It was as if there was no season at all.
Just an 18-3 run, a bad missed free throw and 22,000 shocked fans all in three quick minutes.
Just. Three. Minutes.
It was almost surgeon-like, the way Miami ripped out Chicago’s collective heart. The procedure was neat, clean, efficient and precise. It was as if the Bulls had no idea that something so disastrous was being done to them.
But, just after the damage was done, you could feel it. There was something quite wrong. It was painful to watch it unfold before your eyes. In a mere three minutes, hope was turned to despair. Joy was turned to sorrow. And Chicago’s most prized gem, Derrick Rose, walked off the court in a vast melting pot of sadness and frustration.
Just one year earlier, Chicago fans were treated to a Stanley Cup by a young, talented group of Blackhawks. They proved that a band of youngsters could take down veteran stars. They showed Chicago that success was back.
Fast-forward 12 months from then. But this time, you’re dealing with a whole other animal: the NBA Playoffs. “Youth doesn’t win championships,” and “The Bulls are too inexperienced to succeed,” commonly rained down upon Chicago.
And in truth, those phrases were indeed correct.
But what makes this loss so stunning, so saddening, is the connection that Chicago had with this group of Bulls.
D-Rose grew up on the south side of the city, a humble hometown hero who lets his play to the talking.
Joakim Noah’s hard hat and lunch pail attitude are instilled deep in the blood of Chicagoans. Noah is a blue-collar player for a blue-collar town.
Luol Deng’s relentless effort and constant energy endear him to Bulls fans. They love the way he is shoved off as an afterthought and is constantly being underrated. Trust me, Chicago knows what its like to be an afterthought.
Chicago fans love head coach Tom Thibodeau’s obsession with basketball. We all respect a man who is dedicated to his profession.
All the way down to Brian Scalabrine’s passion and leadership, Chicagoans unconditionally loved the 2010-2011 version of the Chicago Bulls.
But for now, it is over.
How ironic that the three players the Bulls were chasing last offseason ended their season this year. There is no longer any doubting the ability of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They have learned to play together, and it's damn good basketball.
Yes, they did put a whole city into an emotional depression, eliminate the NBA’s sweethearts and destroy the hope of a city longing to return to the glory days of Michael Jordan. But most impressively, it was all in three damn minutes.
In three minutes, a season was lost. Three swift minutes.
Two LeBron James threes, one James jumper, a Wade four-point-play and two layups,and two Chris Bosh free throws stole the season from the Chicago Bulls before anyone knew what had happened.
Few times before has something this shocking occurred for Chicago fans.
It is somewhat comparable to Game 6 in the 2003 NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins. Leading the series 3-1 and the game 3-0 in the eighth inning, the Cubs were on the brink of a World Series appearance. But in one inning, the Marlins systematically scored eight runs to win the game and eventually the series.
It is these types of sudden heartbreak that hurt the most.
As luck would have it, one thing came to mind when watching Derrick Rose hoist up a contested three to tie the game. Stacey King, a former Chicago Bull and current television broadcaster for the team, has developed the catchphrase, “too big, too strong, too fast, too good,” for Derrick Rose.
And ironically, in the final three minutes of Chicago’s Game Five loss to Miami, the Heat were just “too big, too strong, too fast, too good” for the Chicago Bulls.
There was no player that could have saved them, no defensive set that could have helped, no offensive play to aid them. For just three minutes the Miami Heat were too good.
Many times, losses like these go in two different directions.
One, is that a player, team, or franchise is never the same. They just can’t recover from such as a devastating loss.
But, on the other hand, some teams use a traumatic loss such as this to fuel them towards a brighter future. They use it as a constant reminder to work hard and strive for success.
And based on the character of the players on the Chicago Bulls’ roster, the latter choice seems to fit the mold.
It is time to move on, focus on the positive, and be optimistic about the Bulls’ future. Sure, it’s discouraging, it absolutely is. But, three minutes will not kill this franchise.
Three minutes is a spark to light the fire to a hungry Bulls team.
A fire that will fuel them towards greater heights, towards success, and towards NBA Championships. It will push them to work harder day in and day out, because as hard as fans will take this loss, no one feels it more than Rose, Boozer, Noah, Deng and the rest of Chicago’s team. They will not let this happen to them again.
If you want to blame a lack of a second option, poor coaching, or inexperience for the final three minutes of Game 5, that is fine. Just realize that a loss such as this can turn into a catalyst for a team.
And for this group of Bulls, it will indeed push them towards greater heights. It will harness their focus into one goal of an NBA Title. Three minutes may turn a once discouraged loser into a determined champion.
Remember, those three minutes.
Just. Three. Minutes.
Josh Rosenblat is a high school student from Chicago looking to find a way to break into sports journalism. He often writes about the NBA (primarily the Chicago Bulls), as well as the MLB, college basketball, and the NFL. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @JMRosenblat. Feel free to send him comments.
Like Josh's writing? Check out his B/R profile page and his 2011 NBA Playoff articles such as this: Late-Game Misses Prove Heartbreak Before Titles for Rose & Durant