Bulls' history bleak when trailing 3-1 in playoffs

Bulls' history bleak when trailing 3-1 in playoffs
April 27, 2014, 10:15 pm
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Mark Strotman

Trailing 3-1 in any best-of-seven playoff series is difficult as, by rule, a team must win three straight games after losing three of the first four games. And as a matter of fact, it's only happened eight times in NBA history (since 1968), most recently in 2006 when the second-seeded Suns won three straight over the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.

And of the eight times it's been done in NBA history, the Bulls have not been on either side of it.

[RELATED: Another slow start puts Bulls on brink of elimination]

They almost were on the losing side of history last year when the Brooklyn Nets won Games 5 and 6 in the first round before the Bulls went to New York and took Game 7, avoiding a ninth team from accomplishing the feat in the process.

Being down 3-1 in a series hasn't boded well for the Bulls, as they're 0-8 in such series, with only two series making it to a sixth game. Ironically, the Bulls have trailed 3-1 in a series in each of the last four playoffs. Here's a look at the eight instances where the Bulls have been on the brink of elimination following Game 4, and how those series have finished.

2013

Opponent: Miami Heat, East semifinals
Result: Loss in five games

What happened: The Bulls went into Miami and shocked the Heat with a Game 1 victory, made even more impressive after the Bulls needed seven games to get by the Nets while the Heat rested after sweeping the Bucks in Round 1. But without Luol Deng, the Bulls simply couldn't keep up offensively, averaging a paltry 82 points over the next four games. After a Game 4 loss in which they scored just 65 points to go down 3-1, the Bulls stayed competitive in Game 5 but ultimately fell to LeBron James and Co., 94-91.

2012

Opponent: Philadelphia 76ers, East quarterfinals
Result: Loss in six games

What happened: Though the Bulls were the East's No. 1 seed, nothing went right as Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the final minutes of a Game 1 win, Joakim Noah suffered a high ankle sprain and missed the last three games and the Bulls, emotionally beat over the loss of their MVP and defensive stalwart, lost in six games. They won their last game of the regular season, an ugly 77-69 win in Game 5, before bowing out in Game 6 after Omer Asik missed a pair of free throws in the closing seconds and Andre Iguodala hit the game-winner.

2011

Opponent: Miami Heat, East finals
Result: Loss in five games

What happened: Facing LeBron James in his first year with the Heat, the Bulls got off to a fantastic start with a 21-point win in Game 1. Miami responded with a pair of double-digit wins in Games 2 and 3 and then squeaked out an overtime win in Game 4, sending the series back to Chicago with the Bulls facing elimination. It seemed as though the Bulls were in good shape in that one, leading by 12 with less than four minutes to play. But James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Heat finished the game on a 19-4 run, with James blocking a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.

2010

Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers, East quarterfinals
Result: Loss in five games

What happened: Two double-digit wins in Cleveland gave the top-ranked Cavaliers some breathing room -- LeBron James scored 40 in Game 2 -- but the Bulls responded at home with a 108-106 victory, a game in which they led by as many as 21 points in the second half. But a monster triple-double from James in Game 4 (37/12/11) put the Bulls in a 3-1 bind, and Antwan Jamison's 25 points in Game 5 sent the Bulls home packing and the Cavaliers onto the next round. James' huge series overshadowed the splendid job Rose did in the five-game set, averaging 26.8 points and 7.2 assists in nearly 43 minutes per game.

2007

Opponent: Detroit Pistons, East semifinals
Result: Loss in six games

What happened: After winning their first playoff series since the 1998 Finals with an impressive sweep of the Heat, the Bulls were swarmed by the Pistons' league-best defense. In the first three games of the series (all losses), Chicago averaged 76 points after averaging nearly 100 against Miami. The offense came around in Games 4 and 5, as they scored 102 and 108 points, respectively, in back-to-back wins. But the Bulls couldn't keep that momentum going at home, ultimately falling to the experienced Pistons by 10 in Game 6.

1988

Opponent: Detroit Pistons, East semifinals
Result: Loss in five games

What happened: The Bulls were able to get by the Cavaliers in the first round thanks to Michael Jordan's 39-point effort in Game 5, but the Bad Boys in Detroit offered a slightly more difficult test for Chicago's offense. The Bulls picked up a win in Game 2 behind 36 from His Airness (and a 31-point explosion from Sam Vincent) but the Bulls managed just 77 and 79 points, respectively, at Chicago Stadium in Games 3 and 4. In Game 5, the Pistons made all 23 of their free throw attempts and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 102-95 win. They would go on to lose in the NBA Finals to the Lakers (in seven games) in what is considered by many as one of the best Finals series ever.

1970

Opponent: Atlanta Hawks, Western Division semifinals
Result: Loss in five games

What happened: The Hawks stormed out to a 3-0 lead behind the scoring of Lou Hudson (32.0 points) and Joe Caldwell (27.6 points), and though they were able to steal Game 4 behind Chet Walker's 39 points in a 131-120 win, Atlanta closed the series out at home with a 113-107 win.

1968

Opponent: Los Angeles Lakers, Western Division semifinals
Result: Loss in five games

What happened: Jerry West and Elgin Baylor combined for 65 points in Game 1 and then followed it up with 61 more in Game 2 to take both games in L.A. Forty-one points from Cliff Robinson in Game 3 gave the Bulls, which had gone just 29-53 that year compared to the 52-30 Lakers, some hope in the series. The Lakers had to hold on to win Game 4 but left no doubt in the clincher, crushing the Bulls 122-99 to take the series. They would go on to sweep the San Francisco Warriors before losing to Bill Russell, Jon Havlicek and the Celtics in six games in the NBA Finals. For the Bulls, it marked Johnny Red Kerr's final season at the helm in Chicago.