AL HAMNIK: Outmanned Bulls can't deny the inevitable

2014-04-29T18:00:00Z 2014-04-30T21:06:47Z AL HAMNIK: Outmanned Bulls can't deny the inevitableAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
April 29, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | There is extreme disappointment here, a strong feeling of betrayal, for the less-informed Bulls fans.

On the verge of elimination by the (insert long pause) Washington Wizards?

They won just 44 games in the regular season.

And if they move on in these playoffs, a very strong possibility, it'll be only the third time since the 1970s against a franchise with six titles, thank you Michael Jordan.

You thought the Bulls were better than this, didn't you? But they really aren't and coach Randy Wittman's Wiz Kids are proving it.

They're younger, more athletic, more explosive, have superior guard play, and with go-to players in John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, the brutish Marcin Gortat and head-butting Nene.

Wait. That's five. The Bulls have D.J. Augustin and Mike Dunleavy, but they're off and on like Chicago weather.

By now, we all know coach Tom Thibodeau has no bench depth, using a seven-player rotation that's running on fumes at the moment.

Defensively, the Bulls have become five guys with their hands in the air and a step slow.

They blew a late 13-point lead in Game 1, a late 10-point lead in Game 2, and fell behind 14-0 at the start of Game 4.

That's a plateful of worry for any team.

Even a win in Tuesday night's Game 5 would mean beating the Wizards in three straight to advance and no way will the Bulls do that.

These are not the Blackhawks.

So, what's going on here with these Wizards?

"Early in the season we would get rattled and guys would try to make plays on their own," Beal said before the tipoff. "Now we trust in our offense, we're making big shots, and getting rebounds.

"But the main thing is, guys are stepping up and we're making defensive stops down the stretch."

Contenders do that as easily as breathing.

"This is a learning process for us, man," Beal said. "We've come such a long way. Throughout the whole year, we've been growing and growing.

"We're playing for something bigger now."

The Bulls' pre-game mood was difficult to read, because players stayed in the training room to avoid the media.

Thibodeau wore his usual game face, delivering cliches about being resilient and finding a way, while showing no signs of desperation.

But all knew the inevitable: the end is near.

Draft day, free agency and hopefully Carmelo Anthony, can't get here soon enough.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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