Bulls top Raptors in game with a playoff feel

Bulls top Raptors in game with a playoff feel

Neither team played particularly great for any stretch with both squads going through long stretches of offensive dominance and offensive ineptitude. Chicago blew a 15 point lead in the first half and a 13 point lead in the second, but hung on to win on Jimmy Butler’s block with two seconds to go.

Was that block a foul? It might have been. However, the refs swallowed the whistle with a couple seconds to go on a call that could have gone either way. Fair or not, that’s normally how it works.

Point of attack

Kirk Hinrich was the Bulls best offensive player, a statement not made too frequently about the Captain in the past six years as his offense has regressed. However, last night he dropped 20 on the Raptors with 8/11 shooting and a perfect three for three beyond the arc.

D.J. Augustin added an efficient 19 points on 15 shots in a revenge game against the team that cut his confidence before cutting him from the roster.

The pair ultimately did the Raptors in because they were collectively 7/8 from behind the three point line. Chicago had plenty of trouble scoring at times, but whenever things looked bad one of the two would drill a three and propel the Bulls back into the lead.

What’s someone what interesting is the pair combined for a grand total of one assist. One assist because…

Joakim Noah has become the defacto point-center

Noah had a career high 13 assists. He’s racked up 11 or more assists in three of the past five games and has led (or co-led) the team in assists in four of the past five games. My favorite of the night was the fast break, behind the back pass to Kirk Hinrich in the corner for the three.

Mark Deeks tweeted “Enjoy Joakim Noah, you’ll never see another player like him”.

The statement is completely true, and I thought only half positive.

Any other player that could dribble, pass, rebound, and defend like Noah with his size and athleticism would be a complete superstar. Imagine if he simply had Taj Gibson’s jump shot/post game added to the skills he does have? Really, have you ever seen a big man with Noah’s ball skills that couldn’t score?

With just a little polish on offense he might be the best center in the NBA given everything else he does well. That said, I’m long past pining for Joakim to improve on offense, he’s a great player with an unusual flaw. I agree with Mark, Noah’s one of the most unique players we’ll ever see, and he’s always been a joy to watch.

It’s also been awesome watching Noah take the leadership role on this Bulls team with Rose out and Deng traded. I’ve always felt Joakim was a leader going back to his Florida days, and despite a few tough incidents early in his career, he’s proven that out to be true. He’s a winner.

Thank you Psycho T for causing shenanigans

In four minutes of completely worthless action, where Nazr Mohammed seemed to do just about everything he could to give the Bulls lead away, he at some point simply had enough and decided to subtlely tackle Tyler Hansbrough then get up on top of him and share some choice words while he was on the ground.

He was called for a well deserved foul on the play and mercifully removed for the night. We all appreciated him shoving LeBron James [or at least I did], but let’s not go giving the opponent free throws because the scrub on their bench gets under your collar even though Hansbrough was out there trying to pick a fight with anything that breathes.

Hansbrough later decided that while boxing out Mike Dunleavy, it’d be a good idea to grab his arm and pull him to the ground, then when he gets up, plow straight through Dunleavy and carry him about 10 feet before bringing them both down to the court. Somehow, the pair were assessed double technicals on this play where Dunleavy had to be left thinking WTF did I do?

I bring these stories up to thank Tyler Hansbrough. He was that player that I hated on the Raptors doing things that I’d love him for if he were on the Bulls. Yes, he’s a complete thug out there on the court, and yes, I was legitimately pissed at some of the stuff he pulled.

However, this was the first Bulls game I’ve watched with real emotional investment in awhile. I can’t recall the Bulls and Raptors having any real rivalry moments in the past, but they played like it tonight.

Maybe D.J. Augustin got the team fired up to exact revenge. Maybe both teams simply want that three seed badly. Who knows. What I do know is this was one chippy game. Guys were going after each other, and it was great to watch.

Luol Deng on the trade block, Bulls expect to make no moves

The Bulls will likely make no moves at the trade deadline this year, and before anyone gets up and arms about it, just stop and ask if anyone worth acquiring is really going anywhere this trade deadline?

