Bulls trounce Atlanta, win (at least) four straight when I predict a loss

Bulls trounce Atlanta, win (at least) four straight when I predict a loss

I'm debating about whether I should simply never predict a loss for my personal credibility or always predict a loss in order to assure a Chicago victory. The Bulls calmed my anxiety by playing the same stifling defense used to crush Orlando.

Making a statement

How well are the Bulls playing without Rose? 13-5 (59 win pace) with wins against five of the seven other playoff teams in the East without Derrick Rose including the top four seeds outside of themselves. The only exceptions are Indiana (6) and New York (8) whom they haven't played while Rose has been out.

This is what the Bulls big men need to do to Miami

With Al Horford out, Atlanta lacks much of a front court, and the Bulls big men dominated the game. They choked off the Atlanta offense and scored at will when Chicago had the ball. Led by Boozer and Gibson, the Bulls big men combined four 23/39 from the field for 56 points.

This is the production Chicago didn't get from the front court last year in the playoffs, and it's the production they need to change from ECF loser to NBA finals champion. It likely won't be this good every night, but if Chicago can get 50% shooting combined from their four front court players while taking 30+ shots a game, then they'll have done their job.

On defense, the Bulls big men shut down the lane completely stopping any Hawk who had the audacity to try and take a shot within five feet of the rim. They forced the Hawks into toughttp://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-bulls-confidential/wp-admin/post-new.php#articleh shots all night long and did so without committing fouls and sending Atlanta to the charity stripe.

The Hawks largely settled for jumpers, but struggled to knock them down even when given fairly good looks.

After a rough patch, the Iron Asik is back

The last few games, Omer has ratcheted up the defense to GTFO levels. He's rotating well and simply humiliating opposing guards who attempt to throw up a layup while he's in the paint.

I don't want to overstate his offensive impact over the past few games because the numbers don't seem that different, so maybe it's in my head, but he feels a bit more steady and decisive on the offensive end of the court as well. It's gone from "OH GOD WHY DID YOU THROW HIM THE BALL, THERE'S A DEFENDER WITHIN 5 FEET" to "I feel a bit queasy about this" when Omer gets the ball.

Either way, Omer makes his money on the defensive end, and his defense has been unbelievable recently. If can continue into becoming simply capable on offense, he's going to have a long profitable career. Hell, let's be honest, even if he can't become more capable on offense our boy's getting paid next year.

They're saying Booz not Boo

Though he's taken on the role of team skapegoat, Carlos Boozer has managed to find a groove. I think his interior defense and effort have been improved recently [yes, he still has his lapses] and his offense has seemed to come around a bit more. He's been somewhat of the anti-Deng shooting over 50% from the field in 7 of his past 11 games.

That doesn't necessarily sound incredible for a big man, but Boozer does it largely by shooting mid range jumpers and not by taking gimmie shots around the basket [though he did a great job being opportunistic on the offensive glass to help lead Chicago back against Toronto a game ago].

While sometimes mentally cast away by Bulls fans due to the last of performance in the playoffs last year, Carlos will be a big determinant of just how far they can go this year. Hopefully he can keep the momentum going this time around.

A rare strong game by Luol Dengerous

The good news is that Deng had a great game. He knocked down his open shots, particularly from the three point line. The bad news is that he's still obviously not creating a whole lot of pressure on the opposing defense when five of his eight makes were open catch and shoot looks from the perimeter that could have been prevented with better defense.

Since returning from injury Luol Deng has played 24 games. In those 24 games, he's taken 10 shots and shot more than 40% from the field a mere eight times with the most recent being last night. Prior to last night's game and a 41.7% for 24 points against Toronto two games ago, he's been completely abysmal on offense.

I don't blame Deng. He's basically playing with one hand on offense, and teams have adjusted to the fact that he's not going to make many dribble moves knowing that he can only go hard with his right hand. His limitations have put him in a SF Raja Bell like role of just shooting open jumpers and defending hard every night.

Thank you for gutting it out Luol, the offense hasn't always been pretty, but we appreciate the pain you go through every night to keep contributing to wins.

Am I way too cynical here?

There's a part of me that feels the Hamilton potentially playing in this game story was floated merely so that when he returns against Detroit people don't make a big issue of him coming back against Detroit. "Well he almost played in the Atlanta game..."

Now Rip's obviously close, because he's been practicing, and we've seen some footage of him shooting some mid range Js and taken careful note of his arm is not in a sling, cast, or hanging like it went numb after sleeping on it all funny. So of course it makes sense that he's probably right on the verge of coming back.

It just seems a little peculiar that the game he now seems destined to come back in is the one against his former teammates. Perhaps I'm just still a wee bit annoyed about the last time he came back against them which was clearly too early and caused him to reaggravate his injury.

