Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bulls Lose Edge in Competitve Game; Fall to 0-2

Joakim Noah backed up his talk in a Bulls loss on Monday.
Photo Courtesy of HoopsHype.com

It was quite a different atmosphere in the Quicken Loans Arena on Monday the 19th for game 2 of the series as opposed to game 1 on Saturday the 17th. The crowd was more hostile, however so were the Bulls. It was quite a role reversal from the Bulls that showed up to game 2 than to game 1, they seemed to bring confidence and an attitude with them which is what kept them in the game.

The Bulls battled the entire game, keeping pace with the Cavaliers all throughout the first half and entered the half only down by 2; 50-52. The Bulls battled for the lead much of the 3rd quarter and found themselves tied at 77-77 entering into the 4th and final quarter. Tie game, one quarter left and it came down to these; outside shots and Lebron James. In the 4th quarter the Cavaliers drained 4-4 from behind the arc, the Bulls only connected on 1-4 much like the entire game the Bulls are lacking a true sharpshooter from the outside- especially with Kirk Hinrich's 2-8 shooting performance.

However, in the end it was just too much Lebron James for the Bulls, or maybe any team, to compete with. The Bulls may have been one or two possessions away from tieing the series up at 1-1 but Lebron made sure his team travels to Chicago leading 2-0.

It was Lebron's night, everyone else was just invited to spectate.

Nothing against the Bulls, they did everything they were supposed to do to win; win the rebounding battle, limit the turnovers and score points against one of the best defenses in the NBA. The Bulls are down, but not out. Hopefully this performance gives them confidence to battle their way back into the series when it heads to Chicago in the United Center.

It was refreshing to see 3 Bulls' with 20+ points in game 2; Loul Deng (20), Rose (23) and Noah with a playoff high 25 points and 13 rebounds. If the Bulls want to stay in this series they need consistency from those three players- Noah backed up his talking by owning the inside and hustling in 41 minutes of play, Deng looked more comfortable and more aggressive with driving to the basket and finishing strong but I would have like to see more of Derrick Rose in the 4th quarter.

The Bulls don't have a Lebon-potential -esque player, no one has the potential to 'go off', really. Derrick Rose is electrifying but when no one else is hitting from the outside, the Bulls offense turns into the Derrick Rose Show and its no secret that the only chance of the Bulls scoring is through their young point guard. He needs help, help that may not come till the free agency period begins.

Defensively the Bulls are doing a great job. Loul did his best on Lebron and you can truly see his effort is relentless, Rose did a good job of limiting Mo Williams outside shots and the Bulls big men did a good job of putting Shaq in foul trouble early. Maybe the Bulls can consider matching Hinrich on Lebron, leaving Loul to guard Antwan Jamison instead of rookie Taj Gibson. Hinrich's scrappy play could potentially frustrate Lebron and leaving others in favorable match ups will lead to turnovers and much needed breaks for the Bulls.

Expectations weren't too high for these young Bulls coming in and matching up against the heavily-championship-favored Cavaliers, however they are gaining a swagger much like Derrick Rose urged them too- Hard playing, gritty and grinding out every last possession till the whistle blows.

Lets hope this mentality can bring them back into the series to show the NBA what they are really capable of.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bulls Finish Weekend on Two Game Win Streak

 Bulls bounced back: finishing out the weekend on a two game win streak
Photo Property of SunTimes.com

After a dissapointing loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday, the Bulls bounced back in a big way by blowing out the New Jersey Nets (106-83) and edging out the Detroit Piston (110-103) to finish out the weekend on a two game win streak. The Bulls couldnt have picked a better time to start winning and playing better than right now as they enter the week only 1 game behind the Toronto Raptors for the final 8th playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

After being embarassed at home on Thursday by Dwayne Wade and Co., the Bulls were looking to put the past behind them in a big way. The Bulls used a hot Janero Pargo to run the lowly Nets out of town on Saturday, who started for injured rookie James Johnson (foot), posting a season high in minutes played (40) as well as points (27). Derrick Rose had a rare off night shooting, finishing 3-12 from the field, 1-2 from the charity stripe ending up with 7 points but excelled in getting others involved by dishing out 9 assists. It was nice to see the reserves picking up the slack, although Pargo did start, also seeing Joakim getting more minutes (13) than previous game (10) was also a good sign that the energetic big man is returning back to form.

Looking to build off a strong outing against the New Jersey Nets, the Bulls visited the Detroit Pistons in hopes of sweeping the Pistons for the first time since Michael Jordan and the 95-96 team did the same. The Bulls started off on fire, posting an 18 point lead at halftime. However, the Bulls had to hold off a come back as the Pistons outscored the Bulls by 10 in the 3rd quarter. The Bulls again used their bench to help assure another victory with former Piston Ronald Murray, shooting a red hot 9-14 from the field (3-5 from long distance), 2-4 from the foul line while grabbing 3 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists coming off the bench. This time the Bulls got a lot of help from Derrick Rose, who rebounded quite nicely from a previous dissapointing perfomance, posting 21 points; shooting 7-13 from the floor, 7-8 from the foul line while grabbing 3 rebounds and dishing out another 9 assist. Taj Gibson continues to be a beast on the boards as he sees more actions with Joakim playing limited minutes still.

Joakim's minutes continue to increase with each game, this time racking up 17 minutes as opposed to 13 minutes the night before. Seeing Joakim completely dominate Jason Maxiell is always good to see from an injured player. Playing more minutes in back-to-back games is a great sign for the Bulls as they look to make their final playoff push before the season comes to a close.

On Monday, the Raptors narrowly held off the Charlotte Bobcats, increasing their lead on the 9th place Bulls by 1 game. As the Bulls enter the final stretch of their season, with only 9 games left, they must be focused on playing their best basketball if they want to make it into the playoffs. Looking ahead at the schedule, this weeks games are very managable for the Bulls. Starting off the week on Tuesday facing a strong Phoenix Suns team, ending the week at the New Jersey Nets then starting the final week against the Toronto Raptors which could be a pivotal matchup as the Raptors have an easy week after defeating the Bobcats tonight, against the Clippers and the 76ers.

If the Bulls want any hopes of playing in a post season, they have to focus on winning their games and not about what the Raptors are doing. The first road block to the post-season is a red hot Phoenix Suns team on a 7 game win streak with a determined Amare Stoudemire heading the domination. The Bulls defeated the Suns the only time they have met previously this season, pulling out a shocking road win 115-104. Although the Bulls had a healthy Joakim Noah (19 pts 8rebs) and Loul Deng (23pts 6rebs) then, the Bulls can defeat the Suns on Tuesday if they play disciplined and strong defense through all 4 quarters.

The playoff push is on for the Bulls, hopefully the pieces fall into place for the post season- setting them up for an action filled summer of 2010 with a market of impending free agents keeping an eye on how this young team finishes the season.