Bulls blow game to Mavs, storm from behind against Pistons

After Chicago's amazing upset against the Heat, the Bulls went on to split games this weekend against a pedestrian team and a poor one. The Bulls choked against the Mavericks as Dirk turned back the clock and stormed back against a Pistons team that was looking to get Charlie Villaneuva the final look.

With around four minutes to go, I almost tweeted "when the Bulls shoot this well from the three point line, they're impossible to beat". It wouldn't have quite lived up there with Swirsky's on air note that he'd "walk home if the Bulls lost this game", but I certainly would have been mocked for jinxing the hell out of the team.

The Bulls let Kirk Hinrich launch a three, the fastest way to kill a hot streak from outside, and all of a sudden no one could buy a bucket. Still, the Bulls are up by 12 when Dallas takes possession of the ball with 3:40 left on the clock. You'd feel like you don't even need to score again to win the game, just stop the other team from scoring 12 in less than 1/3rd of a period.

Well the Bulls almost succeeded on not scoring again as Carlos Boozer added one sad little point, but they sure as hell couldn't stop Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki went off on the Bulls and O.J. Mayo finally hit a layup [third times the charm!]. It was a combination of Dirk being a bad ass, and the Bulls playing stupid defense.

On the three Dirk sunk to put the Mavs ahead, Luol Deng went to chase Vince Carter driving through the lane instead of staying with Dirk. He didn't have position to do anything to Carter anyway which made the decision even more questionable, and clearly seemed to lack trust in Jimmy Butler who was waiting for Carter at the rim.

Dirk nails it, Nate misses one at the Buzzer after going 7/7 from beyond the arc [becoming just the 18th player to ever hit seven or more threes without missing], and the Bulls drop the game.

The key moment of unraveling for Chicago came down to Jimmy Butler who was clotheslined by Vince Carter on a layup attempt missing both free throws. The foul was awfully close to a flagrant, but the refs reviewed it and called it a standard foul. Carter didn't make hard contact, but all of the contact was right on Jimmy's neck. He was clearly desperately trying to stop the play rather than to hurt Jimmy though, and I think the right call was made.

Butler took blame for the loss, but Carlos Boozer didn't help much by missing a free throw just one possession earlier. The combined three free throws missed in the final minute or so were the difference between a win and a loss.

The Pistons game was much the opposite

Against Detroit, the Bulls were down almost the entire game fighting back at the end. It shared one commonality and that was an inability to hit free throws and if Detroit wasn't simply awful at basketball, the Bulls would have lost this game, and this whole column likely would have been lamenting poor free throw shooting.

Luol Deng set a new personal record for free throw attempts in a game with 17, but made a paltry 11 of those 17 attempts missing a bunch in the fourth quarter while the Bulls were trying to mount their comeback. Fortunately for Luol his misses won't sting as much as Butler's as the Bulls found a way to get it done.

With 10 games to go...

The Bulls clinched a playoff birth with their win against the Heat and are now just jockeying for playoff position. What becomes interesting though is that there's no clear best position to get left.

Chicago has a relatively light schedule to close out the season, and if I were going to take a stab in the dark, I'd say they finish it out 7-3 giving them 47 wins and 35 losses mirroring the 04/05 Chicago Bulls [one of my all time favorite Bulls teams]. The Bulls, if I'm not mistaken, own the tiebreaker against all three teams they're realistically competing against for playoff seeding.

They're 2-1 against Brooklyn with a game to play, but in any event the teams end up tied, the Bulls will have the superior conference record.
They're 2-1 against Atlanta with no games to play.
They're 2-2 against Boston, but like with Brooklyn, would win the conference record tiebreaker in any scenario they end up tied.

The most winnable first round matchup is probably the Brooklyn Nets if Derrick Rose remains out which has to be our baseline assumption at this point. If Rose were to return and play well, the best case scenario for Chicago is to finish 6th, fight through a tougher 1st round matchup in order to gain the easier 2nd round matchup.

We know the Bulls aren't likely getting past Miami regardless of what they do, so ending up in the 4/5 part of the bracket is no fun. Realistically, the worst case scenario is probably five where you miss out on the preferable 2nd round matchup and home court in round one.

Injuries outside of Derrick Rose

We're fairly Rose focused in terms of the injury watch, but I don't think it's a fair assumption that Noah will return this season at close to one hundred percent. The Bulls will likely struggle significantly in the playoffs, particularly against their most likely opponent (Brooklyn), if Noah can't return reasonably healthy.

The Bulls don't exactly have a ton of big bodies to throw around out there, and fighting against Brook Lopez will be much tougher without the athletic seven footer suiting up for Chicago.

I'd assume Belinelli returns for Chicago, but Jimmy Butler's sort of made that irrelevant by playing much better than Belinelli anyway. What will be somewhat interesting is to see what Thibodeau does with the lineup upon Beli's return. Both players were initially bench guys, so it's not like we need to go back to the other bench guy as a starter.

Butler's been better and deserves the lion's share of minutes at this point whether he starts or not.

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  • Since the Bulls cannot realistically get as high as the 3 seed or as low as the 8 seed, I believe it is in their best interest to lose as many games as possible, and avoid Miami until the ECF, eventhough a first round matchup against New York or Indiana will be more difficult. Thus, you should be happy you lost to Dallas and unhappy you beat Detroit.

