at the 2:17 mark of the quarter brought the score to 72-69. Neither team could score on a field goal for the remainder of the game, so it came down to free throws.
Hinrich had to pick up two quick fouls to send the Wizards to the charity stripe, but it also meant the veteran point guard fouled out. Hinrich’s sixth foul gave Andre Miller two free throws. Miller missed both, but the Bulls failed to obtain the rebound, thus giving the Wizards another possession. This forced Augustin to foul Bradley Beal, who made his first free throw, but missed the second. But again, Chicago failed to get the rebound, and it was over from there.
John Wall drew a foul and made both of his free throws, and Chicago attempted one last possession to score, but it failed, as Beal stole Joakim Noah’s pass.
Hinrich (6-11 FG, 4-5 3PT) and Butler (6-15 FG, 2-4 3PT, 2-2 FT) each added 16 points apiece to lead the Bulls. Gibson added 12 points and three blocks before the injury. Noah, who had some troubles with his knee throughout the game, managed to grab 18 rebounds and dish out seven assists.
Chicago’s shooting percentage continued to fall after halftime with a final percentage of 33.3 percent. The Bulls committed 10 turnovers in the second half after only committing one in the first half, and they ended up being out-rebounded 49-43 at the end of the night.