So I had a theory that the Bulls were likely locked into 5th place, but part of that theory was based on the Bulls beating Detroit and the Raptors twice each. The Bulls fell to the Pistons as Luol Deng rested and will likely play the Raptors without Deng on Tuesday. Without the glue, a loss to another wretched team is certainly a possibility.
If the Bulls do drop that game as well, then they could easily fall back to sixth place which, in some ways, wouldn't be so bad anyway, as they'd avoid a second round matchup against the Heat if they could make it through what appears likely to be the Indiana Pacers. However, getting through Indiana would be no easy task.
Derrick Rose noted that he was willing to come back in the playoffs even if he doesn't play in the regular season, and while I believe he means it, it's hard to see him deciding he's physically ready once the playoffs start but isn't before that. Granted, it will depend how long the playoffs go.
The first round will take place over two and a half weeks, and given Rose has rested for 11 months or so, it's hard to imagine that the critical point of "I feel better" takes place in that time slice.
Now if the Bulls can extend themselves into round two and buy another two weeks, then thinking about Rose returning sometime in a one month time frame starts to feel a bit more realistic.
I think Chicago has an excellent chance to extend against Brooklyn, not so much against the Pacers or Knicks.
Joakim Noah played well but minimally in his return
Noah was 4/4 from the field with 13 points and seven boards in a shade over his 20 minute limit [we'll see if Thibs gets choked out after the game]. The Bulls were +7 with Noah out there and -21 with him on the bench as the Bulls struggled mightily with their small ball lineups without Luol Deng in there to play PF.
There really aren't any important games the rest of the way as the Bulls could possibly even lose out and not fall to eighth which is the only scenario that would really hurt them significantly in terms of playoff match ups. The Bulls aren't going to lose out though. The team has too much pride and has shown that even with half the team missing they can find ways to grind out wins.
Marco Belinelli returned.... to the bench
While Joakim Noah returned to the starting lineup, Marco Belinelli returned to the bench. A good sign for Bulls fans hoping that Jimmy Butler had earned the starting role. It certainly appears that he has at this point. Butler played nearly the whole game and continued to play well for Chicago.
Marco struggled in his first game back only getting up two shots (both misses) and failing to score in a shade over 20 minutes.
What will the Bulls health look like going into the playoffs?
That's really the question for Chicago. As the Miami Heat regularly rest their star players the rest of the way, perhaps the Bulls will do much the same the rest of the way. It's much more difficult for a team like Chicago [at least the minus Rose edition] to rest guys when they win based on hustle and energy in the middle of a playoff seeding race rather than winning by overwhelming talent and having everything locked up.
However, we'll hope the decision to rest Deng was an organizational one rather than just a Luol Deng one which would indicate a significant area of growth for Thibodeau if he's really trying to get guys healthy for the playoffs rather than grinding out extra wins. Especially when the wins could mean more than they have in the past.
Combine that with the decision to go away from his typical standard of sticking with a lousy starting SG for 17 minutes a night no matter how well the reserves are playing, and you've got two nice things we've seen from Thibodeau tonight. Hopefully he continues on with both as it would shore up two of his perceived weaknesses in terms of coaching the team.
Filed under: Miscellaneous