The Bulls are going to have to get together and buy Nets coach Jason Kidd one hell of a Christmas present.
Kidd sat Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce (his 3 leading scorers), KG, Shaun Livingston and Mirza Teletovic- and started Jason Collins instead of Mason Plumlee- for Wednesday's game in Cleveland. Predictably, the Nets were completely blown out, losing their season finale 114-85.
While Kidd may have tanked the finale it for the selfish reason of avoiding the Bulls in the first round (and getting Toronto instead), it also set the Bulls up for every fan's dream scenario.
The Bulls also didn't want to see Brooklyn in the first round, and with the Wizards' easy 118-102 win in Boston to end the season, Washington moved up to the 5th seed, and became the Bulls' first round opponent.
And assuming the Bulls get by the new-to-the-playoffs Wizards, by staying out of the 3rd seed, they would also get Indiana in the 2nd round (instead of the Heat). Thibs certainly won't be happy about losing this game, but he has to know that it's for the best if this team wants to make an extended playoff run.
The Bulls assured themselves of the 4th seed when they failed to show up for the last seven minutes of their game against the Bobcats, leading to a 91-86 overtime loss. After Augustin hit an 18-footer to give the Bulls an 80-77 lead with 2:27 left in regulation, the Bulls managed to score a total of THREE points over the next 7:14.
It's a good thing the Bulls lost this one, as Toronto blew a 13 point halftime lead and lost 95-92 to the Knicks - which would have handed the Bulls the #3 seed if they would have won tonight in Charlotte. Not that the Wizards are going to be a cakewalk for the Bulls, especially now that Nene is healthy- but if you have to choose between the young Wizards and the veteran, playoff-tested Nets... it's not even a choice.
Noah had another (what has become for him) ho-hum game, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists- becoming the NBA's first 10/10/5 (Pts/Reb/Ast) player since Kevin Garnett in 2004-05. He also officially joined Wilt, Kareen, Russell and Walton as the only 10/10/5 centers in NBA history.
He's a shoe-in for All-Defense, and it would be a travesty if he isn't Defensive Player of the Year. He's a lock for All-NBA as well, the only question being if he will be named to the 1st team ahead of Dwight Howard.
Joakim became a superstar this season, but that was in the regular season- what he does in the playoffs can cement that status as more than a fluke that only occured because Rose got hurt again and Deng got traded. And the Bulls, with their lack of offense, will need Noah more than ever once the playoffs get started.
If Augustin and Gibson were looking for 6th Man of the Year consideration, they didn't do anything tonight to help themselves. Taj played 34 minutes and only tallied 4 points (2/10 FG) and 5 rebounds with 6 turnovers. Augustin led the Bulls with 17 points, but it took him 16 shots and he only hit 3/9 shots from behind the arc. He was especially bad in the 4th quarter and overtime, going 3/11 from the field including 2/7 on 3's.
Boozer had a very good night, with an 8 point, 4 rebound 1st quarter and a 6 point, 7 rebound 3rd quarter. The Bulls outscored the Bobcats by 10 points while Boozer was on the floor, and were outscored by 15 when he was on the bench. Expect him to get more minutes in the playoffs, as the Bulls will certainly need his offense against a Washington team that can score a lot of points with Nene healthy.
Bulls fans should be happy that the playoffs are here and, outside of Rose, they are 100% healthy for the first time since their Eastern Conference Finals run in Thibs' first season as coach.