Bulls go out with a whimper as playoff run ends in Game 6

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The Bulls look on glumly during the second half of Game 6 against the Celtics on Friday at the United Center. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

There would be no valiant last stand at home.

All the United Center crowd got was the fading whimper of a No. 8 seed.

Playing Jekyll and Hyde basketball throughout a 41-41 regular season caught up to the Bulls in the postseason.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the series, the Bulls watched the top-seeded Celtics advance.

Boston beat them four in a row, the final dagger a 105-83 blowout in Game 6.

“It’s a wrap for these [expletive],’’ Celtics All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas yelled to his teammates midway through the third quarter.

Thomas was just stating the obvious.

He could’ve easily said the same thing after Game 2, however.

Late in the third quarter of that Bulls victory, Rajon Rondo fractured his right thumb.

He would finish the game, but his absence would alter the rest of the series.

“I mean, it’s a different team,’’ Dwyane Wade said of the Bulls without Rondo. “It’s as simple as that. You know, we got into the playoffs at the last hour of the season.

“This is an adverse situation, losing Rondo. Anytime adverse situations hit, we’ve found a way.’’

Maybe in the regular season, but in the playoffs? That’s where weaknesses are exposed and teams can’t run from what they really are.

And while Rondo’s injury was a factor, it didn’t change the fact that the Bulls were up 2-0 and still had star power in Jimmy Butler and Wade.

As the series went on, however, Butler had to deal with numerous injuries, including his foot, knee and left hand — likely a product of how hard he played down the stretch to will this team into the postseason.

He finished Game 6 with 23 points and seven rebounds but was limping by the end of the third quarter and sat for the rest of the game.

“That’s one thing people don’t realize, how banged up Jimmy was,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Jimmy is a warrior. He battled and fought all the way through, even though he wasn’t 100 percent.’’

Butler, however, downplayed the injuries, simply focusing on a failure to advance to the second round.

“Nobody feels sorry for me that I’m nicked up,’’ Butler said. “I’m OK with it. No excuses for that.’’

As for Wade, for the first time this season, it looked like his fountain of youth had finally dried up.

The 35-year-old played only 20 minutes and scored a playoff-tying career-low two points on 1-for-10 shooting.

Now Wade will have plenty of time to rest and decide if he wants to return to the Bulls with his player option at $23.8 million for next season.

“I’m far away from that now,’’ Wade said. “Just got through this 14th NBA season. If I’m not winning a championship, I’m never satisfied from that standpoint, but you take things out of it. You go back and look at the season and see what you could have done better individually.’’

There was one decision that didn’t need to be reviewed: To a man, the Bulls want the front office to bring Rondo back. The playoffs offered further evidence of his importance to the team.

“Of course,’’ Butler said of a Rondo return. “He’s been huge for us this year. But I don’t know what the future holds for anybody. I’ll sit back and wait on that time to come.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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