Can battered Bulls muster up energy to extend series?

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Can battered Bulls muster up energy to extend series?

PHILADELPHIA Weve got to find a way. Thats it. At the end, its got to be hustle plays, tough plays, hard-nosed plays, second shot, multiple effort. Thats what it comes down to. Youve got to make them, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, following his teams 89-82 Game 4 loss to the 76ers Sunday afternoon. Were fighting, but we can do better. We can do a lot better.

But can they? From an execution standpoint, sure, the Bulls could certainly improve, but when measuring their effort in Game 4, one can help but think the scrappy squad just doesnt have anything left.

Yes, it didnt help that there was a 31-14 free-throw discrepancy in Philadelphias favor, something that affected the games stretch run and Thibodeau addressed afterwards.

You have to ask yourself, Are you getting the shots that you would like? Quite frankly, I thought we had some good, hard drives where we didnt get calls, so sometimes thats the way it goes and when that happens, youve just got to go harder, I guess, he said. Thats for you to say, not me. Thats part of the game. I thought our guys drove the ball hardthe referees dont talk to me.

But overall, the Sixers just had fresher legs, made more athletic plays and despite a big game from Carlos Boozer, an inspired performance by Taj Gibson and C.J. Watsons bounce-back outing, the short-handed Bulls, playing without their heart and soul in Joakim Noah, again came up short in the fourth quarter.

Things have changed a little bit, the way were playing a little bit, but its still the same team. Were still playing hard, but give credit to the Sixers. Theyve done a good job, especially in the fourth quarter. They took one away from us at our place, said Luol Deng, who gave Chicago a scare when he went down hard in the first half and clearly in pain, clutched at his already-injured left wrist. Theyve done a good job of protecting their home court, so right now, when we get back home, weve got to get that game and when we come back here, weve got to get the one they took from us. Thats got to be the mindset.

When youre down 3-1, its a lot different, he continued. Its one game, but at the same time, we still believe. We still believe that weve just got to get that one game and get it going, get that momentum.

On paper, thats still very possible, but with the emotional and physical toll the Bulls have been put through in the postseason alone, how likely that happens is another story, one to be answered Tuesday.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from a busy Sunday: 

Tonight on CSN: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Today on CSN: White Sox battle Dodgers in spring training game

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson's foot could keep him out until late May

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Owners to consider on and off field changes this week during NFL meetings

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups.