Bulls Season on the Line; Drop 2nd Game in OT to Wizards

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John Wall and Bradley Beal celebrate after defeating the Chicago Bulls in OT. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The series is all but over. The Bulls head to D.C., down 0-2 to a relentless Wizards team that again outplayed Chicago.

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Thibs played Jimmy Butler the entire game. (Regulation + OT)

The Bulls began the game in a hole as Washington rushed out to a 26-12 lead. They lead by as many as 17 pts, but the Bulls managed to claw their way back and even gained the lead in the 3rd and hung on for a while in the 4th (largest lead 10 pts).   The Wizards tied the game at 91 at the end of regulation and sent the game to OT. The Bulls could have rallied for a 2nd OT, but Kirk missed two critical FT’s with 0:02 left with the Wiz up 101-99.

The Bulls may win a game for pride’s sake, but I think unless there is a major strategic change made by the coaching staff, they are clearly overmatched offensively. That being said, both of these games were still winnable by Chicago. I never thought I’d say it, but Randy Whitmann vs. Thibs is the main matchup (aside from Nene’s effectiveness with no minutes restriction) that I miscalculated. I can understand Tom “dancing with the one that brought ya”, but to over-utilize players like this (especially Jimmy Butler) in the SAME manner that he did last season in that 2nd round matchup with the Heat is pretty ridiculous. At this point, he’s planning to use a player for the entire game and its unnecessary. Especially with a competent bench like Chicago. They are good enough to allow guys to catch their breath for a few tiny minutes, I mean c’mon.

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Freshly minted DPOY Joakim Noah exhales in the closing seconds of the OT loss (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

On to the next game. Bulls tip off in Washington on Friday evening at 7:00P.M.

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Joakim Noah Named Kia Defensive Player of the Year

Once I heard this morning that the Bulls planned a 4PM press conference, I was confident that Jo had officially been named DPOY for 2014. So well deserved. I’m super proud of Jo. He is creating quite a resume and will be one of the most memorable Bulls after its all said and done.

jodpoyrev

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Nene and Gortat Dominate Bulls as they Drop Game 1

Well so much for Nene being on a minutes restriction coming back from the knee sprain. The big man for the Washington Wizards played a mind blowing 35 minutes and dominated with 24 pts 8 rebs 3 asts 2 stls and a block. He pushed Noah around on the block (he took his lunch money is what he did) and got to the rim at will. Marcin Gortat also feasted on the Bulls inside netting 15 pts and 13 rebs.

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Nene’s shot chart. 11-17 for 65% FG shooting

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Gortat’s shot chart. 6-10 for 60%. All around the rim.

Now understand, the Bulls have certainly been smacked in the mouth before and have gotten up off the mat and successfully fought back. Fans should also take comfort in the fact that what we saw tonight was certainly not a sustained effort on the offensive end. The ball stuck in D.J.’s hands (he also didn’t shoot the ball well, 3-15 effort from him), Noah seemed a tad distracted, Taj didn’t touch the ball enough and Kirk was preoccupied with the officiating. The Wizards OUTREBOUND the Bulls 45-39 (huh?) and Dunleavy played tight: 4-12 (or with the intensity he needed on defense), and got benched as a result. Bulls also took care of the basketball (8 turnovers) and kept the Wizards out of transition for the most part.

THESE are the only things that make me feel better about this loss. What makes me sick about the loss is that we could have still won this game with this subpar effort if the Bulls would have been able to score the basketball down the stretch. Bulls didn’t score from the opening of the 4th quarter til’ the 9:48 mark. You are just not going to be able to stop a team that long. Especially one that is potent scoring-wise as Washington.

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The stat that could potentially have Bulls fans pressing the panic button is that Wall and Beal both had quiet games (for them anyway). 16 and 13 pts. respectively… Wall got most of his points at the line as he was drawing fouls left and right. Beal just seemed a little tight, but that won’t last. He’s too good of a player.

We’ll see what happens next game. Bulls will figure things out. D.J. is really the unknown entity in my mind. I know what Taj, Kirk, Jimmy and Noah can do in postseason situations. D.J. seems a bit rattled so far to me and we really need his quickness, his ability to beat guys off the dribble and his pick and roll play. Much quicker decisions must be made by him on the perimeter. Its almost like he’s playing not to make mistakes and that’s just not good enough at this level.

 

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Bulls Wizards 2014 Playoff Preview

In a couple of hours, the Bulls will tipoff with the Wizards. With the Clippers, Pacers and Raptors all stumbling out of the gate in their respective game one’s and losing their home court advantage quicker than you can say NBA playoffs, the Bulls, without Rose, will have to play exceptional tonight.

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Tonight’s game will not only mean our first postseason “W”, but it is needed to set a tone. The LAST thing you want to do is give a team that is as deadly as the Wizards are in transition confidence. Most pundits are picking the Bulls in 5-7 games here, but Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose of Grantland have picked the Wiz to go all the way to the ECF to face Miami. Ok. Everyone has something to say, but at the end the day, the games have to be played. If they didn’t, Miami would already be securing zoning permits for their 3rd championship parade. Fall back people… We are just getting started with upsets left and right.

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Bulls Bench

Nazr should come off the bench to relieve Noah in spot minutes and Taj and D.J. should keep their same heavy 2nd and 4th quarter minutes. Ronnie Brewer, whom Thibs is already acquainted with might see some action in this series (we could use his perimeter defense). Snell as well for spot duty. I think Jimmer can forget it, however I’d love to see him play 10-12 minutes but its not likely.

The Bulls bench has routinely outscored the Wizards bench, but I’m not sure who will play or how tight the rotation may become here so its tough to determine if we can produce the same amount of points with only Taj, D.J., Nazr and maybe Snell.

Coaching Matchup

Coach Tom Thibodeau is often criticized for his aggressive, 8 player rotation and hard-nosed coaching style, yet, he does seem to get the most out of his players. In a league where the superstars control the asylum Thibs (former Coach of the Year) is not only able to get the most out his star players but he can also utilize players cut from other teams. D.J Augustin (present) and Nate Robinson really benefited from his hard nose coaching each flourished under his tutelage.

The Wizards head coach, Randy Wittman on the other hand, has finally has crossed the playoff threshold as a head coach of these 2013-14 Wizards who have also been riddled with injuries. Losing key players during the regular season such as Nene and 3rd draft pick Otto Porter Jr. Unlike Thibs, Wittman has been on the hot seat at different points in the season, but now he is having the last laugh because not only did the Wizards make the playoffs they managed a fifth seed albeit landing a matchup with the 4th seeded Chicago Bulls. Teams are well aware that the Bulls will come into every game with the same intensity they have played with all year and therefore were jockeying for position at the very end of the season to avoid facing them until the later rounds of the playoffs.

Thibs will have his team ready to play hard for 48 minutes. As long as the Bulls “Do Their Job” this series should go five games. Bulls 4 to 1.

Contributors: David Johnson, B. Gatlin, Jr., Christy Toney

 

 

 

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Salute to the Chicago Bulls 2013-14 Regular Season

hi-res-85ba6c171e72409ffba2862447487bd0_crop_northThe Bulls season has come to a close and although I was unable to cover it the way I usually do, I still had one eye on the action. Lots of things happened and Bulls management and the coaching staff should be commended on having these guys ready to play every night despite the devastating blow of losing Rose again and the trade of Deng.

Even though the Bulls dropped games to both New York and Charlotte towards the end of the season, they still went 21-9 in their last 30 contests (all after the All Star Break). This was also the best record posted by an Eastern Conference team during that period. Bulls fans should be proud.

Bulls Regular Season Stats

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Top 10 in rebounds, assists and pts. allowed (#1). The Bulls are dead last in offensive rating however…

Best Bulls Signing
D.J. Augustin – D.J. (along with Joakim Noah) should be credited with turning the Bulls season around. Makes you wonder why things didn’t work out for him in Indiana a couple of years ago. An effective pick and roll player, D.J. is quick off the dribble, fast, a good passer and helps Chicago play faster. He’s no Rose obviously, but he can shoot the three and he reminds you of Derrick sometimes because he can hit key shots that stop runs and he also feeds the post extremely well. He can sometimes over-dribble, but typically, the ball moves when D.J. is on the floor.

Bulls vs NBA
Joakim Noah – 6th in rebs (11.3) | 12th in blocks (1.51) | 4th in dbl/dbls (47)
Jimmy Butler – 4th in stls (1.9)
D.J. Augustin – 5th in FT% (.885)

Team Leader
Joakim Noah (duh) – You always felt like after Derrick, Noah and Deng were right up there in terms of being leaders of the team. This season though, with Rose going down again 10 games into the season and the trading of Deng to Cleveland, the spotlight was on Noah. Would he preserve himself for next season? Throw other players under the bus? Take it easy? Well, Jo got up off the mat, put the team on his back and along with the coaching staff, found ways to win, night in and night out. He was a double/double machine (47) had (4) triple doubles and several near triple doubles. Noah’s performance this season also placed him in elite territory. He is now only the 6th center in league history to have 415 assists in a single season. Noah is also being strongly considered by voters for the DPOY award.

Iron Man Award
Taj Gibson was the only Bull to play all 82 games… Fingers crossed for him to win Sixth man award…

Best Regular Season Games
So many strong performances from the Bulls this season, but there are a few that stand out. Might not make everyone’s list, but these games stood out to me and they came pretty much late in the season after Chicago had regained its footing.

* Feb 26 vs. Golden State
Just a triumphant defensive stand the Bulls took against Golden State at the UC. Holding the NBA’s 10th rated offensive team to 83 pts. It was a dominating performance that featured the Bulls defense clicking on all cylinders. Curry went 2-10 and Klay Thompson 3-8. They didn’t just make them miss shots, they weren’t even able to get shots up. Smothering defense and and impressive victory.

* Feb 28 @ Dallas
The Bulls battled back from a 16pt. deficit to win 100-91. Taj played like a grown man down the stretch… 20/15 game from him, which led all scorers. Just a gutsy game, on the road against a tough shot making team with Dirk and Ellis. I’ll take a road West Coast win anytime, but this one was gratifying after the hole they fell in early.

* Mar 9 vs Miami Heat
Always nice to beat Miami, but this game was a juicy one. See, the Heat thought they were on their way to winning this game, but it was one where the Bulls just kept their heads down and kept playing… Then what do you know, they are all knotted up at 86 and it was a perfect setup for LBJ to be MVPish on a national (ESPN) stage. Jimmy wasn’t having it though…

Bulls dominate the Heat in OT and walk away with the win. Yeah, its regular season, but I love to see the kind of big plays Chicago is capable of when they play these cats.

* Mar 13 vs Houston
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I wasn’t expecting the Bulls to do much against Harden and the Rockets. They have pretty much owned the Bulls in the last few games, regardless of whether we were in Houston or Chicago. The Bulls must have gotten angry though because they came out blazing hot in this one. Everyone should remember Dunleavy (or Dun Dun as his teammates like to call him) catching a bow in the post and having to receive 10 stitches. He came back into the game and ended up leading the Bulls to victory with a mind blowing 21 pts. Gutsy performance for him, which Noah would later say added to Duke’s street credibility. Unforgettable performance for sure.

Honorable Mention(s)
* Nov 16 vs Pacers – Rose hit 6 threes, silencing P. George who talked trash after Bulls loss to Indy 10 days prior.
* Dec 5 vs Miami Heat – Blowout of the Heat (w/o Wade and Birdman) after dropping 6 of 7 was a team builder.

I’ll be posting a Bulls/Wizards preview next.
–ct

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How Far Can Noah Take Bulls in the Postseason?

Noah posting Rockets forward Terrence Jones

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Through 64 gms, Jo is averaging 12.4 ppg | 1.5 bpg | 5 apg | 11.3 rpg | 1.1 spg

I HATE that my wedding biz got so busy this year. So many good things happening for the Bulls and I’d love to be able to analyze it more closely. I did decide to take time out to salute the big homie Joakim Noah however. He has not only emerged as the Bulls vocal leader and 2-time All Star, but also a legitimate MVP candidate, (arguably) best center in the league and in the DPOY conversation… No one saw this coming.

After Derrick’s second season ending injury, 10 games into the season, Bulls fans were looking for something to get excited about. A few things happened:

1. First, we were excited about the the D.J. Augustin signing after seeing his superior pick and roll play ability. His speed and quickness helped Chicago play faster, and his quick passes after penetrating the post opened up much easier baskets for the Bulls big men.

2. Next, we were dealt a huge blow with the departure of Luol Deng to Cleveland… Completely financial move that you kind of saw coming. Just sad because many fans, myself included, considered Rose, Noah and Deng to be “untouchable” Bulls. But, its a business and the move will certainly help offset some of the luxury tax penalty, which I still believe they are up against.

