Mountain finally too high to climb for resilient Bulls?

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Mountain finally too high to climb for resilient Bulls?

From bad to worse, to terrible.

Instead of a third-quarter collapse, it was a fourth-quarter failure.

Instead of Derrick Rose going down with a torn ACL, it was Joakim Noah with a severely sprained ankle.

And instead of a repeat trip to the Eastern Conference Finalsstill a possibility after Roses injury; vanquishing the 76ers appeared to be a foregone conclusionthe Bulls are now in danger of losing in the first round.

Its tough, acknowledged Kyle Korver. Thats just the way our years been.

Indeed, it seems like what began as such a promising season and still seemed like it could end up with a title run, despite Roses multiple injuries, might just not be in the cards. The Bulls have beaten the odds all year, but even their tremendous resiliency might be stretched too thin by the recent run of misfortune.

Next man up. Its the way it is. Weve got more than enough to win with. On the road, youve got to play 48 minutes and going into the last two minutes, the game was right there, right there to be had. Weve got to find a way to win. Find a way to win, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Weve got to be ready. Thats our job. Weve got to be ready to go. Cant feel sorry for ourselves. Weve got one day to make some corrections and then be ready for Sunday.

It sounds good, but looking at Thibodeau, his face didnt contain that same fighting spirit and while interpreting facial expressions shouldnt be left to journalists, simply observing him on the sidelines during Game 3 spoke volumes. Sure, hell be questioned for allowing Noah back into the game after his gruesome injurythough the center wouldnt have been able to play if he didnt insist on it and the teams medical staff didnt allow itbut more than anything, it appears that last seasons NBA Coach of the Year just doesnt have any more rabbits to pull out of his hat.

Everyones got to play to their strengths and theyre not here by accident. Every player has strengths, so weve got to play to their strengths and weve got to find a different way to score, and weve got to do it quickly. Theres going to be a quick turnaround here. We cant feel sorry for ourselves. Sunday, when that ball goes up, weve got to be ready to go, said Thibodeau, still refusing to bend to what everyone else can see is a stacked deck. Injuries are part of the game, so youve got to have a mental toughness to get past all that. Weve had injuries all year and you just deal with it, but if you look, you can find something every night, every game. Short-handed, regular season back-to-back, early start, late start, whatever it is, or you can find a way to win and thats what you need. You need guys that have great will to win and no matter what the circumstances are, will find a way to win.

Hey, at least if the captains going down with his ship, his crew is staying on board with him.

Weve got to get one here, right? queried Kyle Korver, ironically a former 76er. So if we didnt get tonight, weve got to get it on Sunday and go back home tied 2-2, home-court advantage, so thats our focus.

Thats the way it is with this Bulls team. Unfortunately, good intentions wont make up for the loss of arguably their two most important players, after back-to-back crushing defeats.

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Most NBA players have to let their adrenaline come down before the reality of what's coming next begins to hit them, but Robin Lopez had his moment of clarity at the oddest time during his altercation with Toronto's Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night.

When asked when he knew he would be serving at least a one-game suspension for his missed punch in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Raptors, Lopez said, "When I threw a punch."

The process from the NBA to Lopez was pretty straightforward, and Lopez called the one-game suspension "fair."

Ditching the caveman look for a clean shaven appearance at Friday morning's shootaround, Lopez seemed at ease with what happened and wasn't going to contest the one-game decision, especially since the NBA could've gone with two or three games as no precedent has been set for fighting this season.

"I mean, that's what the league gave. I'm going to stick with it," Lopez said, adding, "I didn't change my story."

The multiple camera angles would've made it impossible to believe a different recollection of the events had Lopez attempted to finagle himself out of the one-game suspension that stopped his 71-game starting streak with the Bulls this season.

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

His matter-of-fact statement after an emotionally charged incident didn't hurt the Bulls. They beat the Pistons by 20 as Lopez was serving a banishment that ended his streak of 187 consecutive games played. But he was happy Joffrey Lauvergne got a chance to prove his worth.

Lauvergne had 17 points and seven rebounds Wednesday night, and he'll be behind Lopez against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night as Cristiano Felicio is recovering from a hard fall late in the Raptors game.

"He's very versatile. He's a playmaker, he can score from a lot of different spots on the floor. He's a really smart basketball player," Lopez said of Lauvergne. "I always want to be out there with the guys. But they took care of business and did their thing. So I was pleased to see them pick up the win."

Picking up two in a row shouldn't be a monumental task against the 76ers, though they are 3-3 in their last six games and the Bulls haven't won two in a row in nearly a month as their grip on a playoff spot has loosened.

For the moment, the Bulls sit ninth in the East, a full game behind the surging Miami Heat, with a 34-38 record. Teams with nothing to lose can be playoff spoilers, and the Bulls have lost more than their share of games to lesser teams this season.

"Those teams do play loose," Lopez said. "They kind of just go out there to play basketball, and that can be a bit dangerous. But we've got something to play for, so we've got to be more motivated. The Sixers especially, they play really well, they have a lot of energy. So we've got to go out there, we've got to play motivated."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?