Bulls throttle Toronto, claim third and tiebreaker

The Chicago Bulls annihilated the Raptors whom were missing Kyle Lowry. The win pushed them back up to the three seed and also clinched the tie breaker against the Raptors if they finish with the same record.

Both teams started off hot. The Bulls stayed that way while the Raptors cooled off. At the end of the night, the Bulls climbed into third in the East and also clinched the tiebreaker against Toronto.

Despite hanging out in third, the Bulls don't control their own destiny as the Wizards are tied in the loss column and would mostly likely own the tie breaker with Chicago (conference record). In the case of a three way tie, the winner would be Toronto if they beat Chicago in their finale or Chicago if they beat Toronto.

Joakim Noah with a dominant performance

Noah strung together a 8/10/14 game (14 assists) and is second only to Vlade Divac in centers with double digit assist games (since 1985) and the only center with a 14 assist game.

It's likely in the Wilt era of 33% more possessions and more minutes that Chamberlain destroyed those numbers, but Joakim is still amongst the elite passing big men in NBA history.

One of the best part about Noah with the ball in a passing situation is that when he is off the ball his man will frequently cheat. However, when he is on the ball, that doesn't happen. This frequently provides very good spacing with a lineup that might otherwise not get it.

The even better news is that Joakim Noah's overall level of play and energy looks good. He spent the whole game like he was jacked up on red bull, mountain dew, and 5 hour energy shots.

Noah left the game at a point where one more pass would have set a new career high (and position high in the basketball reference era) for assists by a center while one more basket would have given him the triple double.

On his final possession he opted to go for the assist. Get this guy on a state farm commercial.

Nikola Mirotic is a bad ass

What's scary about how good Nikola Mirotic is playing is how bad he's shooting while playing so well. Mirotic is 4/18 from the three point line over the past two games, but he's 15/18 from inside the arc, almost exclusively on drives.

He uses the threat of the three to set up that drive, so you can't simply say he should stop shooting them though. Some of those step back threes are shots I'd prefer he remove from his repertoire for awhile, but I'd rather not try and put any shackles on him at this point.

Keep playing free Nikola.

Mirotic reminds me a great deal of the first couple times I saw Dirk play. I'll be interested to see if he simply steps his game inside the three point line like Dirk generally does or if he just improves his shooting.

Stay warm Chicago!

I might write a piece or two from Cancun if I'm sober enough to type [and may even write one if I'm not, but really what are the odds of me finding the publish button in this case].

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  • Have a great vacation Doug! Thanks for all the write ups.

  • In reply to waitwhat:

    I second that comment WW. Have a wonderful change of pace, Doug.

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    They have NBA league pass in Mexico? I'm on my way!
    It was just one of those games where everything was working for the Bulls, and for such an important game Toronto didn't put up much of a fight.
    Personally, I'd rather not see Joakim Noah have 14 asst. It's great to see when an opponent chooses not to play defense like the Raptors tonight, but I hope Joakim doesn't fall in love with his passing during the playoffs. I'd rather see him dominate on the boards, block shots, and use his high energy for tip-backs, and layups. When Jo gets locked in to his passing mode he can make some costly, boneheaded turnovers, however, tonight he looked like a 7ft Jason Kidd. Good Job Jo.

    Back to back good games by Mike Dunleavy! Can this really be happening?! Let's all bow our heads and say a prayer hoping Mike can keep up the good shooting for 3 games in a row.

    I don't know why the media seems to already have Andrew Wiggins name carved on the ROY award with a month to go. When was the last time we saw a Andrew Wiggins highlight on SportsCenter? Just because Minnesota gave Wiggins Card Blanche to hoist as many shots as he could in order to boost his stats doesn't mean he should win the award. If NBA Nation hasn't noticed what Nikola Mirotic has been doing on a veteran ball club with championship aspirations, then the ROY award is a fluke. 29 and 11 with 4 blks?! Come on Niko's the best rookie in the NBA, and it's not even close.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I don't know about Mexico, but they do have the League Pass in Arizona - and loads of sports bars! Safer than the west coast of Mexico, tho the east coast seems OK.

