PHILADELPHIA – More than enough to win. Until Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center, when the Chicago Bulls came up short, both in Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 79-78, and in a season that was supposed to end so differently. And so much later.
That Tom Thibodeau mantra — “We have more than enough to win” — played as background music to this 2011-12 NBA season, a slog beset by assorted injuries for his team for the first 66 games, then completely derailed by even more severe ones.
It didn’t matter to Thibs who it was — Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, eventually Rose and Joakim Noah in the postseason. Every time anyone asked about the manpower problem, Thibodeau skipped the excuses and focused only on those available. And the message got delivered both to those wondering and to those inside his locker room. Expectations would not be tamped down just because Fred Tedeschi‘s training room was double- and triple-parked.
Problem was, Chicago didn’t have enough to win Thursday.
It didn’t have the quickness in the backcourt to cope with Sixers guards Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams. It didn’t have the depth anymore that had been its security blanket through the four grinding months of the regular season. Consider: Thibodeau used the same five guys from late in the third quarter until the bitter end (save for a 13-second cameo by Ronnie Brewer). It didn’t have more than enough offensive options, for sure, or it would have built a cushion that might have held up and forced a Game 7 back at United Center Saturday.
The Bulls didn’t have enough free throws, obviously, not when Omer Asik clanged two with 7.0 seconds left and his team hanging to a 78-77 lead. The Bulls didn’t have enough timeouts, either, because they were left barren after Andre Iguodala‘s two free throws boosted Philadelphia in front by a point with 2.2 seconds on the clock. Chicago guard C.J. Watson had to fling up a 39-footer out of desperation, and the desperation turned at the buzzer into despair, because disappointment couldn’t possibly capture the emotions of Chicago’s spoiled postseason.
For the Sixers, there was pandemonium in their arena and history on their side. They became only the fifth No. 8 seed to topple a No. 1 since the current 16-team playoff format was begun in 1984. Now they face the winners of the Boston-Atlanta series, moving into the Eastern Conference semifinals with nothing to lose. And suddenly, a more experienced, resourceful young group than the one that barely qualified two weeks ago.