  • In reply to RichG:

    It depends if Derrick Rose comes back. With Derrick, you'd rather be the 6 seed so that you could face Miami in the ECF, hopefully with a Derrick Rose that's got more games under his belt.

    Without Derrick, you have a better shot at advancing one round by playing Brooklyn at the start.

    Either way, it's sort of irrelevant as the miracles that allowed Chicago to beat Miami last week aren't going to happen in four out of seven games.

  • The ending of that Dallas game was awful. It seemed like the Bulls simply stopped running the offense at the end of the 4th. And why did Butler keep trying to go iso on Dirk in the paint…wtf? Anyway, I guess Dallas needs that win more than the Bulls, and if you’re going to get lit up by a superstar, I’d rather it be from a respectable vet like Dirk, than a knucklehead like Lebron or Carmelo.

    Also, these injuries have been a problem the last 3 seasons. I see valid points on both sides of the issue of Thibs playing guys too many minutes, but it does make you wonder what the cumulative effect of that is over a full season. 2011 Rose admitted he wasn’t prepared for the physicality of the playoffs. 2012 Rose wasn’t right the second half of the season (and we know how that ended), and apparently Korver and Watson both had issues that year. 2013 has been a mess. The only guy that’s been consistently healthy (regarding basketball related injuries) the last 3 seasons is Boozer, who has been known to be benched for entire 4th quarters. Coincidence?

    And I can’t see Rose coming back this season. If he doesn’t start playing by Thursday's game, he won’t be anywhere remotely close to playoff-level conditioning; probably won’t even get to regular season conditioning for that matter.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    Taj Gibson says : “We've got a great chance to do something special this year, and we just keep playing." Rose stands in the corner think "no you are not".

  • In reply to ixonflex69:

    I'm a bit confused here... Is your point that Rose is right?

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    my point is that rose is being a bitch and hanging these guys out to dry.

  • In reply to ixonflex69:

    Because Rose afraid to rush back? Because he's never rushed back before to help his teammates before?

    Oh that's right, he did, last year, and after about 5 injuries of rushing back from...oops, I meant being 'physically cleared to play' from...he ended up tearing his ACL.

  • It's hard to see Rose coming back this year at this point. Frankly, it's hard to understand all of his waffling on his return/no return. But why not just say it rather than string the fans along? He was cleared, what, 5 weeks ago?

  • I too think he is sitting. Returning so close to the playoffs would be putting a lot of pressure on him to play the savior role with so little real game time. Unless of course he really is at or near 100% then he should really be out there. I am assuming he is not physically 100%.

    Without Rose does it really matter who they play or what they are slotted? If they manage to squeek out of the first it will only be to get blasted in the second... They have no size and no closer with Noah hurt and Rose out. Or if that is not clear they have zero chance.

    I think the Bulls really need to manage Noah better when it gets close to playoff time this is the third year in a row he will either miss or be severely limited in the playoffs. Even more critical when his backup is Nazr Muhamed *sigh*.

    Would being a one and done two years in a row have any effect on management? I suspect not especially with Derrick out and Jerry's mysterious love of John Paxson.

  • Interesting that you mentioned the Detroit coach(Frank) taking a look at Villanueva, because I thought that was the only reason that the Bulls won the game. Not sure why or for whom they were looking at him, but it worked out for us.

    Even though CV scored 14 points, he was a minus 10, and took minutes from Drummond(only 23) and to a lesser extent Monroe(only 32). Those 2 guys were killing the Bulls when they were on the court together, plus 20 something combined, while the BozoHole and Nazr were minus 20 something going against them. That was the ballgame.

    Obviously, Thibs saw the same thing that I did, as he Boganized the BozoHole in the second half. Anytime he sees anything even mildly resembling legitimate bigmen(in this case baby bigmen), he turns into a shrinking violet and pussy.

    The chokejob against Dallas deserves its own entire podcast, but I guess that you were indeed prescient for doing your podcast before the game in order to relish in the glow of the Miami game. The only saving grace is that I want the Lakers to not make the playoffs and Dallas needed the win more than we did.

    As for the rest of the season, I agree that the Bulls should go 7-3, but given how hard of a time they just had with Detroit, I am sure that they will blow a couple of games against some team that they should beat(the Wizards perhaps).

    My sense is that Noah won't play until the last week of the season trying to heal up as much as possible, but playing 2-3 games to knock the rust off and get his wind back before the playoffs.

    As for Rose, I can't figure it out. Either he already knows that he is sitting out the whole season, or he is planning to come back just in time for the playoffs, giving him nearly one full year of recovery. That seems like the high pressure way to do it, but maybe he feels that he can get his body all the way back without playing in games, like Rubio & Shumpert have.

    One of the ESPN stat geeks did a extensive analysis of guys coming back from ACL's. He found that they recovered in 3 phases, the first 4 weeks were statistically significant, the second 4 weeks were statistically significant, and finally after that they recovered to within a few % of their pre injury performance.

    Maybe Rose thinks that he can do it a different way, even though I am certain that he is unaware of the track record.

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