    The Bulls have beaten 2 good teams but a handy margin - while severely shorthanded! Bodes well for the future.

    Of course Mirotic for ROY - how could that be a question at this point? Well, there are a few weeks left. If he keeps it up, he should be a lock.

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    In reply to rustyw:

    From what I've been reading Andrew Wiggins won the award back in November.
    ESPN had a piece a couple of days ago stating a case for Orlando's Elfrid Payton for ROY. (He was my choice for the Bulls 1st rd draft pick by the way. Him and Kyle Anderson Spurs)
    Wiggins has won Rookie of the Month every month from the West, but his efficiency isn't ROY worthy when they compared his stats to Payton's stats. And, when you compare Payton's stats to Niko's it's not even close. If Niko doesn't win the award after being rookie of the month in Dec, and March,and num rookie in True shooting %, #1 in PER, 3rd in dbl-dbls, 2nd in boards, #1 in Value added, #2 in scoring among the rooks and he's played 900 mins less than Wiggins who is #1 in scoring, plus he's playing in meaningful games on a team that's in playoff contention, and finally Dude has been Mr 4th Qtr for a month while Rose, Butler and Taj are nursing injuries, then I'll declare the ROY award a fluke, or a popularity award.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    Totally with you on Payton(for me it was Saric, Payton, LaVine) and we woulda, coulda, shoulda had any one of them. Payton recorded his second straight triple double last night, something that only 4 rookies have done since the merger, Magic, Kidd, Antoine Walker, and Hakeem(I think). Other than Walker, thats impressive company.

    How great would it have been to have him taking over for Rose instead of Brooks and Hangdog. Maybe they wouldn't even have brought the corpsedog back, I doubt it, but maybe. Despite the fact that he cannot shoot, I still think that they could have played some minutes together, with Rose relinquishing the PG duties and Payton taking on the tougher defensive assignment allowing Rose to save energy to attack on the offensive end.

    Oh, well all that we can do now is hope that Mc(I can't shoot in games) has a great offseason and comes back a better smarter athlete. Hopefully, it isn't a pure lack of athleticism that is holding him back on both ends of the floor.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I have to assume that the vast majority of Bulls fans do not regularly watch Wiggins play, so it is really difficult to say if he deserves the ROY or not. Mirotic on the other hand has had basically 1 good and 1 very good month, but still doesn't have the #'s that typically win the award. None of this is his fault. It is just the nature of the difference in the context under which they are playing. Wiggins has a big advantage in playing time, while Niko has 3 bigs ahead of him limiting his playing time(with the usual assistance from Thibs).

    I suppose that if Niko can close out the season the way he is now, especially with some great 4rth quarter play in meaningful games he has a shot to overtake Wiggins, but right now in totality I don't necessarily have a problem with Wiggins being the leader not quite yet in the clubhouse.

  • If Jo had a decent elbow jumper, then it would really be on and poppin' here in town. These Bulls do just enough to keep you on the ledge, a complete mastery of Taskmaster Thibs late night concoctions and schemes; a joy to witness for those who see red....Then.....wait for it...... they forget to rebound, they become a circus of turnovers, and they stop defending and have the best seat in the house watching the other team score over an over.
    I am a simple fan who has had to manage his rage the way the rest of you have: we vent with Doug here. Curiously enough, with the way Mirotic has dominated, Snell has progressed and let his little roar lately, and the defense ( the Thibodeau defense) has began to surface ; do we dare to begin to dream??
    We sense that with Rose and Butlers eminent return, coupled with the rest of the running Bulls have the potential that they've haven't possessed since the end what seems was the last century ( wait, that was ) a balanced team

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    In reply to mummuhwalde:

