It's no longer a matter of “if,” but “when” the Philadelphia 76ers put the Chicago Bulls out of their misery in the first round of their best-of-seven series.
The Bulls lost Game 4 with a final score of 89-82 Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center. They now sit just one game away from elimination as Game 5 looms Tuesday night at the United Center.
The story of the Bulls' postseason was one of injuries, and the theme seems to be, “if it ain't one thing, it's another.”
We lost Derrick Rose in Game 1 with a torn ACL and Joakim Noah in the third quarter of Game 3 with a severely sprained ankle that left him sidelined in a walking boot. Luol Deng also apparently re-aggravated his already injured wrist in Game 4 after bracing himself from a fall early in the first quarter.
All told the Chicago Bulls are on the verge of becoming the fifth No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8 seed in the NBA Playoffs.
Of course, it's reasonable to assume that a healthy Bulls squad would have had no problem overcoming the Sixers and moving on to the next round, but that's not the hand Chicago was dealt. This team was built around Derrick Rose, and the regular season success they had without him – the success that earned them great praise – was just fool's gold.
Chicago is now 0-3 without D. Rose in the lineup for the only part of the season that matters, and it's obvious this team was only going as far as he took them, which in this case amounts to a single playoff victory in the first round.
Worse still, the entire basketball world anticipated a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals between Chicago and Miami. That series was supposed to settle the debate once and for all who was the better team. Now, we'll never get to see it.
If Miami doesn't win an NBA Championship this year, the Heat as we know them will look much different by the time D. Rose returns to the court next year. The same holds true for the Bulls as the team's roster changes this summer and once Derrick is back to his old self.
Injuries didn't just rob the Bulls this season. They robbed us all as basketball fans.