CHICAGO -- Maybe it was the extra day off. Maybe it was the air in the building. Maybe it was nerves. Or youth. Or all those rose petals spread throughout the United Center for Derrick Rose.
Those are just guesses, of course, random speculation as to how a series that was once considered a gem of this NBA postseason could suddenly be exposed as a fraud. But it's better than anything anyone in the Chicago locker room could come up with after the Bulls' disastrous 107-86 Game 3 loss to Boston on Thursday night.
"Not the home game we would have liked," said first-year coach Vinny Del Negro, a slam dunk winner for the Captain Obvious Award.
"Whatever the reason is, I don't know," Ben Gordon added. "We just didn't play well."
But this was more than not playing well. This was more than a lack of rebounding or execution. It was a colossal breakdown in every single facet of the game. The Celtics didn't just beat Chicago on Thursday night; they annihilated the Bulls from the opening tip until the final horn.
Forget the talk that it is only one game. Forget the argument that, at the end of the day, Game 3 counts the same as Games 1 and 2 did in Boston and a virtual must-win Game 4 will here Sunday afternoon. Championship teams don't fall behind by 34 at home in the postseason.
Whether these two steams wanted to admit it afterward or not, this was a statement game. This was the defending NBA champion letting the basketball world know all that talk about a Chicago upset can stop. All the anointing of Derrick Rose as the second coming and Ben Gordon as the unstoppable assassin, put that to rest as well. The Bulls' response? A simply nodding of the head.
And to think, some 72 hours earlier, everyone thought this was going to be a series. Everyone spoke of the Bulls being young and athletic. Rose couldn't be stopped. Gordon couldn't miss. Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah had grown up before our very eyes, blocking shots on what seemed like every other Celtics possession. The Bulls were the future. The Celtics were the past.
Now all that looks premature, perhaps foolish. Now we remember that if Pierce makes a free throw in Game 1, this series is 3-0 Boston. Now we remember if Derrick Rose doesn't go off for 36 in Game 1, this series is 3-0 Boston.
As it is, the Celtics lead this series 2-1. But after Thursday night, it feels like this is over. Things were that ugly. The Bulls turned the ball over 22 times and shot 37.5 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free-throw line. There were passes that never touched a hand, shots that never touched the rim. There were fast break layups given up after a free throw.
"We didn't do anything right offensively. We didn't do anything right defensively," Gordon said afterward. "We didn't rebound, we didn't share the basketball. We simply didn't do anything right."
Chicago trailed by seven after six minutes and never got any closer, trailing by 11 after one, 22 after two and 25 after three. And the Celtics refused to lay off the gas, pushing the lead to 34 midway through the fourth quarter before the end of the Bulls' bench helped close the final margin to three touchdowns.
Tyrus Thomas managed to get a personal foul and a technical foul on the same play. And the T came after he pushed his boyhood buddy Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Even the typically stoic Rose lost his cool, at one point slapping his hands together and yelling in frustration after breaking down the Celtics' defense and delivering a no-look pass to Noah that the center fumbled out of bounds.
Seemingly every time you looked up, there was another Chicago turnover on one end and another Boston layup or 3-pointer on the other.
You know it's not a good night when, midway through the third quarter, you turn to Tim Thomas to find some sort of production. You know it's not good when Aaron Gray, Lindsey Hunter and Linton Johnson are in the game with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. And you know it's even worse when 12th man Anthony Roberson outscores two of your starters and is one point away from equaling the output of your rookie-of-the-year point guard.
Perhaps the fan in the front row behind the media tables said it best when he pointed out that an injured Kevin Garnett helped his team more than all three of the Bulls' post players helped Chicago.
"You know," the fan said. "With those menacing glares."
How bad did it get? A team that seemingly everyone in the city believed in 24 hours earlier was booed in the second quarter, at halftime, in the third quarter and again after the game.
The Bulls, of course, insist this is not over. They say they have two days to regroup, figure out what went wrong and fix it. Prior to Thursday night's game, Del Negro explained that the thing that makes postseason basketball different from the regular season is familiarity. Once a team figures out an opponent, it has to make adjustments.
Boston made its adjustments prior to Game 3. Now it's Chicago's turn. And for Bulls fans, at least one thing is certain: Sunday can't be any worse. Right?
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Wayne on Twitter at ESPNWayneDrehs.