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Bulls Get Bounced From Playoffs

By Benjy Lipsman in News on May 15, 2015 3:05PM

The Bulls' season ended with an emphatic thud last night, after getting demolished by the Cleveland Cavaliers 94-73 at the United Center in game six of their playoff series.

The cold-shooting Bulls didn't benefit from getting Pau Gasol back after missing two games due to an injured hamstring, nor were they able to take advantage of Kyrie Irving's early exit brought on by a knee injury. Despite a hot start in the game's early minutes, the Bulls fell behind by two at the end of the first quarter and thanks to a 13 point second quarter found themselves in a 14 point hole at the half. The offense continued to languish in the second half, with the Bulls scoring just 29 points after intermission— less than they scored in the first quarter alone. Cleveland built a lead as large as 27 before settling for a 21-point shellacking of the Bulls.

Jimmy Butler lead the Bulls with 20 points, while also holding LeBron James in Check— James scored 15 on 7 of 23 shooting. Derrick Rose made 7 of 16 shots for 14 points as the only other Bulls to reach double digit scoring. In his return after missing the past two games, Pau Gasol scored 8 points while grabbing 5 rebounds in 24 minutes. As a team, the Bulls shot just 37% from the field and made just 4 of 20 three pointers. Cleveland hit 12 of 27 treys, actually hitting a higher percentage from downtown than they did from two point range. The Bulls, who usually out-rebound opponents, were out rebounded by a 53 to 32 margin, including a 16 to 9 margin on offensive rebounds. Noah paced the Bulls with 11, but nobody else grabbed more than 5 boards.

And so the Bulls season ended at the hands of LeBron James for the fourth time in six seasons. Even without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving hobbled by a variety of injuries, the Bulls could not take advantage and reach the Eastern Conference finals. Said a stunned Mike Dunleavy of the series, "If you had told me going into the series that these guys would have no Kevin Love, LeBron (James) would have five games below 50 percent shooting and Kyrie Irving would be playing on one leg … man, I sure would have liked our chances."

And yet the Bulls dropped three straight games after taking a 2-1 series lead, ending their title hopes for this season.

As the Bulls look to next year, the speculation on coach Tom Thibodeau's fate will reach a fever pitch. Long rumored to be on the outs with the front office, all eyes will be on John Paxson and Gar Forman to see what they have to say regarding Thibs' future with the team. Players voiced support for their coach following the game, but the team's troubles against Cleveland, and even against Milwaukee, don't strengthen Thibodeau's case for remaining in Chicago if management is looking to move in a new direction. Rumors have persisted for more than a year that they didn't see eye to eye on things like excessive playing time and rigors of practice, which may have contributed to the rash of injuries the Bulls have suffered. And while his regular season win-loss record is among the best ever, the Bulls lack of success in the postseason may seal his fate— never mind that he was without Derrick Rose for three of those playoff runs.

And just like when the Bulls pushed Phil Jackson out at the end of the Jordan era, the coach waiting in the wings may hail from Iowa State. The talk is that current Cyclones head coach and former Bulls player Fred Hoiberg may be on Bulls bench next season.