Bulls fall to Pistons as Noah, Belinelli return and Deng rests

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.

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  • I believe the #5 spot is the Bulls worst case scenario. Not only would they draw the Heat in the second round, but would also miss out on an Indiana team which seems to be struggling. Unlike Doug, I would not rate the Bulls chances against Brooklyn as excellent. Without Rose, and opening on the road, I think that series would be a 50/50 proposition. I might even favor Brooklyn. I know it’s difficult for you to root for your team to lose, but that’s what you should be doing.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I think their odds against Brooklyn are much better than Indiana. When I say excellent, I mean realistically 50/50 or a bit better. Against Indiana, I'd say the Bulls are closer to 25-35%.

    I do think drawing the Heat in the second round sucks since they won't pass the Heat, but eh... They aren't going to pass them anyway.

    I'd rather have a 50/50 shot of getting to the second round and losing to Miami than a 30% shot of getting to the second round just to have a 30% shot of getting to the ECF and then losing to Miami.

  • Yeah who are these guys? Resting Deng limiting Noah's minutes... I like it. I would rather them rest their guys so they are as healthy as possible going into the playoffs. Sure they could lose most their games as they have no depth but does it really matter who they play in the first round anyway? They aren't favored against any of the top east teams and they are not contenders so I would rather see them full health so they can go all out and make a good series of it.

    I hope Rose does play at some point or this is all we will hear about all offseason. Will he ever be the same? Why is he taking so long to heal? Why didn't he see Dr. Andrews? Does he have a grudge against management? (I do, he doesn't) I am dreading it already.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Your questions about Rose are logical.AI thinking person has to wonder. Is whatever is holding him out now really going to clear up over the summer? Or is it more or less permanent?

    The Bulls might have a shot at the Heat if everyone is healthy. Here's why:
    1) They can kill the Heat on the boards;
    2) They have a lot of different guys who can get hot shooting for a few games -- Nate, Belli, Deng, Rose (of course) even Hinrich;
    3) Then if Butler, Noah, and Taj all play strong ...
    4) Deng, Butler, and Rose can all play tough defense;
    5) It might be time for the Heat to catch some injuries;
    6) Maybe they get more balanced coaching from Thibs.
    Might get interesting.

  • Was also encouraged to see Noah play only 20 minutes in his return. Maybe Thibs is learning.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I thought the same thing. Was surprised that he played so little given that he was looking relatively OK (a bad minute of Noah > a good minute by Nazr).

    Hopefully, it is an encouraging sign. Deng coming back will be the real test, though.

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    I thought it was ridiculous that Butler only put up 8 shots the entire game (still managing to score 14 points) while guys like Nate, Hinrich, Cook, and Vlad combined to shoot 12 for 36. To give you an idea of how bad Kirk, Cook, and Vlad were; the three of them combined to score 13 points on 17 shots.You get the guy the ball who has a hot hand and the Bulls did not do enough of that last night.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    I can understand Nate taking shots; that is what volume scorers are supposed to do. However, Hinrich should know better. As floor general, he is supposed to put the team in the best position to win, and him taking shots ain't it when he isn't 'on'.

    I also noticed that more teams are adopting LeBron's technique for defending Hinrich: let him get by thinking he has a layup, only to swat the hell out of it. I've seen it about a handful of times since the Heat game, and I cringe.

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  • It sure as hell would be crazy if everyone gets healthy right before the playoffs start regardless of who we play. Signing Malcolm Thomas was a good move but I still expect them to draft a center, especially since this draft has a few decent ones. Gorgui Dieng looks like a kind of player the Bulls would love and he would be in their range. I would love the Bulls to make a run this playoffs but its really about next year and how they set the team up next to a healthy derrick rose. Maybe they bring back Korver or another shooter. A lineup of Rose,Butler, Deng, Boozer and Noah with key reserves of Gibson, Hinrich and Teague isn't bad but they need some scoring punch off the bench. I think they should see if they can bring back Nate Robinson and trade Teague or package him to get a better draft pick this year.

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