The Bulls 2014-15 season is over at the hands of a LeBron James team for the fourth time in six years. The Cavaliers closed out the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Game 6 in Chicago by a dominating score of 94-73.
After scoring 31 in the first quarter of Game 6, the Bulls only scored 29 in the following two quarters, combined, including a 12-minutes stretch where they only scored eight; and that worked out about as well as one could expect.
There is a long list of failure for a Bulls team that scored only 73 points on 37.5% shooting. Joakim Noah was the only Bull who scored more than a point per shot, scoring four points on 1-for-2 shooting. Only seven turnovers by Chicago for the game, so in this missed shot competition, getting out-rebounded 53-32 left Chicago's push for a stay of execution hopeless.
LeBron only scored 15 points on 23 shots, but it didn't matter. Tristan Thompson dominated the glass for 17 rebounds, and Matthew Dellavedova scored 19 off the bench on 7-for-11 shooting to more than make up for Kyrie Irving leaving the game early with a knee injury.
The Bulls convincingly won Game 1 in Cleveland to take homecourt advantage and reinstilled more hope in fans by winning Game 3 with a Rose buzzer beater. But it was all downhill from there.
The Bulls lost the final three games of this series in about as many ways as one could imagine. They lost a low-scoring Game 4 where they bricked tons of layups, an unwinnable Game 5 when the best in the game was the best in the game, and a total across-the-board stinker in Game 6. Give them some credit for switching it up, at least.
Whatever window shut after Derrick Rose wrecked his ACL in 2012 as the Heat were getting stronger than ever was re-opened when LeBron cracked it open by leaving the Heat to go back to Cleveland in the 2014 offseason. The window raised higher when it was declared that Kevin Love would miss the entire series. Even higher when J.R. Smith was suspended for the first two games of the series. And the sky was the limit when news of Irving playing hurt came down from David Blatt.
Unlike the end of the 2011 five-game loss to the Heat in the Conference Finals, this elimination--despite Rose being healthy--does not carry with it the optimism that things are looking upward.
It is impossible to experience the end of this season without seeing it as likely the last game which Tom Thibodeau will ever coach for the Bulls. With the extension of Jimmy Butler creating the highest-paid backcourt in the league, Noah on the downswing, and no reasonably hope-inspiring head coaching replacements, one has to see things getting worse before they get better.
For now, Bulls fans will watch LeBron in his sixth Conference Finals in seven years; maybe his fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. And the Bulls will, again, be scouting to find another diamond in the rough of another draft; and, probably, a new unproven coach.