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.

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Most NBA players have to let their adrenaline come down before the reality of what's coming next begins to hit them, but Robin Lopez had his moment of clarity at the oddest time during his altercation with Toronto's Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night.

When asked when he knew he would be serving at least a one-game suspension for his missed punch in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Raptors, Lopez said, "When I threw a punch."

The process from the NBA to Lopez was pretty straightforward, and Lopez called the one-game suspension "fair."

Ditching the caveman look for a clean shaven appearance at Friday morning's shootaround, Lopez seemed at ease with what happened and wasn't going to contest the one-game decision, especially since the NBA could've gone with two or three games as no precedent has been set for fighting this season.

"I mean, that's what the league gave. I'm going to stick with it," Lopez said, adding, "I didn't change my story."

The multiple camera angles would've made it impossible to believe a different recollection of the events had Lopez attempted to finagle himself out of the one-game suspension that stopped his 71-game starting streak with the Bulls this season.

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

His matter-of-fact statement after an emotionally charged incident didn't hurt the Bulls. They beat the Pistons by 20 as Lopez was serving a banishment that ended his streak of 187 consecutive games played. But he was happy Joffrey Lauvergne got a chance to prove his worth.

Lauvergne had 17 points and seven rebounds Wednesday night, and he'll be behind Lopez against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night as Cristiano Felicio is recovering from a hard fall late in the Raptors game.

"He's very versatile. He's a playmaker, he can score from a lot of different spots on the floor. He's a really smart basketball player," Lopez said of Lauvergne. "I always want to be out there with the guys. But they took care of business and did their thing. So I was pleased to see them pick up the win."

Picking up two in a row shouldn't be a monumental task against the 76ers, though they are 3-3 in their last six games and the Bulls haven't won two in a row in nearly a month as their grip on a playoff spot has loosened.

For the moment, the Bulls sit ninth in the East, a full game behind the surging Miami Heat, with a 34-38 record. Teams with nothing to lose can be playoff spoilers, and the Bulls have lost more than their share of games to lesser teams this season.

"Those teams do play loose," Lopez said. "They kind of just go out there to play basketball, and that can be a bit dangerous. But we've got something to play for, so we've got to be more motivated. The Sixers especially, they play really well, they have a lot of energy. So we've got to go out there, we've got to play motivated."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?