"Yo, man. I was dope like nine years ago." "O'RLY?" Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE
For whatever it's worth, this isn't the first time that Richard Hamilton was a starter on a top-seed team down three game to one going into a Game Five against an eight-seed.
"I don't want to be in this situation. I hated it when I was in this situation in Detroit, down 3-1 to Orlando, but it is what it is. But it helps. That lets you know that there's still hope at the end of the tunnel, if you just believe and just play your game," he recalled after Monday's practice at the Berto Center. "It was win or go home. We felt as though we had to leave everything on the line. When we played Orlando, I remember Tracy McGrady made a comment, saying that ‘It feels good to be going to the second round,' so we kind of took that personal. So, right now, it's personal. It's not just about business. It's not just about showing up, playing the game of basketball. It's personal. This is it. You can win and continue playing or you can go home, so you've got to make it personal."
Cool story, bro.
Rip is using that experience from his much younger playing days on a more talented team as ammunition to help lift the spirits of his current teammates:
"The one thing I've told them already is just believe. We believe, we get one game and the series could change easily. Just as easy as they came out and won three games in a row, we can do the same thing, but it starts with us. If we believe, anything can happen," he continued. "Our job right now is to win the next game. Once we do that, then as playoffs go and being in there a long time, they'll go home and look at their home game as their Game 7."
There is something to be said of Rip not resorting to childish 'now we get the opportunity to test what we are made of with our backs up against the wall because we embrace the pressure' garbage. There's 'one game at a time' stuff, but his honesty about the fact that the Bulls status quo just sucks, and making it personal, conveys that he's calling on his teammates to find something that has yet to be channeled; if for any other reason, because everything that has been channeled isn't working.
And, hell, it's his job before stepping on the floor to have a high level of belief. How much of that belief is truth, we'll likely never know. But, one thing's for certain: the Bulls definitely will get bounced from the playoffs in Game Five on Tuesday if they remain in what K.C. Johnson called "funeral mode", now one game away from becoming only the fifth top seeded team to lose in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
And, as silly as lazy people point to things like emotion, effort, and motivation, the Bulls have enough size and skill that those platitudes can be manifested in aggressiveness to produce three straight wins. Think of it this way: would you have been surprised if the Bulls followed up their Game Two loss with three straight wins to close out the series, even without Joakim Noah at the end of Game Three and all of Games Four and Five?
Even if so, is that really any more surprising than the 76ers winning three straight under those circumstances?
I still say that these Bulls should win the three final games of this series and advanced to the second round. That, despite Philly's awesome defensive play, bad-only rotations by the Bulls defense, miscues on establishing rebounding position, lack of off-ball motion in their halfcourt possessions, not running on rebounds and steals for easy buckets, and bad perimeter ball handling will lose these games for the Bulls over the great things that the Sixers do in any of the remaining games of this series.
To put it simpler: the Bulls are still not overmatched without Noah and Derrick Rose in this series.
That said, the Bulls have nothing left for us to expect of them if they somehow did advance to the second round. And all of that energy, hustle, etc. are understandably more difficult to channel for the obvious reasons so well articulated by Michael Lee:
But the NBA postseason is about superstars, and there was a certain comfort in playing hard and competing with the knowledge that Rose would eventually come back. [...]
Once that security blanket was taken away and Rose was gone after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Bulls became vulnerable - no matter how much they had improved since losing to Miami last season in the conference finals. Beating Philadelphia became more of a challenge when Noah, the team's energetic and spiritual leader, rolled his left ankle in the first half of Game 3.
That vulnerability is clearly extended beyond on-paper advantages into the psyche of the players on the roster.
But, hey, even Hitler follows up his wrath and disappointment with a little hope:
Special thanks to @gstuff42 for the tip on the 'Hitler reacts to Derrick Rose Injury' video.