BY HERB GOULD
A sudden-death buzzer beater by LeBron James is a wrenching way to lose.
But even though the Bulls had blown an 11-point lead in a stunning 86-84 loss to Cleveland on Sunday, there was no sign of devastation from Derrick Rose.
‘‘Do you want to come and talk to the people with me?’’ Rose said playfully to his 2-year-old son as he dressed in the Bulls’ locker room.
A few minutes later, with Derrick Jr. sitting in his lap wearing a miniature Jon Lester Cubs jersey, Rose kept the same even keel.
‘‘Get this game out of your head,’’ Rose said. ‘‘This game’s already over. Just enjoy your day with your mom, and look forward to battling and competing the next time we play.’’
The Bulls didn’t just lose a game on Mother’s Day. They lost an opportunity.
They had a chance to put a hoof to Cleveland’s throat and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. That’s the kind of lead that teams crave.
Instead, it’s 2-2. Now it’s ‘Game On.’ A best-of-three in which the Cavs have the home-court advantage.
‘‘We lost the game for sure, but I love our mentality,’’ Rose said. ‘‘The way the guys were talking in the locker room, we know we had an opportunity to put them away, and we didn’t. [But] we have a lot of veteran guys, guys that know that whenever we’re in that situation again, we just have to work on it and prepare ourselves for it.’’
No matter how bleak the feeling after losing this last-second heartbreaker, the Bulls only have to look back to Friday night for evidence that life changes quickly in the playoffs.
In that game, Rose was the hero who threw in a three-point bankshot at the buzzer.
That’s the way these games are decided. First, one NBA MVP throws in a dramatic game-winner. The next game, another NBA MVP returns the favor.
So it didn’t happen for the Bulls this time. Although Rose scored 31 points, one more than he had Friday, he managed only seven in the fourth quarter on 2-for-7 shooting.
Jimmy Butler also cooled off, going 2-for-6 for six points in the fourth quarter.
After scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter Friday, the Bulls managed only 16 fourth-quarter points Sunday. With Pau Gasol sidelined by a hamstring injury and no one else picking up the slack, it’s not difficult to see how the Bulls failed to hold the 68-57 lead they had built with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
‘‘It’s frustrating,’’ forward Taj Gibson said, ‘‘but they’re a good team. It’s like two heavyweights slugging it out. They hit, we hit right back. That’s how the series has been going. We just have to be smarter with the lead. Going into the fourth, we had a good-margin lead. We just blew it.’’
The Bulls are disappointed. But they also are determined. And there’s no Le-Bron whammy about it, even after James had crushed them again.
‘‘I’m not concerned at all,’’ Rose said. ‘‘We’re hurting now, knowing that we had chances. This game is over with. We just have to chalk this one up and make sure we’re prepared next time.’’