Bulls vs Pacers looks most likely in the first round

The Chicago Bulls have fallen to sixth and are a game back of Atlanta with two to play. The Hawks play a Raptors team that's playing like it gives a crap followed by a Knicks team that will likely be in full rest mode. If the Bulls are to have a chance at passing Atlanta, it's likely because Atlanta blows it to the Raptors followed by the Bulls winning out.

That said, unless Gibson/Noah suit up, don't count on the Bulls winning out either. Chicago's shown that when missing their two best players overall (Rose Noah), and their two best front court (and only interior defenders) players (Noah/Gibson) then they aren't really much of a team to go up against.

The Bulls will certainly fight hard, play hard, and give it a go, but this is a team predicated by interior defense running a front court rotation of Vlad, Nazr, and Boozer. Not one of the three can defend to save their life. They just don't have the horses to run their schemes, and when they've stayed in games it's been because they've had more offense going.

Chicago gets the easier of their two remaining games tonight against the Orlando Magic. Neither the Magic or Wizards have anything left to play for, but the Wizards are playing for pride since John Wall returned while the Magic are playing to end their season. A loss tonight effectively ends the Bulls pursuit for 5th.

As for a drop to sixth, it's not the worst thing for Chicago.

If Noah/Gibson can return for the playoffs [and I believe there's an underlying assumption with the Bulls that the pair can return, but Chicago wants to rest them as much as possible] then the Bulls and Pacers match up relatively evenly. I give Indiana an advantage over Chicago, but not a mammoth "there's no way in hell we can over come that" dominant type advantage.

Both teams match up fairly evenly position by position when Rose is out, so Chicago will need a little luck and some hot shooting to win the series, but it's certainly well within the realm of possibility. If Chicago does manage to beat the Pacers, they draw the Knicks, whom they swept in the regular season and match up well against, or the Celtics, who simply suck ass.

While getting out of the 1st round without Rose will be a struggle, if they pull it off, they'll have a solid shot at getting to the second round and playing through the ECF. In that sense, it's a positive to land in sixth.

No real word on Noah/Gibson

The assumption is certainly that Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson will be able to play, but there's no real useful status on whether the pair will be back or how healthy they'll be when they are. Noah at least shot around prior to the Raptors game inspiring some hope, and given that plantar fasciitis is a pain tolerance issue, the odds are high that he fights through it in the playoffs.

Of course fighting through it and being on the court will help relative to playing Vladamir Radmanovic, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the Joakim Noah that gives you a shot at upending the Pacers or Nets.

Some serious bullshit against the Heat

Anyone else annoyed at how the media referred to the last Bulls/Heat game as one of the most physical games they've seen. It's like LeBron bitched and then everyone bought into it. LeBron took one legitimate hard foul. The Hinrich play was LeBron James using his own size and strength to run over a guy 70 lbs lighter than him in a play which was closer to a reckless offensive foul than a flagrant defensive one.

Outside of that, the game wasn't anything all that special in defensive intensity, yet we watched the Heat get paraded to the foul line repeatedly in this game as the refs repeatedly called touch fouls on Chicago all night long. The Bulls weren't going to win this game anyway and only amazing three point shooting kept them close for awhile, so it doesn't ultimately matter much.

That said, it's irksome that the refs clearly went into the game with an agenda to benefit the Heat, that agenda was clearly set because of LeBron's comments, and I never once thought this game was played on a level playing field. It's one of the most annoying things about LeBron. He's effectively a crybaby, faking, wuss as a player.

I've never seen a team fake more contact than the Heat going back to 2010 where Bosh faked getting hit in the face in the infamous sniper play and went down to the ground on a play where there was no contact at all, or LeBron James and Wade both faking they got hit and going down to the floor with LeBron famously winking after one such play as if he was in a cheesy B movie telling the crowd he got away with one.

All players exaggerate contact to get a call, but Miami is the only team I've seen that repeatedly invents contact that doesn't exist and then falls to the floor and writhes on the ground to sell the call. Maybe they should collectively go play soccer.

At any rate, for a guy who's clearly the best player in the NBA, it's a bit sad that he also has to try to cheat the game to win as well, since he clearly doesn't need to.

Momentum is next day's starting lineup

I'm not a huge believer in momentum ending the regular season translating to anything in the playoffs.

The Bulls momentum will be based on whether or not Taj/Noah return (and I suppose you could throw in Rose, but it's not going to happen). If they do, then the Bulls will have some in the playoffs. If not, then they're going to get annihilated by the Pacers front court in the playoffs.

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  • You learn something new every day. Yesterday, I learned that you can get called for a clear path foul even when you are in the paint, between the shooter and the basket.

  • Doug, you know whenever the Bulls play the Heat, I’m going to be checking in and holding you accountable, and I don’t think you’d have it any other way. Did you complain when Jordan got the majority of the calls during his run in the 90’s, or when he and Pippen were faking and crying to the officials? My comments from several weeks ago bear repeating. If Lebron wore a Bulls uniform, 7 years from now, you would be leading the cheers for erecting a statue for him outside the United Center, right next to number 23.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Jordan actually got hit. Sure he bitched, but until Lebron or Wade has one of these on his forehead (http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y21/letitrain/pip-lump.jpg) you can stfu.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I don't recall that Jordan/Pippen ever faking hits and then winking to the camera afterwards like it is WWE.

