Beyond the Arc: Bulls' playoff road gets tougher

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Beyond the Arc: Bulls' playoff road gets tougher

Wednesday, April 27, 2011Posted: 4:40 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Now that the Bulls have dispatched the pesky Pacers in five games, the real work begins. Whether its Orlando or Atlanta in the conference semi-finals, the Bulls will be severely tested, especially up front. How confident are you heading into Round 2? Please post your comments in the section below.

Right now, its all about getting healthy and working out some of the problems that surfaced during the Indiana series. Derrick Rose should be 100 percent healthy with five days to rest his sprained left ankle.

Now, the big concern is Carlos Boozer, whose overall play dropped off dramatically late in the season. Boozer hyperextended the big toe on his right foot in the Game 5 clinching win, and left the United Center in a walking boot. That type of injury is extremely painful and could be a lingering issue throughout the playoffs. Weve seen football players miss multiple games because of turf toe injuries, so lets hope Boozers strain is only a mild one.

The larger issue is trying to get the two-time All-Star more involved in the halfcourt offense. Boozer will have a size advantage over either Brandon Bass or Josh Smith in the next round, and the Bulls need to find a way to get him more touches deep in the post.

One idea would be to try to reverse the ball off the high screen and roll with Rose, allowing Boozer to post up his defender on the weak side without worrying about facing a quick double team. Boozer is at his best when he attacks quickly after receiving the ball, instead of backing his defender down and shooting a fallaway jumper. Getting some early baskets would give him a big confidence boost and probably pick up his activity on the defensive end as well.

One of the other big issues for the Bulls going forward is cutting down on turnovers. The number of total possessions normally drops in playoff games, which puts an even higher premium on valuing the basketball. The Bulls got careless at times against Indiana, and the Pacers were able to turn steals into easy baskets. Turning the ball over 15 to 20 times a game is a recipe for disaster against the teams remaining in the playoff field. The Bulls dominated the regular season series against Atlanta, but if they turn the ball over in the next round, the Hawks have athletes who can finish on the fastbreak like Smith, Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford.

If the Bulls draw Orlando in the next round, the obvious problem is trying to defend Dwight Howard in the post. Howard has enjoyed a lot of success against Joakim Noah in the past, and when teams double team Howard, they run the risk of getting burned by the Magics 3 point shooters. Orlando hasnt been getting consistent production from the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, but all are capable of turning in big scoring nights.

Bottom line, dont pencil the Bulls into the Eastern Conference Finals just yet. It was great to see them open Game 5 on a 12-2 run, then bury Indiana with a three-point barrage after things got close in the 3rd quarter. Hopefully, their poor shooting in the first four games of the Indiana series is gone and forgotten. After all, theyve got plenty of time to tune up for the next round.

What are your predictions for Round 2? Would you rather face Atlanta or Orlando? Please post your comments in the section below. Ill have a more detailed preview on Beyond the Arc when the Hawks-Magic series is decided.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

As Jimmy Butler sat with his sweat-soaked jersey still attached to his body, Dwyane Wade yelled out that all the hot water was gone from the TD Garden showers, a fitting end to a miserable night.

Butler hadn't yet gone to the showers because electrodes were attached to his knees, but it was the left one that prevented him from being as aggressive as he should have been in the Bulls' 108-97 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night.

Butler's 30-foot buzzer-beater to end the third quarter seemed to indicate a harbinger of things to come, giving the Bulls an 81-79 lead. A fourth-quarter explosion likely would have sent the Bulls back to Chicago with a 3-2 lead and a chance to clinch the series at home Friday night.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn't even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn't elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

"I'm good. Everyone's a little nicked up; I'll be all right," Butler said in the locker room.

Going 6-for-15 overall, one would have thought Butler was conserving his energy, but he clearly didn't have his usual spunk. It was partly the reason Dwyane Wade took over more, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but having Butler around could have helped close a game that got away from them in a four-minute stretch where the Bulls lost their composure.

Wade has had to play through his share of injuries during his career, and although he wouldn't divulge whatever Butler was going through, it seemed as if they had a conversation about managing his body.

"We've talked about it. When you've had any limitations no matter what, at this time of year people are banged-up," Wade said. "It's expected. But we have to do a better job of putting him in different places on the basketball floor.

"I don't know exactly what he's going through or what he's feeling, but it's tough when you are, and you try to beat a guy from halfcourt to the rim, or three defenders. So we've got to a better job of finding areas for him to work without having to work so hard. That's on all of us."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue analyze Game 5 between the Bulls and Celtics, how the Bulls can correct their mistakes for Friday night and whether Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade have enough left in the tank to win two straight against the top seed in the Eastern Conference.