It was all there for the taking Thursday night for the Chicago Bulls at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia, yet they could not seal the win or a Game 7. A gross error in judgement by C.J. Watson in the closing seconds cost the team a game that it should have won.
Instead of forcing an excitement-filled win-or-go-home series finale Saturday in Chicago, the eighth-seeded 76ers ousted the top-seeded Bulls in a dramatic 79-78 win, clinching a 4-2 series win.
For the majority of the fourth quarter, the Bulls had the game in hand. They even had the ball with the lead and less than 10 seconds left in the game, yet a certain victory slipped through their grasp.
More accurately, Watson got careless, which ended up costing Chicago dearly.
With the Bulls nursing a 78-77 lead, Watson dribbled the ball in the front court. Everyone expected him to force a foul, but he just kept dribbling. Then, inexplicably, Watson made the worse decision of his career, passing the ball to Omer Asik, a very poor free-throw shooter (46 percent during the season) compared to himself (80 percent).
Asik missed the ensuing free throws. Philadelphia swing man Andre Iguodala then grabbed the rebound and took the ball aggressively to basket, drawing a shooting foul and refusing to be denied.
Iguodala hit both free throws and put the nail in the coffin where the Bulls' once-promising season now lays. The sudden turnaround that led to the Philadelphia win was simply stunning. It was as if when Watson threw that pass, the Bulls entered the twilight zone and never got out of it.
Oh, how quickly things change in the cold, cruel world of professional sports. A little over a week ago, the Bulls were title contenders with an extremely bright future.
Yet, after a serious injury to their franchise player along with a terrible decision by his replacement in the season's most critical moment, the Bulls' season is over much sooner than expected, while their future is suddenly filled with doubt.