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Bulls on the brink of elimination after fourth-quarter meltdown

BOSTON — Dwyane Wade delivered the bad news.

As if Jimmy Butler needed any more at that point Wednesday night.

“Jimmy, there’s no cold water in there,’’ Wade said to Butler, who, surrounded by reporters, was discussing a fourth-quarter meltdown that has the Bulls on the brink of elimination.

“Word?’’ Butler said, thinking Wade was kidding, hoping he was kidding.

“It’s freezing in there,’’ Wade said.

Butler sighed.

He would leave TD Garden without a win — the Celtics prevailed 108-97 — or even a warm shower.

“Win at all costs,’’ Butler said about Game 6 on Friday. “That should be motivation enough, to know that if we don’t win this next game, we ain’t playing no more this season.’’

If the Bulls have another fourth quarter like they did in Game 5, they’ll be done.

After taking a two-point lead into the fourth on a three-pointer by Butler at the horn, the Bulls seemed to be back on track.

But with just under 10 minutes left, Butler watched his team self-destruct, turning the ball over, missing shots, not executing picks. Along the way, Wade and Robin Lopez picked up technical fouls as poise went out the window, and Boston went on a 20-4 run.

The load Butler has been carrying most of the season appeared to catch up with him in the fourth quarter.

He went 0-for-2 from the field and was nursing a sore knee that is in serious need of rest.

“I’ll be all right,’’ Butler said, doing his best to downplay his condition. “We’re all nicked up this time of year.’’

Maybe so, but not everyone is averaging 41.6 minutes.

“We run a lot through Jimmy,’’ Wade said. “It’s not about the shot selection. We put the ball in his hands. At the same time, they’re keying in on him. He made the right plays. He did what he was supposed to do.’’

So how did it all fall apart so quickly?

“We had some empty possessions,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Call it life without Rajon Rondo.

Before Rondo went down with a fractured right thumb, the Bulls were up 2-0 in the series, and Boston was gasping for air. Without Rondo, it has been three losses in a row and few answers.

Even on a night in which Isaiah Canaan held Isaiah Thomas in check (1-for-10 from three-point range), Wade scored 26 points and Lopez chipped in 14, the hole Rondo left was still felt.

“Eventually we’re going to have to deal with the fact that he’s not out there,’’ said Butler, who had 14 points and was 6-for-15 from the field. “I think everybody is trying to do what they can to cover up what he does for everybody. But it’s hard. I’m not going to say we’re dwelling on it, though. Eventually we’re going to have to win without him because it looks like he’s not going to be back. I don’t know. I hope he is, but you’ve got to be able to embrace the fact that he’s not.’’


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