    So true. They do enough just to keep you filled with hope, then the playoffs start and "Wham!" it's back to reality.
    I'm still concerned with how Joakim, and Taj will perform in the playoffs. Last yr they were dominated in the paint by Nene, and Gortat, and this season the trend has continued when they play against younger, more athletic Bigs. This is why I'd rather watch Joakim battling in the paint for offensive rebounds, instead of out there on the 3 pt line trying to play point guard. This stagnant style of offense didn't work in the playoffs last yr and it won't work this yr.
    I don't know if the 3rd seed is the best move for the Bulls. Their 1st rd matchup could be against the Miami Heat, and that could turn out to be the last team anyone would want to face in the 1st rd. They may not have Lebron anymore, but they still have championship experience on its' roster. If they should make it past the Heat, it's off to Cleveland for rd 2. Home court advantage could turn out to be the difference between these two teams, even though the Bulls are a great road team the Cavs inexperienced core could get syked from the hometown crowd and rally to a series victory.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I agree with you that some of what Noah does best, the passing game can be negated by playoff defense in a 7 game series.

    While Nene had a great series, especially offensively, Noah was already hurt(we didn't know about it) and on top of battling Nene and Gortat, he still had to carry the bozohole, useless slug that he is.

    As bad as it looked like Noah was playing, his numbers were not that far of his norm, and he was still likely the least of our problems against the Wiz. We had no answer for their athleticism at all 3 wing positions. and that includes Jimmy being completely unable to stay with Beal.

  • So some good and some concerns still. I always thought this year there was a chance the Bulls can do some damage in the playoffs (yes, even when it looked like the Bulls were a first round and done team), since Lebron is in his first year with a new team and the top seed everyone knows is vulnerable. Obviously, this game gives some hope of how Bulls can dominate, but really we can't use it to measure where the team can go.
    Yes, Jo looking great, but we saw last year how the Wizards made that disappear, as teams can figure out how to push Jo farther out and put more ball pressure on him (Raptors really gave him too much space last night).
    Yes, Niko is looking even better quicker than anyone thought (nobody saw him progressing this quickly, don't lie).
    Brooks and Snell are still a little too inconsistent for my liking, as well as Dunleavy, but I think I trust him more.
    Hey, Kirk looked okay, and maybe with Rose and Butler back soon Thibs can keep him under 15 minutes all the time. Looks like Thibs will only give Dougie a little 3 minute spurt here and there, I guess it's understandable for this year.
    Overall, I think we can be cautiously optimistic and just cross our fingers with Rose and Noah's health, because to me that is the biggest concern. WIll be interested to see how they play when Rose is back, can't wait!

    Lastly, I think Pau has really been underrated among fans here, as he does get annoying with the goofy looks and whining, poor defense or rebounding at time, but Neil or Stacy mentioned the MVP race, and I do think that Pau should be given more credit, obviously not a league MVP, but maybe around 10th "most valuable" to a team, being he is the only healthy starter all year and has been so consistent. Just saying, the guy has kept it together well.

  • In reply to Keep:

    The good thing is Jo has a lot more options this year. Last year all he had was Gibson and Dunleavy. This year he also has a new and improved Jimmy Butler, Gasol, Mirotic, and potential Rose. Also if teams are successful in pushing Jo out we can also go back to having Rose facilitate which isn't bad either.

    I agree with you on Gasol and i know I've taken more than my fair share of shots at him. I still have those same feelings but i also appreciate the god that he brings to the team. Sometimes you just have to accept the good and the bad with people.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    i mean appreciate the good. I wish you could edit your comments on this blog.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    I actually agree on Gasol, just limit his 4rth quarter minutes to zero like last night.

    Although I think that I caught a glimpse of him pouting on the bench in the closing minutes of the game, when he realized that he wasn't going back being robbed of his double double(missed by one rebound), since as he told us himself, he is always aware, very aware of his stats at all times, even during the game.

  • In reply to Keep:

    While he wasn't atrocious Kirk the last couple of nights, he is Niko's VP, he just rides Niko's coattails to some very nice plus/minus #'s. Both plus 14 last night.

    Interestingly, on a night when he played the fewest minutes in a long time, and didn't play at all in the 4rth, Gasol actually led the team in plus/minus. Hmmmm, maybe there might be something to boozerizing him.

