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Bulls’ supreme effort isn’t enough this time

Bulls center Joakim Noah sits next Derick Rose after fouling out fourth quarter Chicago Bulls 104-94 loss Miami Hegame three

Bulls center Joakim Noah sits next to Derick Rose after fouling out in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 104-94 loss to the Miami Heat in game three of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal game May 10, 2013. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 13, 2013 7:09PM



You aren’t supposed to be able to do this in the NBA.

You aren’t supposed to be able to lose your best player (Derrick Rose), another All-Star (Luol Deng) and an accomplished point guard (Kirk Hinrich) and still give the league’s defending champion fits.

And yet, that’s what the Bulls did for the longest time Friday before losing 104-94 and falling behind 2-1 in this Eastern Conference semi-final series.

“We fought hard,’’ Joakim Noah said. “I’m disappointed we lost the battle, but we didn’t lose the war. There’s a lot of basketball left. We’re disappointed. But we’re not discouraged.’’

In the end, the form chart prevailed.

The Bulls were able to hang around with LeBron James and the Heat until the final minutes. But when it mattered most, Miami had too much scoring punch. Norris Cole (18 points) led a Heat bench that scored 36 points.

“We feel like we had a shot to win, and we gave one away,’’ said Taj Gibson, who scored six of the Bulls’ eight bench points. “When you’re playing with three future Hall of Famers, guys are going to get open looks.’’

The Heat outscored the Bulls 34-24 in the fourth quarter — their margin of victory

“It was tough, man,’’ Jimmy Butler said of the final quarter. “I feel like they outplayed us, to tell the truth.’’

Until the final stretch, the Bulls were involved. They brought intensity, often more than the Heat. But the Heat, who shot 50 percent, including 40 percent on three-pointers, were more efficient.

“What was the difference?’’ Noah said. “They have a lot of guys who can hit shots. They’re a very good team. They hit a lot of tough shots, too. We’ll see if they hit those shots on Monday.’’

Game 4 on Monday shapes up as a virtual must-win if the Bulls are going to upset the Heat in this series. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit few teams can overcome.

Monday “is super-important,’’ Butler said. “We want it to be 2-2 going back to Miami. We want to win every game. But we’re going to learn from this and bounce back.’’

“It’s 2-1 now,’’ Gibson said. “We just have to get the next one.’’



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