Bulls lock up third seed with win against Atlanta

Bulls lock up third seed with win against Atlanta

The Hawks starters played limited minutes and generally played quite well in those minutes. The Bulls had to come from 18 down to win the game, but the Hawks playing the deep bench didn't hurt.

Derrick Rose kinda stunk

After a couple of strong outings, Rose ended up with four turnovers 0-2 from beyond the arc and 1-1 on his only two point shot. He finished with two points, an assist, a couple rebounds, and four turnovers in a shade over 10 minutes.

Rose didn't play in the second half. After the game, it was said he had some discomfort, so they kept him out as a precaution. It didn't seem like a big deal, but it's a big enough deal that they decided to rest him.

Would he have played in the playoffs? Probably. Would he have been able to play well, at full speed, and stay healthy? That's a more interesting question and is my concern with the news.

More injury woes for Chicago
Taj Gibson left the game with a strained left shoulder and received a cortisone shot at half time and didn't return. He says he'll be fine, and I'm at least happy that it isn't a lower body injury.

Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich were both out for Chicago, but I'm not sure at this point whether that's a bad thing in either case. It's sad saying that about Joakim, but he's had a really tough year and just hasn't played well.

Kirk, well he's stunk for a good long while now.

Everyone will probably be ready to play come playoff time, and the long gaps between games will help too. That said, the Bulls clearly aren't hitting the playoffs at full stride, but at least no one is out for the playoffs with a major injury which is a plus.

Kind of feels like Atlanta preferred Toronto

The Hawks controlled their own destiny in terms of whom they'd play in the second round. With Toronto grabbing an early win, if the Hawks lose, they'd play the Raptors, but if they won they'd play the Bulls.

I think the Hawks preferred the Raptors in round two. I know I would. The starters were supposed to play normal minutes, but clearly didn't. The Bulls actually played a fairly awful game, but managed to win largely by getting to the free throw line despite poor shooting, poor rebounding, and too many turnovers.

We'll see how things go.

Would you have preferred the Wizards?

The more I think about it, the more I think I would have preferred the four seed and facing Washington/Atlanta. As it stands, the Bulls will get an almost guaranteed first round series win against the Bucks followed by a highly likely matchup against the Cavs in round two.

Against Milwaukee, the Bulls draw perhaps the worst team in the playoffs as well as one that doesn't match up well with them. To make matters even better, Bulls fans travel well to Milwaukee and will likely end up louder than the Bucks fans giving Chicago the equivalent of seven home games.

The schedule looks like this:
Game 1 Sat, 4-18 in Chicago 6:00 CSN/ESPN
Game 2 Mon, 4-20 in Chicago 7:00 CSN/TNT
Game 3 Thurs, 4-23 in Milwaukee 7:00 CSN/NBA-TV
Game 4 Sat, 4-25 in Milwaukee 4:30 CSN/TNT
Game 5: Mon, 4-27 in Chicago TBD on CSN/TBD
Game 6: Thurs, 4-30 in Milwaukee TBD on CSN/TBD
Game 7: Sat, 5-2 in Chicago TBD on CSN/TNT

Despite all those good things about a Milwaukee matchup, the Bulls then fight the Cavs in round two. The Cavs are probably universally believed to be better than the Hawks when it comes to the playoff basketball despite the records.

In some ways it's irrelevant. To win the whole thing, you likely have to go through both. Also, given the Hawks are more likely to get upset than Cleveland, if you play the Cavs in round two you have a better shot of not going through Atlanta in the ECF than not going through Cleveland if you matched up against Atlanta.

Still, one series a time.

Playoff matchups overall
1: Hawks vs 8: Nets
This looks like an annihilation waiting to happen. The Nets got blown out by a fairly dysfunctional Bulls team while needing a win to secure their playoff positioning. They lost, but fortunately for them, Indiana couldn't win their finale, so they snuck back in. That's more words than this series deserves. Hawks dominate.

2: Cleveland vs 7: Boston
Another blow out series here, but I want to give some props for Boston for fighting to the playoffs with that roster. Brad Stevens did a great job this year with the Celtics, maybe too good of a job. Maybe they'd have preferred some draft picks instead of the Cavs in round one. I think Boston probably plays tough enough to take a game, but that's about it.

3: Chicago vs 6: Milwaukee
Well I noted above already, Chicago dominates this one. The Bulls haven't been consistent enough this year to predict them to sweep anyone, but I think they can win in five pretty easily.

4: Toronto vs 5: Washington
This is the only series that looks like it could go either way on the surface. Toronto has closed the season much stronger than Washington, but I think Washington will find a way to click in the playoffs and beat up the Raptors inside.