Big win for Chicago

The Bulls still have a decent lead on the #1 seed in the playoffs. They don't necessarily need it to win the whole thing, but we all want every advantage possible against the Heat [and hopefully whomever comes out of the West]. With just 15 games left, the Bulls defeated one of their tougher opponents without Rose and came one step closer to grabbing that #1 seed.

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  • I know Hollinger hasn't been popular with some of his Bulls comments in the past but in today's daily dime he called Chicago the team to beat and even said it's plausible they could win a title WITHOUT Rose. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but still, how good is your team when people are starting to talk about whether they could win without their star (and not in a Ewing effect trash the star player's worth sort of way).

    Sure it's not the full Deng but if he can just hit his shots then it's a huge upgrade to what we've been getting, lately he's struggled to even hit the open ones. It'll be hard to win in the playoffs unless he can at least do that.

    As for Boozer, I've got low expectations. He's playing well on the basis of making a percentage from mid range that seems unsustainable. Sooner or later that shot is going to start missing, and because he so rarely gets to the rim or the line these days his effectiveness will go with it.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Hollinger always thought the team around Rose was underrated, that's why he didn't think Rose was the statistical MVP. The thing is, the MVP award usually goes to the best player on one of the best teams, not the player with the best statistics. This year it will go to James or Durant, and will not go to Love no matter how great his statistics may be.

    However, Hollinger also puts more faith in his power rankings than other commentators, who tend to look back at last year's playoffs and assume that the regular season won't matter when the Bulls meet the Heat in the playoffs.

    Finally, compare Boozer's stats to Bosh's. Boozer is better across the board, not just at shooting but also at rebounds and assists.

  • In reply to TimS:

    Just doing some quick multi-variable calculus, but 18.1ppg seems to be better than 15.6 ppg, Also, I believe that 81% from the free throw line is better than 72%.

    Oh well, there goes the across the board theory.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Bosh averages nearly 6 minutes more a game, you have to take that into consideration as far as totals. If Boozer played an extra 6 minutes a game his numbers would be in the 17/10 range I would suspect. Bosh is a better player overall but it's not by that much.

  • In reply to TimS:

    Here's a stat that Bosh leads in: Miami are 5 points/100 better with him on the court. Bulls are 8 points/100 better with Boozer off the court.

    It's about defense, and the box score stats can't tell you that ... Bosh makes Miami better defensively, Boozer makes the Bulls much worse. Now obviously the Bulls are an elite defensive team even with Boozer ... but the numbers show they'd be, relative to the league, the best defensive team in NBA history if they played like they do with Boozer on the bench for the whole game.

    But keep telling yourself Boozer is better across the board because he grabs a few more defensive rebounds.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Excellent stats, and half of the Mataboozers rebounds are the result of the effort of others keeping everybody else of the boards so boozer can basket hang in his zone defense and pick up uncontested rebounds. He barely rebounds in traffic.

    The Mataboozer the master of the uncontested, shot & rebound.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Interesting that despite Boozer's history as an effective mid range shooter you doubt he will sustain it while Deng's history is that of someone who is an inconsistent shooter, but you seem somewhat optimistic from this game that he may continue.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I'd say there's a difference between optimism and blind hope. ;)

    I'm not optimistic about Deng, I think the wrist is killing his shooting as much as his driving as a lot of games his shot has been way off. So while I'm not really expecting much from Deng, I think if he can shoot well then I think the Bulls win this thing.

    As far as Boozer goes, there's a difference between being a good mid range shooter and hitting about half his shots from there as he's done lately. It's not like he's taking all open looks either, a lot of them are fall aways. He's got 1 year out of the last 5 where he's shot this sort of percentage/volume from 15+ feet, so yeah, I do think it's likely he'll regress.

  • I thought Boozer has been looking better lately as well. But I think it might partly be a mirage in that the teams the bulls are beating are all coming off of back-to-backs where the bulls have a day of rest. Miami, Orlando, and now Atlanta all played the night before. But so did Denver iirc. So Boozer may just be matched up against tired players who don't have the energy left to expose nearly as much. He does seem to benefit from the extra touches on offense and his passing has been very well.

    As far as the schedule, it has really worked in the bulls favor this year. They played most of their games up front before other teams had a chance to gel whereas the bulls enjoyed the continuity of a largely unchanged roster. Now, at the end of the season, other teams are playing catch up and the bulls are getting extra days off. Miami still has five or six back-to-backs I think.

    Those extra games are going to be critical in determining the #1 seed because LBJ can't afford to take games off to rest, and Wade has to endure more wear and tear, too. And this whole time DRose has been resting and should hopefully come back for the playoffs with fresh legs. The best thing that could happen for the bulls is to keep it close down the stretch and make Miami work for it.

  • I agree that the Bulls can beat the Heat, if the entire Bulls team plays up to their full potential and Drose back healthy they are a better team. Hopefully they don't fold in the playoffs.

