A critic’s look at the NBA playoffs

Too much time to brood obviously has this columnist in a foul mood.

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The Bulls’ Derrick Jones Jr. tries to get off a shot between the Bucks’ Pat Connaughton and Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 4 on Sunday.

The Bulls’ Derrick Jones Jr. tries to get off a shot between the Bucks’ Pat Connaughton and Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 4 on Sunday.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I’m not saying the Bulls can’t win three consecutive games and move past the Bucks in the NBA playoffs, but . . .

Let me vent a little about the playoffs in general, given that I’m in a foul humor and what else can anybody say about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 15-foot pivot-step dunk?

• First, what is wrong with the Bulls?

This embarrassing collapse — losing by a combined 54 points in Games 3 and 4 at home — can’t all be blamed on the absence of injured guard Lonzo Ball.

And even if Ball is so important to the team that it can’t function without him, then — hello, management — where is a suitable replacement?

I hope folks noticed that when All-Star Khris Middleton went out with an injury, the Bucks played even better. In came bench guys Bobby Portis and even — boo, hiss — Grayson Allen, and the pair lit it up.

On Sunday, the two combined for 41 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals and went 16-for-24 from the field, including 7-for-11 on three-pointers. They were a combined plus-34 for the game. Enough said.

• The evolution of the NBA game into a three-point shoot-a-thon only has highlighted the Bulls’ lack of a deadly long-range marksman. Four of the Bulls starters — Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso — combined to shoot 3-for-18 on threes in Game 4.

That’s 16.7%. That’s bad.

• Moving on, foul humor leading the way: Can I tell you how much I dislike the fake smiles on coaches and players who have been whistled for a foul or had a play go against them? Those smiles look kind of like death masks or the grins on shrunken heads in old-school museums.

They’re not real smiles, understand; they’re grimaces squeezed from caulking guns. They’re like fish heads with toothpicks propping up the corners of their mouths.

Nets coach Steve Nash was grinning so hard during a Game 2 loss to the Celtics that it seemed he was suffering critical constipation.

Please just frown, guys!

• Hey, DeRozan and LaVine, it’s bad manners to leave the bench with 12.1 seconds left and go to the locker room. True, it wasn’t the final game of the series. And, yes, your team was being blown out by an immense amount.

But just six words: Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Pistons. You don’t want any of that.

• I DO NOT like interviews with coaches on a split-screen while a game is going on. Whatever they said moments earlier isn’t pertinent to the action now.

Who cares what they say, anyway?

• God love ’em, but the day I hear something of substance from a sideline reporter will be the first.

Here’s a typical secondhand quote from Player A, B or C, as told to Sideline Reporter X, Y or Z: ‘‘He told me they have to play good defense and shoot well if they want to win. He also said they are really focused and the ball is a pretty color of orange.’’

Nobody cares what a player says, unless it’s something like what Charles Barkley once said of players trying to imitate superstars: ‘‘They run like deer, jump like deer and think like deer.’’

• TV announcers are necessary and helpful when precise and unobtrusive. Remember, once again, the game in front of our eyes is the thing, not the swirl around it. But some announcers — hello, new TNT commentator Stan Van Gundy, of the famed Van Gundy brothers — talk so much during games that you hardly can breathe.

Stan, like brother Jeff, has a high voice and — knowledgeable as he is (and he is quite knowledgeable) — that voice can get to you when it’s in full siren attack. When there is never a pause for air, when every foul, travel and airball deserves a long-winded explanation, historic parallel or plain old diatribe, you raise your hand for a break. Or hit the mute button.

Dial it down from 11 to about 6, and you can be the game’s new Tony Romo, not its first Pee-wee Herman.

• Last thing: During a pause in the aforementioned Nets-Celtics game, there came a TV ad for Jesus. That’s all. Just him. It was brought to us by He Gets Us. I checked it out. Seemed OK. Not even aligned with a church, just with Jesus.

Would it be wrong for the Bulls to dial up the website, talk to a rep and ask for a miracle? Just wondering.

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