Maybe its just the Wizards beating up the Bulls last year and my lack of faith in the Raptors, but I'll go with the Wizards to win.

1: Warriors vs 8: Pelicans
Let's be honest, the Warriors just crush this one right? I'm glad Anthony Davis will get a taste of the playoffs, but I think he'll really just taste how far away his team is.

2: Rockets vs 7: Mavericks
Even though the Rockets finished with the #2 seed, they just don't impress me all that much for some reason. I'm just not a buyer in the James Harden hype I suppose, and I think they're going to fall flat in the playoffs.

I would have picked against them if they had finished outside the two spot, but the Mavericks never really pieced it together after the Rondo trade and simply aren't as good as the other teams in the West. So I'll take the Rockets despite being a hater.

3: Clippers vs 6: Spurs
The Clippers have been good but inconsistent much of the season while the Spurs have had turned it way up in the playoffs the past two years. I keep waiting for San Antonio to fall off a cliff, but it hasn't happened, and I think they'll get past the Clippers.

4: Blazers vs 5: Grizzlies
The Grizzlies will have home court due to better record despite the Blazers having the higher seed due to winning their division. The Blazers have struggled down the stretch and are dealing with injuries. I like the Grizzlies in this one.

Just to fill out a complete NBA bracket before the playoffs start, for the next rounds I'll guess:
Round 2:
Hawks over Wizards
Cavs over Bulls
Warriors over Grizzlies
Spurs over Rockets

Round 3:
Cavs over Hawks
Warriors over Spurs

Warriors over Cavs

It's funny, I feel like the Warriors are going to fold in the playoffs, but I just can't really see picking against them either. I think their biggest test would be San Antonio, I think if they make it to the Cavs that Kyrie Irving defending Stephen Curry is going to be too difficult for the Cavs to overcome.

Either way, I can't wait for playoff basketball.

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  • I would have preferred to play the Wizards as well. There is no way Nene plays like he did last year plus I think he may be nursing some sort of nagging injury. Moreover, Rose would slow down Wall much more than Augustin did last year.

    I agree with all of your predictions except the Toronto/Washington series. It will be a tough series but the Raptors will prevail. I also think the Bulls will have a tougher time with the Bucks than most people think. Bulls in six competitive games.

    Not looking forward to Cavs series. I can't foresee any path to victory for the Bulls unless Rose and Noah miraculously shake-off a season's worth of uninspired play.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    1st I want to establish that I'm a long time Bulls fan and usually optimistic to the point I'm simply a homer. Hell I was lucky enough to see our Bulls beat the Warriors at Oracle arena along with (curiously) 'many many' other Bulls fans, an experience that would usually keep me positive for the entire season.

    But whether it's the Wizards or Bucks in the 1st round, I unfortunately don't think it will be a cakewalk by any means for our Bulls. However positively you look at the Bulls winning that last game, they still had to come back from as much as 18 in the 2nd half and eventually had to rely on Coach Budenholzer finally going 'way' deep in his bench for the Bulls to finally get ahead. That was not just Atlanta sending a message to any potential opponents, "we can still turn it on when needed", it's also a measuring stick that I'm not seeing our team measure well against.

    Best case scenario I see is our Bulls beating the Bucks in 6 games, but won't be surprised to see this go to 7 games. I really hope I'm no where near right and it's just the usual Chicago pessimism, but I just can't help to see what looks to be fundamental flaws with this team rearing it's ugly during this 1st round playoff series. Whether it's Pau's un-athleticness, Rose still jacking up 3's and committing many TO's, or Thib's refusal to be flexible, I don't see our Bulls resolving these during a playoff series.

    I still see us winning the 1st round, but I just can't believe that all of our Bulls shortcomings are 'simply' due to injuries and the full team never getting enough playing time together. Hopefully these 'flaws' will be resolved or at least hidden before the 2nd round matchup with Cleveland. But if not? That "puncher's chance" Doug always speaks off our Bulls having if they're fully healthy may really be more of a 'jab'. Am I just being paranoid? Someone please talk me off the ledge here...

  • In reply to EDouble:

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with you. Unless the Bulls suddenly and magically become a completely different team than they have been during the entirety of the regular season, I expect them to struggle against the Bucks, at least more than most people think.

    I also would have prefered the 4rth seed, both because I wanted to see if we could get revenge on the Wizards for last season, avoid Cleveland until the ECF and because the Milwaukee series is so boring going in that it feels more like the last week of the regular season rather than the first round of the playoffs, i.e. something to get over with before the real playoffs begin.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I know many of us fans would've rather our Bulls get the 4th seed, face the Wizards in Round 1, then avoid the Cavs and instead go against the Hawks instead. I see the argument and I myself no longer fear the Wizards as much as I did last year. This BTW is from someone that still have nightmares when Gilbert Arenas hit that game winning shot at the UC against the Hinrich, Gordon Bulls.

