Bulls: Picking Up the Pieces After a Devastating Game 4 Loss

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May 10, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Cavaliers Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game winning basket in the second half of game four of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. The Cavaliers won 86-84. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

It had to be that guy again, didn’t it?

For the past three months each of these team had driving narratives. For one team, it was if the best player could lead the most talented team in East to the Finals. For the other, the question wasn’t whether they had the ability to conquer the East, but if they had enough players in uniform to overcome the ubiquitous talent on the other side with determination and effort. Everyone knew these two teams would clash, and almost all sided with the former.

The two teams did meet up. But during this series, the storylines are reversed.

The best player in the series has been Derrick Rose and the Bulls are the team oozing with talent. The Cavaliers—specifically LeBron James—are the ones using determination to stay in games. Other than LeBron, the Bulls have an advantage at every single part of the game. Talent in the rest of the starting lineup? Bulls. Bench? Bulls. Coach? Bulls. Experience? Bulls.

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After all the dust has now settled, it is becoming increasing clear that Chicago blew Game 4 at the end. It is basically not possible to score 16 points in the fourth quarter of an NBA playoff game and win. The Cavs weren’t stopping the Bulls defensively. The Bulls just had one guy hold onto the ball as the shot clock wound down. They were running a clinic on how to reduce the number of possessions in a quarter instead of an offense. The Bulls scored five points over the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter.

They banked on simply trying to slow down James on defense so the Cavs would run out of time before they made a comeback. Plan failed. With less than a minute remaining the Bulls were down by five. Once down, the Bulls tried switching the offense back on and tied the game. After scoring five points in the first eight minutes, the Bulls tallied 11 points in the final four minutes. But still, it wasn’t enough. They had already let the Cavaliers back in the game and Cleveland took advantage.

It’s easy to blame the extra timeout, but “LeBron stands in the corner while everyone else stands 25 feet from the ball” isn’t exactly a play that needed to be drawn up on a whiteboard. The Bulls couldn’t put away Cleveland without a healthy Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, and they only have themselves to blame.

Two games without Smith, no Love, a one-legged Irving, and it is all left to LeBron James. And now, the series stands at 2-2. Part of the reason James came to Cleveland was the additional rest provided from having young, offensively potent teammates. Whoops. Every player the Cavs had in mind to do that has either been traded away, injured, or ineffective. And now LeBron is working harder, and relying on teammates less than ever.