Wizards End Bulls Season in Game 5

Tuesday night didn’t merely mark the end of a season. It marked the end of an era.

The Wizards eliminated the Bulls from the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in five games with a 75-69 victory, placing a period on another overachieving regular season and underwhelming finish.

The summer of 2014 always pointed to change, a process accelerated by Derrick Rose’s second straight season-ending knee injury and the subsequent trade of Luol Deng. And so the team that trudged off the United Center court won’t be the same that arrives at October’s training camp.

Only offensive-minded applicants need apply.

The Bulls capped an offensive season — pun accepted — in which they ranked as the lowest-scoring and worst-shooting regular-season team with an anemic performance. They shot 33.3 percent. They endured a first-half stretch of 1-for-15 and a second-half stint of 1-for-10 and failed to break 15 points in the first and third quarters.

And they added injury to insult, losing Taj Gibson to a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter and playing Joakim Noah as he clearly limped his way through the final two quarters.

In that regard, Noah, who impressively gritted his teeth through six points, seven assists and 18 rebounds, epitomized this season. The Bulls fought and fought, overcoming odds and adversity but ultimately finished short.

“Our team has been through a lot,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s two years of going against the odds. We’ve got a bunch of fighters.”

Gibson, who finished his breakout season with 12 points and four rebounds, badly rolled his ankle when he landed on John Wall’s foot.

Noah, who started the game moving tentatively and progressively looked worse, spent the majority of a third-quarter timeout pounding his right thigh and massaging the area just above his knee. Meanwhile, Nene kept dropping midrange jumpers over the Defensive Player of the Year, returning from his one-game suspension with 20 points.

John Wall led the Wizards, who won all three road games in the series, with 24 points.

Despite all the offensive woes, the Bulls pulled into a one-possession game when D.J. Augustin, who shot 1-for-10, sank two free throws with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left. The Wizards failed to score but burned a ton of time off the block when Marcin Gortat recorded three offensive rebounds on the same possession.

Carlos Boozer, logging fourth-quarter minutes because of Gibson’s injury, missed at the rim. But the Wizards committed a shot-clock violation.

Off a pretty inbounds pass from Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler missed a lefty layup, one of several point-blank chances blown by the Bulls.

Hinrich fouled out, but Andre Miller missed both free throws with 16.2 seconds left. But Nene backtapped the second miss and Bradley Beal split two free throws, with Nene rebounding the miss again, allowing Wall to seal it with two more free throws.

The Wizards enjoyed a 49-43 rebounding edge.

And so it ends, this season that began with championship aspirations.

It featured all the twists and turns of a good novel—the excitement of Rose’s return followed by the devastation of his torn meniscus in Portland, Ore.; the financial-based trade of Deng to Cleveland; Noah’s second straight All-Star berth; Gibson’s breakthrough to another level; Mike Dunleavy’s subtle contributions; Carlos Boozer’s likely goodbye; Jimmy Butler’s ironman efforts; Kirk Hinrich’s grittiness and D.J. Augustin’s resuscitation.

Changes are coming. Until then, the memories remain.

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