    Unfortunately this hints at the Hawks being a weaker alternative giving our Bulls a better chance at making it to that ECF w/ the Cavs. Again, I think we're vastly underestimating the Hawks. Had they played they're best players (not just starters) longer in that last game, I think it would've been a blowout for the Hawks. Those runs to start both 1st and 3rd quarters wasn't just a message for the Bulls, it was a message for all future playoff opponents that they are legit, that everyone should be worried about them same as the Cavs and the Warriors.

    With that in mind, I would then just rather not look ahead to the 2nd round and choose which 1st round opponent the Bulls would be best against...and that's of course the Bucks. Bulls matchup well against, mid-season trade has them in somewhat of a transition, no bigs to worry about, Chicago north, 7 home games, you take your pick. Let's focus on Round 1 first and hopefully enjoy some dominating wins for our Bulls before worrying who their opponent will be in the 2nd round.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    I could possibly see the Bulls going to six, but I think it will be four comfortable wins and two games we gack away then. I don't think there will be a point where we feel like we might lose the series.

    The Bulls match up too well against Milwaukee IMO.

  • It will be fun to watch this team go full speed in the playoffs. I doubt they can do much damage against the Cavs, but you never know. A lot of talent on this team, but it has never looked like the pieces fit well together.

  • fb_avatar

    Currently on my knees praying/typing "Please remain healthy for two more mths! Plz!"

    Personally, I feel last nights victory over the Hawks was huge for the Bulls psyche. Had they lost and finished as a 4th seed, The Hawks would've had a mental advantage over the Bulls. 2 & 2 looks a lot better than 3 & 1 in a season series. Also, The Wiz prefered to play the Bulls over the Raptors according to Wiz websites. This would've had been a much tougher 1st rd matchup for the Bulls.

    As it stands, The Bulls will basically play with not only home court advantage, but with a home crowd during their 1st rd away games too. The Chicago North Bucks have good young long, and lengthy talent and will make it difficult for the Bulls to matchup with, especially in the backcourt, but I can see them just being satisfied making the playoffs after a 15 win season last yr. Their inexperience will be no match for the Bulls. Bulls n 5.

    Facing the Cavs in the 2nd rd will be much better than facing them in the ECFs. They still lack playoff experience, and the further they go the more confidence they'll get. I don't see the C's putting up much of a struggle against the Cavs, but the Bulls can beat them if the team stays healthy. They will have to keep the ball out of LeBron's hands, and limit Kyrie to a jump shooter. The Bulls bench will be the advantage over the Cavs, as well as the Bulls ability to grab more rebounds than the Cavs. If the Bulls can steal on in Cleveland, and make it a 3 - 1 lead at Chicago, I see the Bulls better equipped to close out the series in 6 or 7 gms.

    I have my doubts on whether the Bulls can get past the Hawks in a 7 game series, but I'm not sure if they could get past the Wiz if they should meet in rd 2. The Hawks defense is lethal, but the Wiz can match them if they play with the right mindset.

    The West has some really good matchups. The Clips vs Spurs looks like an upset special for the champs. I see this series going 7 gms. GSW vs Pels in the 1 - 8 matchup is going to be must see TV. Anthony Davis coming out party. I'm not sure if the Pels are deep enough to win, but you won't see a sweep here. GSW in 7. The Rockets vs Dallas looks like an upset too. Rick Carlisle is too good of a coach to allow James Harden to go off in a series, and once Harden is limited do they have the other pieces to come through in the clutch? I don't think so.Mavs in 6.

    There you have it. Mike's playoff predictions.If the Bulls can stay healthy they should represent the East in the Finals this year. If they don't expect to see some major changes in their lineup. Starting with a new head coach.

    Back on my knees "Please be right! Plz!" :)

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    Given that the Hawks threw in the towel and likely lost the game on purpose, like Doug said to get Toronto instead of the Bulls in round 2, I doubt that we gained any mental edge over Atlanta as result of this game. Their starters still basically killed ours, plus 20 to minus 23, while Niko alone was plus 22 despite a very pedestrian stat line on only 3-9 shooting.

    It has to be of some concern that Rose didn't play in the second half, any knee discomfort is a problem whether it is his or Noah's. I wonder if he got hurt in the Brooklyn game when Thad Young ran into him in the front court while chasing him from behind after a turnover in the 3rd quarter, I think. Rose game up gimpy after the collision and was slow to get up at all at first. Hopefully, it was just a knee bump bone on bone pain, which can hurt a lot at first and cause some soreness for a few days afterward without being a serious long term injury.