There aren’t that many players in the NBA that would fill a real need for Chicago. They need a very good scorer/shot creator to help balance out the team, but the ones good enough to really help rarely move and none are available right now.

What might be interesting is to argue about the return of Luol Deng is dealt to another team. Cleveland is shopping Deng, and unlike the Bulls they aren’t going to look to save money. I thought Chicago could have potentially had a deal with Phoenix who seems like a natural fit to trade for Deng then extend him next season.

We’ll see if Deng moves, and if so, what Cleveland gets back for him. I think the Cavs have already assessed that keeping Luol Deng likely isn’t an option unless the vastly overpay, because Deng’s seen behind the curtain and isn’t too thrilled.

That said, the Cavs are on a six game win streak and a trip to the playoffs is definitely not out of the question for them. The Cavs are three games back from the final playoff spot, but it’s certainly quite plausible that they won’t exactly have to catch fire to get there. Winning 60% of their remaining games might be sufficient to make up the distance.


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  • If Cleveland gets a Suns mid first rounder, that sucks. Bulls may end up getting nothing but 2nd round picks.

    The only saving grace is that they are (hopefully) out of the tax. If the Bulls spend over the next couple years, we will have Luol Deng's trade to thank for the situation. I think next year is the beginning of a nice window of opportunity (assuming Rose is healthy and Mirotic is legit and they get two 2014 picks that can contribute) and they could get into the tax the following year and have no repeater tax penalties.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Granby, you wrote, "The only saving grace is that they are (hopefully) out of the tax."

    But that may be huge, because it allows the team to go back into the tax for an elite player without getting hit with the very punitive repeater tax. Thus it could be extremely important. You noted this in your comment, and I completely agree.

    The picks they got may be worth little, but they just might turn out to have some value, especially the Kings pick. Overall, it was a smart play with a possible nice upside. If the Suns had offerred the Bulls more, of course they would have taken it. But the Suns didn't, and the window for the Cleveland offer was closing, so it was then or never. In that way, it was rolling the dice, but I think the FO made the right decision.

    What next will be tougher! Regardless of what happens, fans will fill up the blogs during the draft and summer.

  • In reply to Granby:

    That Andrew Bynum situation with a mid-season release was a very unique and very fortunate opportunity for Bulls. Without that unusual clause in Bynum's contract motivating Cleveland to make a deal, Bulls may have been left holding the bag with Deng till season's end. Really an excellent trade for Bulls.

    Lakers couldn't even get a 2nd round pick in return for either Chris Kaman or Jordan Hill, both expiring contracts like Deng. Very difficult to get something in return for a short rental.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I would have loved to have been able to give the Lakers a 2nd for Jordan Hill. I know that we couldn't afford to add his salary this season. But it seems to me he would be a great 4rth big for this team and backup for Noah, even if he isn't a true legit center. I have no idea what Hill will get on the open market this summer, but I'd like to see the Bulls take a look at him. Mirotic, Augustin and Hill wouldn't be the worst use of whatever limited cap space that we end up with.

  • It looked to me from the replays like Hansbrough pulled Narz down on top of himself. Not that it matters.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    It matters because it is a question of justice -- tho a very minor one in the big scheme. Imperfect humans can never consistently deliver justice. But I would like to see the refs upgrade their calls. Some are really stupid.

  • while I enjoyed the game last night and do think the Bulls and Raptors are evenly matched, them being the slightly better offense team and us the slightly better defense team. I have worries about Tony Snell, he looks like the invisible man and Thibs plays him little. I hope he doesn't end up becoming the second Marquis Teague, we need to see more from him, especially when the salary cap system is so punitive.

