CHICAGO -- In the end, Scottie Pippen said, the Chicago Bulls simply did not have the players necessary to beat the Miami Heat and compete for the NBA title. And specifically, the Bulls Hall of Famer said, the highest-priced Bulls players could not be counted on.
"When you're playing at this stage of the playoffs, the best of the best are still there and you have to have guys stepping up," Pippen told ESPNChicago.com. "And I just felt like it finally caught up with the Bulls, who didn't have consistent play from guys who needed to play big down the stretch. When those pieces are not falling into place, you're going to fall out of it.
"Miami was the better team, they have better finishers and more finishers."
"You can't have two of your top high-paid players sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter," Pippen said. "And that isn't just last night's game. We have seen this the whole season. So for us to think the Bulls are going to go farther when your high-priced players are not going to carry you and finish games for you ... you're not talking about a championship team.
"You can't hide at this stage of the season. At this point, you have to be able to play through everything because if you're trying to hide a guy or a guy is not performing for you, it's going to show offensively in the playoffs and it's going to be magnified ... We all know Carlos did not play at the level the team needed him to and that that hurt them more than anything because they couldn't rely on him.
"The flagrant foul, the pushing calls, the inability to finish strong around the basket. Now you're a liability. We can't hide you and now we have to take you out of the game."
The Heat closed out the Bulls with an 83-80 victory in Game 5 Thursday night and advanced to play the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
Pippen, who was critical of the Bulls' lack of physical play on defense early in the playoffs, lauded the Bulls' defense against Miami.
"But the Miami defense is strong, too ... and when it came down to it, Miami had three guys who could make shots and the Bulls had maybe two and a half," he said. "Maybe Lu [Luol Deng], his offense had been there. But it's a half when Boozer is coming up with 10 points and you need 20, or Joakim is coming up with one point and you needed 10. You never had that third guy."
The Bulls' relative lack of playoff experience was commonly cited as a factor throughout the postseason. But to compare this Bulls team in that regard to the teams of the late '80s that had to get past Detroit to win the title, is "not quite the same thing," Pippen said.
"When we went through it, we pretty much had our team together," he said. "We ended up losing Oak [Charles Oakley] for [Bill] Cartwright but other than that, we added just a few pieces through the draft and free agency ... It was all about getting more physically ready for the long haul of the season. But the way I see these Bulls, I don't quite see plugging in one piece and saying great."
Still, the Bulls' season definitely should not be considered a disappointment, Pippen said.
"They truly overachieved," he said. "We didn't expect the Bulls to play in the Eastern Conference finals, not even close. They did make it, and they deserved it. They did the right things in the regular season. But we all knew going into postseason, it was going to be a tall order."
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.