    There's a difference between exaggerating contact to sell a foul (and quite honestly, I don't recall Jordan really doing that a whole lot either, and faking contact that didn't exist.

    Jordan also shot .35 FTs per shot attempt. LeBron shoots .42 and Wade shoots .47. Both are considerably higher than Jordan, and both take WAY WAY WAY less contact than Jordan took in his era.

    So no, it's not remotely the same thing. Some of that is the change in the league though.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Because of the era in which he played, I’ll admit that Jordan took more hits than Lebron. But Jordan did plenty of bartering with the officials, on the same level as Wade and Lebron. All three receive(d) preferential treatment from the officials, because that’s what superstars get. As far as faking contact, show me a player who doesn’t do it? It’s just more pronounced with Wade and Lebron because of the attention they receive. Winking at the camera was not a smart move by Lebron. I would support the NBA if they enforced the no flopping rule.

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    In reply to RichG:

    I don't see many players who fake contact on the level of the big 3 (namely LeBron and Wade). They've pointed out some examples above, but what about in the 2011 NBA Finals against Dallas? There was one play where Coach Carlisle got T'd up because LeBron absolutely faked contact. He was along the sideline and, out of nowhere, just ran out of bounds with his arms flailing, a look of pain on his face. No contact whatsoever, but the refs called it and LeBron got to the line.

    You can't say "Oh, what player doesn't do it?" when LeBron and Wade make it an essential part of their games. The reason it's more pronounced with Wade and LeBron is because they simply do it more often.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    Read my reply to Doug.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I don't know _ANY_ other player who fakes contact. Every player exaggerates contact, but I don't see other players snap their heads back like they got hit and flop around on the ground when they weren't actually hit. I have seen LeBron, Wade, and Bosh each do this at least once against Chicago, and do not recall a single instance of any other player doing it ever.

    That's not to say it doesn't happen, obviously Miami has a more visceral reaction for me, so they'd be more memorable, but it certainly isn't common for other players to do that.

    By your own admission, Jordan took more legit hits than Wade/LeBron while factually took far less free throws per shot attempt which means that objectively, Wade/LeBron are babied radically more than Jordan was, which shows your first point is completely irrelevant, and that no, I don't need to look at waht happened with Jordan.

    This is entirely separate for players arguing for calls, and I expect all players to do that.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Free throws per shot can be a telling statistic, but not all fouls are commited in the act of shooting or when the team fouling is over the limit. Like yourself, I may be biased because the Bulls of the 90's had a more visceral reaction for me. Any non Bulls fans would remember somone breathing on Jordan, and the whistle blowing. As for my faking contact assertion, haven't you seen players who try to take charges, barely get clipped, and fall backwards anyway? How about guys who take three point shots, the defender runs right by them with their hands up, and the shooter falls down anyway? Maybe you and I are watching different games, but I see this all the time.

  • The writeup on Blog a Bull says the Bulls would be the favorite against the Nets. You say Doug that the Bulls match up relatively evenly with the Pacers (though you do gives the Pacers the advantage). I feel like I'm living in a world where the last two playoffs didn't happen. Even with Derrick Rose, they struggled to find offense in both the series against Indiana and against Atlanta, then Miami all but completely shut them down in the fourth quarters of each of the last four games. Then the Bulls last year could only manage to win one more game after Derrick went down to a Philly team which isn't as good as either Indiana or Brooklyn is this year.

    The regular season is fool's gold. Working harder than the other team isn't a recipe for playoff wins. I think the Bulls will be extremely lucky to win two games against Indiana in the playoffs.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    While what you said about the Bulls lack of offense as a glaring weakness for trying to survive in the playoffs, you seem to have forgotten that the Pacers have the exact same problem. Just look at the rosters. How is not a toss-up if these two teams face off?

    Starters:
    George Hill > Kirk Hinrich
    Lance Stephenson < Jimmy Butler
    Paul George = Luol Deng
    David West = Carlos Boozer
    Roy Hibbert < Joakim Noah

    Bench:
    Tyler Hansbrough Nazr Mohammed
    DJ Augustin < Nate Robinson
    Gerald Green = Marco Belinelli

  • In reply to Motoman:

    Response Messed up Somehow. End is supposed to say

    Bench:
    Hansbrough Mohammed

  • In reply to Motoman:

    WTF still messing up, I give up

  • In reply to Motoman:

    I'm not going to say you can take each individual match-up and say who's better offensively or defensively. Or that that actually translates to anything concrete when it comes to predictions. But my match-ups would look something more like:

    Hill offensively > Hinrich offensively
    Hill defensively < Hinrich defensively

    Stephenson offensively = Butler offensively
    Stephenson defensively Deng offensively
    George defensively = Deng defensively

    West offensively > Boozer offensively
    West defensively = Boozer defensively

    Hibbert offensively and defensively = Noah offensively and defensively (doesn't take into account all the other things Noah does which are far superior to Hibbert)

    There's no way it's a toss-up in my eyes. Indiana is just plain better when you look at a Bulls roster which has Rose as inactive.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    Mine messed up for some strange reason as well. It meant to say Stephenson is worse defensively than Butler and George is better offensively than Deng.

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