Note: After this trade, the calls for TANKING the season for Wiggins, Jabari Parker or some other top 4-5 pick in this year’s draft became louder and louder. I even became convinced that this would be the best course of action. Not because I’m so excited about getting what looks to be a superior talent in the draft, but did we really want to see another meaningless post season for our Bulls? I mean, from a “wear and tear” standpoint? I dunno. I just wanted everything to remain frozen competition-wise til’ Rose could come back healthy.  The chants got so loud that they made it to the Bulls/Jo.

3. Then, something else happened. Joakim Noah decided that he’d go ahead and take the Bulls over. It kind of began when he made some controversial comments (for the Bulls anyway), on 12/14. The Bulls were in the middle of a nasty losing skid and Noah issued a personal challenge to the team:


“…You know what? I don’t want no part of this… I’m just going to take bad shots and just not care at all about making winning plays or playing defense and things like that. So everybody has to stick together. Everybody has to jell and keep fighting together.”


You actually got the feeling that the team was going to fall apart after this, but it didn’t. They went 3-5 to close out 2013, managed a downright blistering 11-4 in Jan 2014, and have been 17-7 since the start of Feb.

Jo was selected to the All Star team, which should have surprised no one, but his numbers slowly started to become MVPish. His work has been so consistent this season, so timely, so effective that you can’t help but put him in that conversation. He’s passing the ball as well as he’s rebounding it and he is also making timely buckets. The Bulls feed off of Noah’s energy, period. His finesse at his position, coupled with sheer effort arguably makes him the best center in the league. For those who flat out reject that notion, I’d say the same thing that one of my Twitter friends expressed recently, “…Dwight can’t shine Noah’s shoes.”

Saying all this though, what’s really going to happen in the postseason? Bulls fans know that most of our recent postseason roads have ended with a fall to Miami (in five). I have no doubt that we can power through to the second round, but what about the second round? Do we have enough talent? I’d like to retain our current spot of 4th because we could topple the Pacers in 7 and get back to the ECF. What happens when we get there could be heartbreaking though. A spirited, emotional win in the first game, only to be swept in the next 4? I mean, anything can happen, and I DO think that the Bulls commitment to defense is stronger than both the Pacer’s and the Heat (we have no choice, no offense or superstar play to fall back on), but you have to put the ball in the basket at some point. With no home court to speak of, they would darn near need to be perfect in every game, on every single possession. Tough task indeed.

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…If the NBA Playoffs began today

Maybe though falling to the Heat in 5 won’t happen three times in a row. Perhaps we could be more competitive. Who knows? I do know that Joakim has made this discussion possible, and the postseason more intriguing. Thanks Jo… You’ve certainly made the city proud. #SeeRed #BullsNation

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Wizards Drop Bulls; Philly Next

Gotta switch to quick recaps if I have any chance of remaining relevant as we approach the All Star game… Sorry guys, I really enjoyed breaking down the games, but competing priorities have finally taken their toll.

Bulls lost a tight one last night. What did we learn? That Jimmy Butler shouldn’t be taking the last shot? That DJ Augustin is underutilized even though he’s pretty effective shooting the ball? Or that the Washington Wizards, (one night after bulldozing the Miami Heat) are a .500 ball club and the Bulls are not? Just some things to think about.

The Bulls look to continue to clear cap space according to Woj of Yahoo.com…  Looks like Teague will be headed to Brooklyn in exchange for Toko Shengelia.  It appears that he has been spending much of his time in the D-League as well. Teague’s contract was guaranteed so it appears that this Nets project can be dumped at the end of the season.

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I wasn’t around to react to the Lu salary dump but I’m really sad. Part of me understands that a move had to be made to offer the organization some flexibility in the future, but another part of me just wanted to see Rose, Deng and Noah win a ring together. So much of what those players are about and what they represent just screams CHICAGO. Will always have love for the Bulls and these three players in particular. Good Luck Lu. Give ‘em hell in Cleveland.

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I’ll do a better recap of the Philly contest, just want to wave to everyone and let you know that I’m still here, I’m still riding with the squad and will be giving you whatever I can.

#PHIvsCHI #BullsNation

–ct

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