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Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Updated: May 25, 11:48 AM ET
Bulls not ready to turn up Heat

By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com

MIAMI -- Cue the violins, lower the curtains, tip your waitress.

Can the ushers take their places at the door? The show is over, everyone. Thanks for coming out.

"It's not over," Derrick Rose said after the Chicago Bulls' soul-crushing 101-93 loss Tuesday night to the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

OK, Derrick, let us agree to disagree.

Joakim Noah
After a forgettable Game 3, Joakim Noah bounced back with 14 rebounds, six points and six assists in Game 4.

I don't want to pilfer the idiom "It's all over but the shouting," but I think that's pretty apt, considering Tom Thibodeau's vocal cords still have some juice left.

Meanwhile, after the Bulls' first three-game losing streak of the season, I imagine the team plane was probably so quiet, you could hear Carlos Boozer wink.

The Heat are one win from becoming officially annoying to 97 percent of the country (not to mention our allies in Micronesia and the Virgin Islands), and if there's something the Bulls can do to reverse this season-worst slide, they probably would have done it already.

Three straight bad fourth quarters and one lousy overtime are a clear sign this Bulls team, despite overachieving during the season, is a year and a scoring 2 guard away from being playoff elite, and the Bulls still better hope the Heat somehow get worse next season. If, and when, there is a next season, I mean.

It was an uplifting and unforgettable regular season, one that rejuvenated interest in professional basketball in Chicago and elevated Rose to MVP status, but a good regular season, and a still-blooming Rose, does not a title team make. The Heat proved that point, shot by shot, dramatic post-shot grimace by dramatic post-shot grimace.

My dreams of seeing Dallas in June are all but exhausted. Looks like I'm going to have to brush up on the Cubs and the White Sox. Has Ozzie Guillen said anything lately that I should know about? Has anyone seen the BP Cup? Can someone tell me where the Chicago Sky play?

Fresh off a life lesson about the power of one fleeting angry moment caught on tape, Joakim Noah was asked whether this team can learn anything from this game.

"What can we learn?" Noah said. "Sometimes, effort isn't enough. You've got to do more than that."

Effort is where the Bulls were thought to have an edge in this matchup because of their deep and energetic front line, but when it came down to the cruel reality that you have to hit shots to win, well, the Heat was on, so to speak.

There is no question Miami has been the better team in this series, brushing off a blowout loss in Game 1 like it was a televised middle finger to an entire city.

It feels like a funeral for the Bulls, but this series should be taken in context. Context and maybe some Pepto-Bismol, but definitely the former.

As the thought process goes, sometimes a team has to go through these growing pains in the playoffs. It's practically mandatory to mention the "Bad Boy" Pistons here, right?

But history won't make these Bulls feel any better. In all three losses, they fell apart late and couldn't recover.

"You have to find a way to finish the quarter out, finish the game off in the fourth quarter when we have the lead," Rose said.

Rose You have to find a way to finish the quarter out, finish the game off in the fourth quarter when we have the lead.

-- Derrick Rose

Thibodeau's Basketball Mensa application likely took a hit with fans in this one. The last shot of regulation came after an inbounds pass with 8 seconds on the clock. Rose got that isolation play he's been dreaming of, only it was against LeBron James one-on-one. Rose had his crossover going, he got separation, but his 17-foot jumper was way short. An air ball, in fact.

James, being 6-foot-8 and freakishly athletic, and Rose being (maybe) 6-foot-3 with a mediocre jumper, made it an unpalatable situation. Craig Ehlo, if you can recall, was an easier mark.

But Rose still had a chance, and if he'd hit it, we'd be celebrating his greatness with a parade and the key to Harpo Studios. However, it was one of many times Tuesday when the Bulls came up short.

"It's crazy," Noah said. "It really comes down to a couple plays, a couple tough shots, and give credit where credit is due. They played well."

Rose didn't have the legs for that shot, perhaps, after having played the entire second half. Then again, it's not like Rose's jumper is money in the bank when he has fresh legs. Still, you want the ball in your best player's hands, or at least for him to have the decision on how to make the best play. Even against a defender like James.

"We wanted to get the last shot of the game, give him space to get to the spot, and he missed," Thibodeau said. "But listen, Derrick Rose, I wouldn't want to have any other guy. I'm with that guy all the way."

Rose, as usual, took the blame for the loss. He scored 23 points on 8-for-27 shooting, missed eight of nine 3-point attempts and had seven turnovers to six assists. While he was aggressive, dunking and driving, he wasn't very good when the team needed him to be great.

"Tonight, definitely it was on me," Rose said. "I had two opportunities to end the game. Couldn't do it. Really, it was my fault, but I'm going to learn from it."

Rose earlier missed the first of two free throws with 1:10 left. The second one spun like the first, but it stayed in the net to tie the game.

The Bulls got a chance to squander a final chance thanks to a generous charge call against James from Bennett Salvatore. Ronnie Brewer sold the call despite not being set, and it was one of the few whistles Chicago seemed to get.

But the way the Bulls played in the fourth quarter and then later in overtime, you can't say the Bulls deserved to win this game, or for that matter, this series. I'm not saying the Bulls aren't closers, but Thibodeau should ban coffee from the Berto Center.

One play that showed the Bulls' complete lack of mental acuity came when Miami led 93-89 with a minute and a half left in overtime, as the Bulls completely botched an inbounds play. Deng thought Noah was going baseline, and the ball sailed comically high of out bounds.

James then missed a 20-footer, but Rose lost the ball on the dribble and Wade converted for a layup with a minute left. The Bulls got it to 95-91 on the next possession, but James answered with a clutch jumper.

Like Noah said, it's crazy how one play can turn a season on its ear.

"The play was for me to catch it at the elbow," he said of the inbounds pass. " Dwyane Wade denied me. In that situation, I faked like I was going to go to the baseline and then go back to the elbow and Lu thought ... the count was already pretty far for Lu. Tough play, but we can't turn the ball over there in that situation. That was a real tough play."

Now the Bulls will have to watch LeBron & Co. celebrate an Eastern Conference title, whether it's in Chicago or this weekend back here in Miami.

I hope they watch the Heat preen with deserved arrogance, and I hope the Bulls seethe all summer. Because despite their obvious shortcomings, the Bulls had their chances to win each of the past three games, but like Rose's final shot, they just came up short.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.