    I find it interesting that the Pacers have interest in Deng, wouldn't a Deng for Stephenson made sense for both sides. It's a shame that the Bulls were in the luxury cap, they could of had a better return but given the situation, they did very well.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    What aggravates me about Snell was that the Bulls could have drafted Tim Hardaway Jr.who went 4 picks later to the Knicks. Hardaway is way better than Snell and would have given the Bulls everything and more that they expected out of Snell. You can just at the twiggy Snell and see he is not a legit NBA player. It's picks like this, Marquis Teague, James Johnson and Tyrus Thomas that makes me not too excited over the prospect of getting 2 first rounders in 2014's draft.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Even though you're cherry-picking the duds, and the Bulls actually draft better than most teams, it's true that every draft pick is a crapshoot.

    The reason for excitement about getting two picks in the 2014 draft is that this is a particularly talented and deep draft. If they get two picks, they're likely to hit on one of them. Even the year they drafted James Johnson, who you mention, they also drafted Taj.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Yes, Bulls to a good job overall. Their teams have been built primarily through the draft since Gar-Pax took over. Like Roman said, they should hit on one of the two picks. Maybe both.

    A deep draft and Bulls currently have 15th and 19th picks. But, could end up being 11th and 20th with Cleveland surging and Western teams starting to tank. Also need ATL to hold it together.

    The talent at the top is solid, but probably not like 2003, 1984, etc... probably no superstars, but perhaps 2 or 3 all-stars within the top 5 of Randle, Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Exum. Vonleh and Gordon have high upside as well and could go as late as 10. I would think that most of these guys could be real solid, but who knows, possibly a bust or two in there. The teams and coaching staff play a major role in the development of these guys. Another reason why the Bulls do well.

    The difference is the potential depth. The players available just after these guys are solid. The 12th pick this year would probably be a top 3 pick last year!

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    I don't think you're cherry-picking the duds, anymore than we sometimes cherry-pick the wins when praising Bulls draft choices.

    It seems to me that Gar Forman is now more responsible for the draft process and that Tony Snell was a pet project of Gar's who has ties to New Mexico. It is even possible that picking Snell (who may have slide to the 2nd round) was one of the personnel decisions assistant coach Ron Adams disapproved of causing Gar Forman to fire Adams the day after the 2013 draft.

    When looking at the two players (Snell and Hardaway) it is difficult to imagine choosing Snell over Hardaway. As you say Snell does not look somewhat not-quite-ready for the NBA both mentally and physically, while Hardaway appears both physically and mentally suited to the NBA game. Got to believe his 5-time NBA All-Star father had something to do with that.

    It was truly a missed opportunity for Bulls as the elusive SG position could have been settled with picking Hardaway. Currently, Bulls still need help at SG as Butler seems more comfortable at SF and is not a good enough, nor frequent enough shooter, particularly from 3pt as the modern NBA game requires.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Too soon to say THJ is a good pick - he doesn't do much other than score, and his NBA shooting numbers are well in excess of his college numbers, which is often unsustainable. I think you need to wait another couple of years and see whether he really has stepped up to the level of the competition or whether he regresses to the mean.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Don't see how Deng makes any sense for the Pacers, they kind of have the small forward position covered for the next 10-15 years

    Hell yea, a Deng for Stephenson deal would have been great for the Bulls, but they would have had to find a significant contract to take back from Indy to make the salaries match, Granger I think makes too much to balance that deal, even if Indy wanted to go that way.

  • I was also glad the refs didn't blow the whistle on Derozan's last shot attempt, because I really didn't think it was a foul. Jimmy was isolated 1-on-1, totally shut down Derozan's drive, waited out a pump fake, swatted the hell out of his shot and then collected the loose ball. That's as good of an individual defensive play as you will see in the league. Spectacular. Even though Derozan scored a bunch of points, Thibs gave Jimmy a lot of credit after the game for staying with him until the end.

    Haha, yeah I can't stand Hansbrough's ugly face. Still harbor resentment from his days as an agitator for the Pacers. My favorite moment though was when he tried to elbow a guy under the rim going for a rebound last year and then get tough...except it was Ron Artest that he was tangled with and his face just turned to fear and he apologized and backed away. Good stuff.

