In the third quarter of Thursday night's Bulls game, I was confident they would win. They were up by 12 points, making shots and putting up good defense. But then, it all fell apart, just as it had in the games before.
I, like all Bulls fans, had to wonder why again? Why did this team, who had dazzled us all year, fall apart when it mattered most? Why did MVP Derrick Rose not deliver like he had all season?
It was all because this team is young and inexperienced.
Though their youth makes them energetic and exciting to watch, it also means that they had no idea what a long playoff run felt like.
The Pacers and Hawks lost to the Bulls, but not without taking their toll on the team. Luol Deng played every game in the the regular season and in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Rose played a total of 96 games this season, averaging 37 minutes per game. Just four years ago, he was playing a high school season that ended in March, and he has not ever played in a season this long and grinding.
It's also exhausting to carry a team as much as Rose had to. Only three Bulls averaged double-digits in points in the post-season, and Rose was the only one to score more than 20 points per game. He also led the team with an average of 7.7 assists per game. Deng was the second-best, with just under three dishes per game. Rose had to do it all, and that's exhausting for an MVP.
It's no surprise that fourth quarters were disasters for the Bulls in the Miami series. Tired people tend to make mistakes on inbounds passes, turnovers and fouls.
It took Michael Jordan's Bulls two shots at the Pistons before they made it through to start winning championships. It's not because Jordan wasn't a good leader, but it's because the playoffs are a mind game, one that young stars are ill-equipped to handle.
LeBron James' braggadocio was employed perfectly to get inside the Bulls heads
Between exhaustion, inexperience and mind games, it's no surprise that the Bulls couldn't take it to the next level, but don't expect that to happen again next year.
Last season, Derrick Rose wondered, "Why can't I be MVP of the league?" then worked his tail off to become the MVP of the league. Now he knows what it's like to be close to championship.
Everything we've learned about Rose -- the humility, work ethic and love of basketball -- tells us that this is the man who will take the team back to rallies in Grant Park. Problems that popped up during the Eastern Conference Finals aren't likely to show up again.
*Maggie Hendricks is a Chicago-based sports writer who spends most of her time writing witty, informative posts for NBCChicago's Bears blog Grizzly Detail. She's taken her talents to basketball while the Bears hibernate.