A day after losing a heartbreaking game to the Pacers where Luol Deng did not get the benefit of the doubt on a crucial play, the Bulls crushed the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
The 30 second wrap up
My apologies on the missing article yesterday, forgot my wi-fi hot spot on the train ride. The Pacers game went down almost exactly as I anticipated. It set offense back about 50 years, and the first team to 80 won. Really, all you need to know about this game is that with the Bulls down two, Luol Deng drove into the paint and was met by Roy Hibbert.
The players collided in the air big time, Deng flew backwards to the floor, and no foul was called. Roy Hibbert did go straight up, and I would be a fan of the NBA if this was not considered a foul because of that. However, he was a good two feet inside the circle. If a guy who is perfectly set inside the circle touches you, it's a block.
I don't know how the hell a guy jumping inside the circle and physically throwing you backwards on contact does not count as a blocking foul. Oh wait, I take it back, I do know. It's a bad call. A call that should have been made. Granted, I hate the rule that makes that a foul, I think Hibbert should be able to do what he did, but I see no possible way that it's not a foul with the way the game is presently officiated.
If it's called, Deng is at the line for two with the Bulls down two and a few seconds left. Probably about a 65% chance of overtime. As it stands, Bulls loss.
Bulls crush Cleveland behind Belinelli
The starting lineup did Marco Belinelli some good. Filling in for Rip Hamilton, Belinelli shot 7/15 from the field and 7/8 from the line for 23 points. His confidence appeared to grow with more touches, and he played better when having more offensive options around him with the starters.
However, after his confidence was up on hitting a few open shots and drives, he also hit a turn around mid range post up, catch and shoot turnaround off a hard screen, and overall showed a solid ability to get the ball in the hoop in tougher situations with less space as well.
Beli's had a tough season, but this was the type of game that the Bulls and Belinelli mutually needed to rebuild his confidence and get him going again. I won't say this is the Beli they thought they were getting, because I doubt anyone expected a 23 point scorer out of a guy making two million, but they expected him to have more games like this to offset the ones where he's way off the mark.
The only downside to his performance was the 2/8 three point shooting, but overall, it was great to see him play well.
Watching Varejao makes me think Noah deserves the nod
If you recall my potential Bulls all-star breakdown, Joakim Noah was sitting on the fringe of guys who could possibly be included. I noted that Anderson Varejao has better stats and it'd be tough for the coaches to vote Noah in over him. Watching the two play, I now think, maybe not so tough.
Varejao's rebounding numbers look heavily inflated due to the fact that no one else rebounds on the Cavs at all. They just clear out and let him grab all the boards. I'm not saying he's a stat whore, nor am I saying he's a bad rebounder. He's a great rebounder, but his situation is massively inflating his totals well beyond the impact.
Offensively, he's not showing near the offensive creation ability of Noah, and it looks like many of his points/assists are coming out of offensive rebounding rather than offense creation. That's a great ability to have, and I'm not dogging the guy, but if you put Varejao on the Bulls over Noah the Bulls record is going down not up.
That doesn't mean Noah deserves the spot, there's a wide variety of guys who could take one of the final spots, and I think Noah is still on the fringe and probably doesn't deserve it. However, I am convinced that Anderson probably does not deserve it either and if it came down to the pair to get some size on the roster that it should be Noah they select (Tyson Chandler among others obviously in that mix too).
Jimmy Butler just keeps getting better
In the off-season, I said we'd have to wait and see how Butler plays to see if he's better than Ronnie Brewer. I don't know if we can conclusively say he's better than Brewer yet, but if not he's right there. His confidence on his shot is way up. His defense has been amazing (Brewer's is amazing too though), and he brings just a ton of energy.
The players look very similar to me, but Butler's obviously cheaper/younger. The Bulls really nailed it with that pick and overall have done a nice job selecting players with late 1sts and 2nd rounders.
Schedule is about to get real
The Bulls play on the road in Detroit, and they'd better grab that one, because they very well might be underdogs the next 10 games after that (Houston at home and Indy on the road being possible exceptions). After Detroit it goes:
Knicks, Clippers, @76ers, Nets, @Grizzlies, Celtics, @Knicks, @Hawks, Rockets, @Pacers
I think I'd be thrilled if the Bulls went 4-6 over that stretch and content with 3-7 the way the team is playing right now. Tough to see them beating the Knicks, Clipers, Nets, or Grizzlies. I could see the 76ers, Celtics, Hawks, Rockets, and Pacers as possibilities but games where they're all more likely to lose than win.
If Chicago is able to win in Detroit, they'll have a two game cushion on .500, so a 4-6 would keep them floating at the break even mark which is all I can really hope for.
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