But before that, the story was the Bulls’ immaturity.
Turner, the Sixers guard and St. Joseph’s product, had said he’d rather play the Bulls instead of the Heat in the first round to “dodge the better team,’’ jump-starting the emotion in this series and surprisingly exposing a Bulls weakness.
Turner tried to explain himself, saying he believed the Sixers matched up better with the Bulls than the Heat. It might’ve been true. It wasn’t something anyone in the United Center was willing to let go.
The crowd booed Turner as soon as he entered the game and cheered every time the second-year sub handled the ball, missed a shot or committed a foul. It seemed harmless until Turner delivered a hard foul on Joakim Noah in the third quarter.
Bulls players reacted as if they’d heard about Turner’s comments --- heard about and talked about them. They reacted as if they were just waiting for a shot at the kid, and when they got it, Carlos Boozer offered an elbow and Richard Hamilton came right at him.
And it almost killed the Bulls.
The Bulls appeared to be shredding the Sixers enough to make the fourth quarter irrelevant --- oh for the love of Rose’s ACL if only they could’ve --- but the confrontation seemed to right Philadelphia. The Sixers cut the lead to eight as the Bulls lost focus and the ball.
Ultimately, the Bulls gathered themselves well enough to win, but not well enough to kill the Sixers once they got a 20-point lead, or even the second time they got a 20-point lead.
Telling thing, the Bulls’ reaction. The Turner time bomb is a lesson for both the Bulls and their opponents.
An undermanned team might be wise to mouth off because Bulls players seem to take it personally. Worse, they seemed to act on the slight, trading professional focus for playground immaturity.
The Bulls are the better team. They played like it before and after Turner’s hard foul. They played like it before and after the home team’s lame response.
The Bulls are the better team even without Rose. They, of course, have to play like it --- like they did this season in going 18-9 without their star guard, 7-5 against teams that made the playoffs.
I assume the Bulls learned the lesson. Unfortunately, I assume they learned it in part because of some painful, season-ending perspective.