Tom Thibodeau said the Bulls have to play to their strengths, and I’m wondering, do they have any left?
After that miserable Game 2 of the Bulls’ playoff series with Philadelphia, Luol Deng repeatedly said “Derrick’s not here,’’ meaning this is not the Derrick Rose-led team that piled up the NBA’s best record and don’t expect it.
Game 2 of this playoff series turned ugly in the third quarter. Game 3 turned ugly at the same time and only got worse at the end. That’s the way it will be the rest of the way, however long the Bulls’ postseason lasts, and it does not appear it will be very long after the 76ers slapped the Bulls with a 79-74 loss to take a two-games-to-one lead in this series
It was ugly enough with Rose out. Then, with less than five minutes left in the third quarter, Carlos Boozer picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with his team-leading by 16 points.
Then Joakim Noah rolled his ankle and eventually left for the locker room. He tried to return, but forget it. You want to talk ugly. The Bulls’ most energetic player was hobbled badly.
Oh, and don’t forget that Deng has been playing with a torn ligament in his left wrist.
Somehow, the Bulls blew it out to an 11-point lead and eventually went up by 14. No lie.
For most of the game, the Bulls defended the 76ers into a halfcourt offense that they can’t execute if they’re left in the gym alone. That was the plan. Make the 76ers play ugly. Ugly was the way to go.
Unfortunately, the Bulls would out-ugly the 76ers. The Bulls committed 17 turnovers and shot just 37.3 percent. They missed 13 of 14 shots at one point down the stretch. C.J. Watson, Richard Hamilton and Deng -- the Bulls’ 1, 2 and 3 -- combined to shoot 6 for 26. Talk about ugly.
But wait, There’s more. The Bulls would try to win the game with a lineup of Boozer, Deng, Hamilton, Omer Asik and John Lucas III. Forget it.
The Bulls managed just two field goals in the last 9:34. They missed critical free throws. The 76ers ripped off a 23-5 run. Ballgame.
And if Noah’s injury is as bad as it looked, probably series and season, too.