    I think Noah is the key. He was injured last year and they were not the same team. If Noah can step up and dominate the series with 20 rebound performances (he had a 20/20 game in the Cleveland series two years ago and had a great series) then the Bulls could easily upset Miami.

    As for Boozer, I think they need to go to him even more while Rose is out. He is shooting in the top 10 in fg% in the league. I don't think that will change either or come back down, he has been doing it all season. It is not because players are tired against him either, that is sort of ridiculous, everyone is tired at this point.

    Boozer is playing just how he always has, just as I expected when they signed him. Also fans need to be happy that he has played every game, was hurt last year when he came back Noah went out, and never complains when he gets benched. He is the first guy cheering on the bench (to the point that its annoying sometimes). What other guy making 14 million could constantly get benched and never complain? The Bulls also still have their amnesty clause so his contract is not really a burden either.

  • It was a solid W in an arena where we often struggle, but it seems like this one game is getting over-sold because there wasn't much NBA news yesterday. It's hard to see how this random game against Atlanta can tell us all that much.

    I still think the playoff seeding is going to be really interesting. If the Celtics win a game and the 76ers lose one, then Boston takes over the 4th seed and Philly drops straight to 7th! At this point, we could realistically face 6 different teams in the first round (not to mention the various possible match-ups after that): Bucks, Knicks, Celtics, 76ers, Atlanta, Indiana. In fact, the only team in that bunch who is substantially less likely to have the 8th (or 7th) seed is Indiana because they only have 20 losses.

    Since the Bulls are up 4 games on Miami and since the Knicks are separated by 2.5 games from both the 7th and the 9th slot, it's very likely we end up battling the new-look Knicks. But the current flux in the seeding is a much bigger deal for the Heat because the 7th seed is much more open...

  • In reply to bzoooty:

    I don't take too much from this win in terms of beating the Heat or any other team, but it was a good win, and I'm glad the Bulls pulled it off. Magic number down to 14 ;)

  • From today's Rosenblog

    "There are very few things you can take from these Bulls that will apply to that Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference finals, but Taj Gibson is one of them.

    If only Carlos Boozer could play his version of fake defense half as well as Gibson plays his brand of hustling, relentless, fearless defense".

    I just can't believe how easily people get fooled by a guy scoring 20 points, oh wait this is the same group that thought Ben Gordon was part of a championship solution.

    The Mataboozer was his usual miserable sack of shit of D last night as he always is, check the 2 consecutive teague layups to start the 3rd, or the 2 consecutive turnovers early in the 1st followed by Zaza easily beating him down the court for a layup.

    The game turned and was won, as usual since Rose has been out by the bench mob, especially Taj and Asik, as well as Deng clanking in his 3's tonight. Can anyone honestly say that the Mataboozers offense has been the determinant factor in even one single win this season. Maybe it was last year during the time that Noah missed early on, I cannot remember at this point.

    Has anyone else noticed that Asik is very likely the second biggest center(man) in the NBA. Everytime that he steps on the court, it is noticeable how much bigger he is than anybody else. It became particularly apparent the past few games, when he was on the court with both Aaron Gray and Collins both supposed legit 7 footers. While Asik is not as bulky, he is definitely taller and longer, and he has good lower body bulk, which is where your functional strength comes from. I'd say that the only guy bigger than Asik is Bynum.

    Which is why I contend that we cannot afford to lose Asik, even more so than Taj because without him, we become a very small team. Speaking of Taj, dare I say that he appears to be a better low post option than the Mataboozer.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Oh yea, I forgot to ask, but did anyone else find it interesting that Noah sat the entire 4rth, while Thibs went with the Mataboozer. Was Noah hurt, or was this just Thibs being a hypocrite.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Bitter bigway is still obsessed over boozer? Nothing has changed. R u still hoping he has a season ending injury for the team's sake? What a mensch.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Drafting Asik at No. 36 in 2008 was an excellent pick - even though it cost Bulls three 2nds in total because of the tradeup from 39 to 36 with Portland.

    imo, Bulls definitely resign Asik and endure some luxury tax next season while the tax is still the regular 1:1 - dollar for dollar. Bulls will be able to get back under the tax soon afterward, but they could not replace the one-two punch of Noah-Asik.

    Apparently, Asik having just 2 years experience limits him to the MLE offer. So no team can make a ridiculous $8-$10 million per year offer. Bull will match and keep Asik, imo.

    People read too much into Asik's slow start. He was forced to stay off his feet this off-season to heal his stress fracture, and was out-of-shape as a result. He's now played himself back into shape and we are seeing the real Asik. I agree, he's a keeper.

  • I think Boozer played pretty well last night. And to be fair his defense has been better this year (not saying it's great). The fact of the matter is the Bulls are going to need him to play at a high level this year in the playoffs if they want to go to the finals. He played well and made a few key baskets to keep the game out of reach when ATL was making a run.

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