  • In reply to JC 2012:

    Psycho T tried Birdman from MIA last year in the ECF and promptly backed down once the Birdman bowed up to him. I like how everyone tries Dunleavy, one of these days he's gonna get mad and knock somebody out.

  • Good article. Is it just me, or was Toronto doing a lot of whining about calls last night?

  • It seemed like we were playing the Toronto Pacers of a couple of years ago last night, with both Hansbrough and Lowry playing like punks.

    However, the Bulls didn't handle the pressure well, especially Taj who let Hansbrough get to him. In general the Bulls looked a little physically intimidated by the Raptors especially when Hansbrough and Johnson were on the floor together.

    We didn't really rebound that well against them, couldn't get on the offensive boards at all, and Noah in particular seemed to have a hard time getting his hands on any rebounds, despite his 13 assists, he could/should have had another triple double.

    Hinrich seems to be shooting quite a bit better the last few weeks, clearly the lower minutes are helping him. I'd still rather see him off the bench, but I suspect the Bulls are trying to keep DJ's value down by keeping him on the bench.

    It felt like we escaped with a lucky win last night, and we have had a hard time with them the last 2 times we played. They seem to be able to throw a scramble type defense at us that totally bamboozles our offense, I wouldn't feel great about playing them in the playoffs.

    Finally, who commits more stupid fouls on jump shooters at the 3 point line in the last seconds of the shot clock or the quarter, Taj or Hinrich? It's been a problem for years, but seems particularly bad this season.

  • Pacers just got Evan Turner for nothing. Great, just great, well maybe they can take out Heat at least.

  • In reply to nolebron:

    I don't understand 1) How these deals get made and 2) Why the Bulls are never involved. It's like when the Celtics accepted less for Garnett than what the Bulls offered, or the Grizzlies accepted less for Gasol than what the Bulls offered. For each player, there's a NBA price and a Bulls price.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Well, the Pacers gave up a 2nd round pick and Danny Granger. We could theorize that Bulls could have given a 2nd and Luol Deng for Evan Turner, but then Bulls wouldn't have shed massive salary and luxury tax (primary motivation for Deng trade) and wouldn't have received a protected 1st and two 2nds.

    It appears most of what Bulls wanted to accomplish this season was avoid the luxury tax. Bulls weren't looking to add any talent that wasn't minimum wage, and that Andrew Bynum contract provided a unique opportunity for Bulls to take back zero salary for Deng.

    In the off-season (after luxury tax has been successfully avoided for 2013-14) we will all be looking for Bulls to add significant talent. The big question remains, will Reinsdorf pay Boozer $16 million to not play next season.

  • Pacers the big winners at the trade deadline as they get Evan Turner for Danny Granger's expiring contract. Basically giving them half a season to evaluate Turner without any real cost. Then they have to decide between Stephenson and Turner, don't think that they can afford to keep them both. Maybe this is a sign that they are thinking about losing Stephenson. They also pick up Lavoy Allen as a nice extra big man off the bench. Great move by a team looking ready to take out Miami.

    Also a rumor that Philly might buy out Granger and Miami might be a landing spot for him.

    Getting tougher and tougher to decide who I'd rather play if we are fortunate enough to get to the second round Miami or Indy. I think I'd rather do Miami just to piss them off even if we don't have a shot against either.

    Second best move of the day, the Cavs pick up Spencer Hawes, maybe that helps get them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for us, right now that would be at the expense of the Hawks(crashing) and not the Bobcats(still rising).

    Andre Miller to the Wiz another move which might hurt the Bulls a little as it makes the Wiz better and we might have to play them.

  • By the way, how good would DeRozan look as the Bulls 2 guard with Jimmy at the small forward.

    I've been trying to trade Deng and Ben Gordon for him since before he was drafted. Also, could have lived with Deng for Terence Ross(or the draft rights to Terence Ross), especially since Ross looks a lot more like a shooting guard than a small forward just like Derozan.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah, DeRozan might be a nice pickup for the Bulls if they could swing a reasonable deal.

    I have the feeling draft night this year will see a lot of activity.

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