Celtics Show Lack of Desperation in Chicago as Bulls Fight For Playoff Lives

Celtics Show Lack of Desperation in Chicago as Bulls Fight For Playoff Lives It is what it is.

That was the Celtics' catchphrase on Tuesday night in Chicago, minutes after they'd run out of steam in their second to last game of the season and let the Bulls cruise to a 101-93 victory at the United Center. The Bulls had 39 points from Derrick Rose, 30 from Kirk Hinrich, and an undying hunger to keep their Eastern Conference playoff hopes alive.

What did the Celtics have? Well, you never want to say "apathy," but it was something pretty close. The C's, who found themselves mathematically eliminated from the East's No. 3 seed with Tuesday night's loss, didn't seem too concerned about it. They didn't sound like a team with the same fight as the guys in the other locker room.

"It is what it is," said Doc Rivers, fielding the question of the No. 3 playoff seed for the final time. "I'd have liked the 3, the 2 or the 1, but we didn't get it. But it's going to be a tough series whoever we play. We've just got to be ready to play."

"It is what it is," said Paul Pierce, who finished with 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting in the losing effort. "The good thing about it is we've got one game left and everybody healthy going into the playoffs, which was the No. 1 goal going into the season, and now it's here."

"It is what it is, man," said Kevin Garnett, who's battled injuries this season and fatigue this week. "We made our bed, now we've got to lay in it. That's about it — we've just got to make the best out of of it. I think our goals were a lot higher than this, but we'll take it."

It is what it is. The Celtics fought to get that No. 3 seed in the playoffs and avoid setting up a potential second-round meeting with the mighty Cavaliers. As the Cavs and Magic pulled away with the conference's top two seeds, picking off that No. 3 became their goal. But the going got tough, and the Celtics ultimately decided that they didn't have the fight for it. Now they're resigned to finish fourth, setting up a four-versus-five matchup with Miami or possibly Milwaukee, depending on the results of Wednesday night.

The Celtics sound tired, defeated and annoyed after months of hard work gone to waste. They worked hard down the stretch, but they kept running into teams that wanted it more. The Bulls, who continue fighting to be the last team into the postseason, are a perfect example. With Rose and Hinrich driving, shooting and working to score by any means necessary, the Bulls showed their hunger.

"You saw Derrick Rose, you saw Kirk Hinrich win them the game," Pierce said. "They really caught fire. That's pretty much what it was. Those are their two leaders, those are their two scorers. They stepped up when they needed."

Every time the Celtics got close, the Bulls were able to answer. KG brought the Celtics to within four with two minutes to play; Rose hit a jumper and made it six again. Pierce drove the lane and dunked with 1:31 left, bringing it back to four; Hinrich drilled a 3 and made it seven again. Pierce got two free throws; Hinrich nailed another jumper. The Celtics never made it back.

"I thought we wanted to win," Rivers said. "I thought we played pretty hard in stretches, but Rose was spectacular tonight. Him and Hinrich singlehandedly carried the game for them. You know, as up and down as things were, I thought we still had a shot, but those two shots that Hinrich hit were backbreakers."

Maybe the Celtics just weren't supposed to win this one. They were up against a Bulls team fighting for their postseason lives, and they just weren't able to match that urgency. The Bulls were concerned with doing everything possible to make the playoffs; the Celtics were focused on more nuanced, less desperate goals. That's not a formula for success.

"I think everyone's trying to find some kind of rhythm, momentum, whatever you want to call it," Garnett said. "I'm no different than that. I'm just ready for [the playoffs]. You know, I think everybody's really been anticipating this. The regular season is what it is, and then the playoffs is a whole 'nother season. So I'm up for it. I'm looking forward to it."

Simply put, the Celtics looked past this one. This team preached for weeks that they didn't much care about playoff seeding or playoff matchups, and on the court in these last few games, it's showed. On Tuesday night, the Celtics ran into a team that wanted the win more — needed it, in fact.

A win would have been nice, but the Celtics won't lose much sleep over it. This one just was what it was.

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