    Also quite interesting is the fact that the only 2 Raptors who seemed to have anything going on O, DeRozan and Paterson where the 2 worst plus/minus guys despite scoring nearly half their points and shooting 15-25(60%) from the field.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    It only makes sense to bench Gasol in the 4th. He lacks the defensive mentality to be a closer. He can get away with being offense only through three quarters but that last quarter is when everyone needs to D up. So he either needs to participate in playing defense or sit down and shut up. I think Thibs is finally starting to realize that his job is really on the line and the only thing that will keep him here is either winning a championship or coming damn close. We're not going to win a championship with Gasols atrocious defense in the final minutes of the game. Having said that I really do appreciate what he brings on offense, rebounding, and even blocks but his defense is a serious problem and it can't be ignored going forward. We simply have too many better options defensively and even offensively depending on how you look at it to be catering to one mans ego. Basketball games is a team effort and if you can carry a team through three quarters and sit on the bench and still win, then you as a player should be proud of your team and happy for the win. So what if he didn't get the double double, Noah was one basket away from a triple double but chose the unselfish route and instead passed the ball to a teammate who had a better shot. For a guy that's been playing as long as Gasol he could learn a lot from Noah.

  • In reply to Keep:

    I almost busted a gut laughing when Neal and Stacey actually mentioned the MVP race, what a bunch of homer clowns. I suppose that someone could make the argument that he is the Bulls MVP, not me mind you, but someone could, but the league thats absolutely ludicrous.

    Then they brought up most improved for him too. Lets see last season he averaged 17.4 & 9.7 on 48% shooting, his career averages are 18.3 & 9.4 on 51% shooting, this season he is averaging 18.3 & 12 on 49% shooting. Yea, that looks like the definition of most improved, being exactly the same player that you've been for the past dozen years.

    While the MVP is almost often given for offensive performance, it would be interesting to determine who the worst defensive player that has ever won the MVP is. Steve Nash might be it, was he anywhere near as soft on D as Gasoline is.

  • I would also add that at his salary, Pau is a great addition. That's easy to forget- he is not making Boozer-dollars. Is he making half of what Boozer made or a little more? If that's the case, his defense may be similar but his offense is way better for a much more reasonable salary.

  • Nikola does it again. And even with his bad shooting, he is finding ways to dominate the game. This kid is going to be a star sooner than we all thought. Rose, Butler, Snell, Nikola and Noah is/will be a championship caliber 5.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    and then Tayshaun Prince effectively shuts him down, while getting 10 rebounds himself. I'm afraid that this will be the strategy on Mirotic going forward, assign your best wing defender to him not your PF.

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    What an embarrassing game. How do the Bulls blow this kind of lead ? How does a playoff team not just give up a second half 19 point lead, but basically had no chance w 5 mins left in the game?

    This was disheartening on so many levels. I don't even know where to begin

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I felt that way at first too, very annoying. But I guess what has become the norm with this team...In the end, doesn't matter too much since seeding really doesn't matter at this point, either we get an easier 1st round matchup with Milwaukee but a 2nd round date with Lebron, or a rough matchup with Wiz and avoid Lebron if make 2nd round. Either way, I can't be happy really with anything less than a Finals appearance, so gonna have to beat the best and play the best and none of this nonsense we have seen against poor teams. A 1st or 2nd round exit is the same to me, a big disappointment. An ECF elimination may be seen as overachieving at this point for some fans, but I still hold hope that they should get at least to the ECF....maybe I'm dreaming, but its a rollercoaster ride so who knows....

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Not quite as bad as the Charlotte game as we only blew a 19 point lead at the end of the first quarter rather than midway through the third, but still kind of sickening to watch it happen twice in a matter of weeks. To me this speaks to an underlying softness of the entire team, a softness that starts with the Mr Whipple of softness, the KKP and permeates throughout the team, with the VP of softness being Snell. One guy won't guard anybody and the other can't.

    Even though I can't help but root for us to win each game, losses are somewhat less painful as I really want to stay out of the Cavs bracket.

