Boozer Hurt as Bulls Clinch Division in Charlotte

Boozer Hurt as Bulls Clinch Division in Charlotte

The Bulls held off the Bobcats 101-84, but a flagrant foul had Carlos Boozer land on his ankle and leaving the game early.

The Bulls (45-18) split the four-game season series against the Bobcats (26-38) with a 101-84 win on Wednesday in Charlotte. The Kittens were without Tyrus Thomas and Stephen Jackson, so the Bulls win was inevitable.

With the win, the Bulls join the Celtics (46-16) as the only two teams to clinch Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Pacers (27-37) entered the night second in the Central Division, 18 games behind the Bulls, with 19 remaining. Their 101-75 loss to the T'wolves sealed the deal for the Bulls, guaranteeing them a top-four spot in the playoff seeding and home court in the first round. More important, the Celtics lost to the Clippers (25-40) 108-103 in Boston to put the Bulls only 1.5 games behind Boston for the the top seed in the East.
Reinsdorf gets cocky
Shit just got real serious as the Bulls also win the fifth of their last six on the road after starting the season a slightly-embarrassing 13-13 away from the United Center. Overall, they've won four straight, seven of their last eight, and 11 of their last 13.
And with all of the seriousness, Jerry Reinsdorf came out earlier in the day to say in a rare interview, "If you don't see something special in Derrick Rose, then you're blind. We have an outstanding coach, an outstanding bunch of young players, the team is deep, and if we stay healthy we have an awfully good chance to win at least four championships."
Him saying such things don't actually make the Bulls better. They don't bring the Bulls closer to a championship, let alone a dynasty. It's so typical for the owner of a playoff bound franchise to say this that contriving something positive out of it is simply foolish. Michael Wilbon at ESPN went so far to write: "It's plain dumb to predict or presume multiple championships, especially when the team you have now hasn't won as much as a playoff series, when the franchise you own has won titles only when led there by the greatest player in the history of basketball."
This is the first division win for the franchise since Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, and Jerry Krause's last year together in 1998, but let's not be pretentious. More important, let's not overrate this team so far that we're too hard on them if they get knocked out of the playoffs in the second round; because all of this overrating leads to just that unfair treatment.
The game in Charlotte
As for Wednesday's game, I'm not gonna dissect it. The bench was awesome, the bigs fought hard, the defense was bad but Charlotte hit a lot of shots in the first 30-to-35 minutes. The news is clinching the Central, getting closer to Boston, and Carlos Boozer falling down and going 'BOOM!' -- in a bad way:
But not catastrophic, the Bulls PR guys quickly stated:


From Bulls PR: Boozer = left ankle sprain, X-rays negative.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Tom Thibodeau highlighted the phenomenal bench play from the entire unit and the improvements they made to apply shutdown defense in the second half:

  • The Bulls have held opponents under 90 points in eight consecutive games. The record in the three-point era of the NBA is 11, achieved by the Heat in 1999. They've now held opponents under that mark an NBA-leading 30 times this season, winning 28 of those games.They're now 21-2 in the NBA-leading 23 games they've held opponents to not more than 85 points -- by far in front of the Celtics' 18 (18-0). It was the 49th time their opponents couldn't hit 100; games in which the Bulls are 43-6 this season
  • Derrick Rose scored 20 points, but the news with him is that he shot well. He shot 7-for-15, but for a .600 eFG%. The Bobcats collapse the paint extremely well and Rose nailed 4-of-6 threes. It was his first game with three or more threes since Feb. 2, when he hit 4-of-8 against the Clippers. Since that night in L.A., he's shot an infinitely facepalm-inducing 17.6% on threes. One night doesn't shoot a guy out of a slump, but I never denied that his mechanics are sound, so hope for the near future of Rose's jumper is very reasonable.

    Defensively, Rose was very aggressive, accumulating two steals and three blocks. D.J. Augustin was Rose's thorn in the Bulls' two losses to the Kittens, but was held to only seven shots to produce only six points. In other news, Rose made a visible impression on Michael Jordan in the stands, who said Rose is the MVP, adding: "And if he doesn't get it, now he'll see how I felt a lot of years."

    For fuck's sake, man, grow up. Speaking of the times when MJ was denied MVPs, why didn't he change his clothes after 1993 vomited all over him?

  • Kyle Korver shot the Kittens out of the gym. He dropped 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting -- 4-for-7 on threes in only 16:33 off the bench. "Korver is 13-for-28 from behind the arc in his last six games and has scored in double figures in three of those contests," Derek S. Smith reported at NBA.com.
  • Taj Gibson was a machine. Boozer left early in the first quarter due to foul trouble and Taj grabbed rebounds, became a go-to guy with aggressive off-ball cutting, and helped well with Joakim Noah on defense. He finished with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and six rebounds -- 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 and four rebounds in the first half.
  • Boozer and Rose have a failure to communicate. Booz finished with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting and seven rebounds in only 26:28 before going down, but he isn't rolling hard to the basket. He goes a spot and waits for the ball because he can't trust his point guard to make a good entry pass. It's infuriating that he's limited to this because Rose can't pick up on the simple timing of the pick n' roll with such an elite two-man-game big.

    I've found some video and bookmarked it for a post on this problem. I hope to get to it Friday.

  • Bulls shot the lights out. They went 11-for-23 on threes to boost their eFG% to .580 on the night. Scoring 101 points in an 80.6 possession game was good for a huge 125.3 Offensive Rating.
  • The second half was all Bulls D. After scoring 49, shooting 52% in the first half, the Kittens finished the game shooting 45.7% after only mustering up 35 points in the second. In the half, the Kittens "committed eight turnovers which were converted into 13 points and were just 1-for-7 from behind the arc," Smith reported.
  • Too many rebounds slipped away. As efficient as the Bulls were to convert possessions into points, the Bobcats grabbing 13 offensive rebounds at a staggering 31% rate ought to be unacceptable. Overall, the Bulls out-rebounded the Kittens 41-37, largely due to grabbing 12 offensive rebounds themselves at a 33.3% rate, forcing more missed shots, and holding Charlotte to only 11 FTAs in the process.
  • The Bulls took care of the ball. Only 10 turnovers on the night to quash beating themselves, as they did in the the two teams first two meetings.
  • Noah and Omer Asik cleaned some serious glass. They finished with 13 and six rebounds, respectively -- both with Total Rebounding Rates between 24-and-25%. It was the 18th  double-double for Noah in 33 games this season, who also scored 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting. All of those points were in the first half, but buckets are buckets.
Boozer will be re-evaluated Thursday when the Bulls are back in Chicago for a back-to-back set against the Hawks (37-27) and Jazz (34-31) on Friday and Saturday night.
Boozer missed the first 15 games of the season with a broken bone in his hand, where the Bulls went 9-6, and another three games after spraining his right ankle, winning two of those. The depth is strong enough to sustain some days or a week, if necessary. Remember that Kurt Thomas started 29 of the 30 games Noah missed without a problem and could step into the role of backup center with Asik shifting to the four and Taj starting. Most likely, Thibs would go to a nine-man rotation with Luol Deng getting minutes at the four.
Advanced Stats via Basketball-Reference.

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  • Losing Booz will hurt. Hopefully, it is of the 2-3 game variety, but who knows. If it is a high ankle sprain it could put him out for a while for sure. The good news is that Taj seems to be back into a flow offensively of late, so plugging him in right now is not the worst thing in the world. Looks like we will also see the return of Big Sexy of the bench for the time being.

  • In reply to BearDown1982:

    Funny you should say that: http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/2011/03/bulls-confident-in-bench-if-sprain-derails-boozer.html

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