    Maybe Taj being hurt will be a bonus, if it means more minutes for Niko at PF. I'd still prefer everybody at full health, but thats one way to look at Gibson's injury, even if it only last for the Milwaukee series.

  • I'm not quite ready to throw my hat in on the Bucks series yet. Yeah it does seem like the Bulls should be able to beat them but this Bulls team never ceases to amaze me. The one consistency that this team has had all year is injuries, and as the king of the injuries Derrick Rose would say, "who knows." The more I think about it with Gibson and Noah both being hurt it's a good thing we avoided the Wizards in the 1st round because their bigs play physical and they seemingly have the antidote for the Bulls.

    Speaking of the Wizards I predict they're gonna win that series against Toronto. The raptors just aren't that good without Kyle Lowry, and their interior defense is god awful. All the Wiz have to do is feed the rock to Nene and Gortat and it's a series because raptors have no answer.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    If Nene and Gortat always played the way they played against the Bulls in last year's playoffs, the Wizards would be one of the best teams in the NBA. They had a great series but that's not who they are.

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  • In reply to RaphaelMLeblanc:

    Raphael, thanks for the tip! By any chance are you married to a Louise Leblanc? If so, I was with her last Wednesday at the Wagonwheel Inn. She was a bit fat and had an unpleasant odor about her. But, hey, I just got out of prison.

    Btw, she thinks you're a troll and a moron and is disgusted by your cholostomy bag.

  • Psyched about the matchup with Milwaukee. Bulls should go as close to full speed as we've seen them now that it's the playoffs and there is a wide margin of error since we should beat Milwaukee. I think there's a chance to win in 4 or 5.

    We'd have to face Cleveland regardless. So, take the layup in round one and then see what happens in rounds 2 and 3.

  • Kind of shocked that the Spurs lost to the Pells with the second seed on the line, their D simply failed them as the Pells shot over 50%. With everyone else winning they fell to 6th, which ends up pitting them against the Clips, so the 2 best teams other than the Warriors go against each other in the first round. I kind of dislike the Clips so I'm actually happy to see them get the Spurs, although I don't want the Spurs to win their 6th title in the Duncan era, as they will suddenly become a better "dynasty" than the Jordan Bulls.

    Since the Bulls basically have no shot, I'm rooting for little Stevie Kerr and the Warriors.

  • News Flash, this just in, as reported by Grantland TV.

    Anthony Davis just completed the 4rth best season in NBA history, at least according to the opinion of the world's foremost basketball mind the professor John Hollinger. Until this year only 3 players in NBA history had ever recorded a PER over 31, Wilt, Michael, and Lebron. While that certainly seems reasonable, it is kind of hard to believe that Oscar could average a triple double for nearly 4-5 years and never make that mark, or that Lew Alcindor never made it, or Elgin Baylor, or Bird, or Magic or...How about the greatest winner ever, Bill Russell, heck his PER might be lower than Pau Gasol's, who knows. Heck, some guy named Walt Bellamy, whom I'm guessing most of you never heard of even after he passed away this season averaged 31.6 & 19 as a rookie, but that's not anywhere near as good as 24 & 10 at least according to his eminence John freaking Hollinger.

    Yep, 24 & 10 is the 4rth best season in NBA history and barely below Wilts 50 & 25, isn't it obvious. Wouldn't that have been a bad year for either Barkley or Malone over about a ten year stretch.

    Yea, lets make all our opinions on basketball based on that man made up stat and all the other bogus stats that it derive from it like estimated wins above other bullshit that I just pulled out of my asshole during my latest colonoscopy.

    What's that thing that people say about liars and figures, and lunatics too.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    All stats are subject to folly and no one single stat can stand on its own to evaluate players. But that doesn't mean PER has no value and should be entirely dismissed.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    As I recall, Oscar averaged 30+ ppg, 11- rbs, and 11- assists, for 10 years! That is hard to believe - a triple-double for 10 years, with 30 ppg? Wow! Might take him over Davis.

  • As far as PER goes, scoring and rebounding rates were much higher back in the 60's and 70's. Also, Tracy McGrady had a 31.1 in 2003 so that's 4 players, not 3. So I guess Hollinger can't read that the stats on ESPN.

  • The Bulls have been too banged up to jell all season. This is not going to be a long playoff run.

  • Maybe the FO will spike Thibs' water with a genius pill and he will wisely use all the talent on the roster. Maybe.

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