  • I'm at a total loss for words on that game. On one hand wins and losses really doesn't matter at this point, and if losing means avoiding the Cavs then it's not such a bad thing. On the other I was starting to think they was turning a corner defensively but it appears to be the same old inconsistent Bulls team. These are the kind of losses you expect to see during the early portion of the season when teams haven't fully jelled yet. The fact that we're still seeing it this close to the playoffs is not a good sign at all. It's easy to try and justify that they were without Rose and Butler but if my memory serves me correct the last time these teams faced Rose and butler were still healthy and Rose had Dinwiddie looking all star caliber against him. I think from now on when I watch Bulls games I need to keep some Tylenol close by. lol

  • Some of the blame for the flat double tire at the end has to go on Thibs. On the second night of a back to back he only used 8 guys(or 7.5 if you count Gibson's condition) until the final seconds of the blowout. You mean you couldn't find a handful of minutes for Moore, McDNP or even Nazr, especially in the first half, or in the second half when the wheels started flying off.

    It might not have made a difference, but maybe everybody doesn't run out of gas at exactly the same time if they all played 6 less minutes in the first half.

    Thibs will never learn, at least not until after he gets fired, and likely not even then. Eventually he will end up being a top assistant again rather than a head coach.

    By the way, I am sure that somebody out there is thinking where would we have been without Gasoline and his 27 points.
    However, all that his 27 points got us/him was a minus 22 rating, only Dunleavy another member of the all Mr Whipple team at minus 25 beat him. The junior member of the Mr. Whipple team Snell came in at minus 15 with the corpsedog chipping in minus 12.

    For what its worth, Noah, Niko(even though he didn't do squat) and Taj were a combined minus 3, hey, maybe they might have had a chance if they weren't forced to carry those other guys around.

  • By the way for those of you who don't get why defense matters a whole lot more than offensive stats(especially from your center), check out this article on Rudy Gobert. They dumped Kantor to OKC, where he has been tearing it up offensively and on the boards, het utah has become the best defensive team in the league since Gobert became their starter and has one of the best if not the best record in the league since that time also.

    "Defensive Player of the Second Trimester: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
    Since the All-Star break, when the rise to prominence of Jazz big man Rudy Gobert really began to go viral, Utah ranks:

    First in defensive efficiency.
    First in net rating (which is net points scored and allowed per 100 possessions).
    First in rebound percentage.
    First in opponents' field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage.
    First in overall winning percentage in the league with a record of 11-3 since the break.
    The anchor for all of that resistance, of course, is Gobert, who might well rank as the league's Defensive Player of the Year favorite entering the stretch run if he hadn't come off the bench so often in the first half of the season.
    It'll be interesting, then, to see how voters ultimately grade the Frenchman widely known as The Stifle Tower -- as he was dubbed by Jody Genessy of the Deseret News -- compared to some of the more celebrated names in the field.
    Draymond Green, DeAndre Jordan and Tim Duncan -- who, amazingly, has never won the DPOY trophy despite being selected by the coaches to the NBA's All-Defensive Team in 14 of his 17 seasons -- are also all prime contenders for this award when ballots are cast in a month's time.
    Andrew Bogut, Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka would all be right there, too, if not for their respective bouts with injury.
    Yet it's Gobert who has undeniably emerged as the NBA's most feared rim protector, limiting opponents to 38.9 percent shooting at the basket, which is the lowest figure for any player who defends at least five shots per game.
    So let's just say that another first-time winner of this award, following in the footsteps of recent DPOY honorees Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler, seems likely."

    I'm leaning toward Bogut myself for DPOY, but I you could make an argument for Gobert if he and Utah retain their current pace to close out the season.

    A pretty good argument for why Gasoline's 18 &12 is nothing more than fools gold, if not virtually worthless given how he has completely devastated our once proud #1 defense.

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    In reply to BigWay:

    Great info, but a lot of that was the whole newness of him and the belief Utah was tanking so teams didn't get up for them. Now since the book is out on Rudy and the jazz, they aren't having such an easy time unless of course beating the Lakers is a quality win.

    Overall though, I am with you. Defense means a lot ESP when you have an offensively challenged team.

    Only one game, but Kanter was great today vs the heat front line. ( w out Ibaka so he was only main big )

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