Derrick Rose made an unexpected appearance at the United Center prior to Game 2 of the Bulls/Sixers series.
Refusing to use crutches and determined to walk under his own power, Rose made his way to half-court and presented the game ball just prior to tip-off. He received a rousing ovation accompanied by MVP chants, and his presence alone gave everyone an emotional high that lasted for all of two quarters.
The Bulls played inspired basketball in quarters one and two and the popular thought that Chicago can still beat Philadelphia without their superstar seemed to ring true. Chicago's heart, energy and hustle were all on display as they battled the Sixers through 12 lead changes and 8 ties in the first half and went into halftime with an 8-point lead.
But the second half – specifically the third quarter – would prove to be a totally different story for Chicago.
The Sixers came out of intermission on fire and outscored the Bulls 36-14, effectively putting the game out of reach. And just like Saturday afternoon when Rose went down, Chicago's locker room once again felt like a funeral. But this was a loss of a different kind.
“We had good energy, especially in the second quarter,” said Bulls reserve Kyle Korver.
“The way we are now [without Derrick Rose], we have to play a 48-minute game. We just have to. We can't play a 40-minute game. We didn't get it done in the second half tonight. Some of that was energy, some of that was execution, a lot of that was them playing really well. It's a combination of things.”
“It was a disappointing effort overall," said Joakim Noah, who clearly was the best Bulls player on the floor scoring 21 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, all for naught. "We didn't play well defensively. We didn't play well offensively. We got our [butts] kicked."
But it was a defiant John Lucas III who delivered the strongest message and proved once again why his height belies his heart.
“It's win or go home. It's gut-check time,” said Lucas.
“We're going to go out there and play," he said. "We're going to get ready and we're going to come out there with a lot of energy like we do all the time. Everybody's saying this and that, but all we've got is ourselves. We're a unit, we're a family, and what we want to happen, will happen. We've just got to stay together.”