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.

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Jimmy Butler records triple-double as Bulls beat Cavaliers again without LeBron James

Jimmy Butler records triple-double as Bulls beat Cavaliers again without LeBron James

Winning a game against a LeBron James led team has proven to be an easier task than most for the Chicago Bulls in the last couple regular seasons.

And winning without James has proven to be a herculean task for the Cleveland Cavaliers since his return in 2014.

So putting those two events together seemed to produce an inevitable result at Quicken Loans Arena, with James out due to illness, as the Bulls pulled away from the Cavaliers 117-99 Saturday night.

The win marks the fourth straight for the Bulls, pulling them over .500 for the first time in nearly two months and they lead the season series 3-0 over the NBA Champions.

Of course, if James were healthy perhaps the Cavaliers would look more cohesive but without him, only Kyrie Irving was in double figures amongst the starters for most of the night. Irving was unguardable with 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

After the lead rose to 20, Irving went to work to get the Cavaliers back in it by scoring eight in the quarter and cutting the lead in half with 2:30 left. But without James, the Bulls were able to hold off the Cavaliers with baskets from 
Cristiano Felicio and Nikola Mirotic, who had his second straight big game with 14 points and 10 boards.

A third-quarter flurry from the Bulls gave them some breathing room after a back-and-forth 24 minutes. The Cavs threatened to blow the game open with a 65-59 lead to start the third but the Bulls quickly turned the tables, getting stops and leaking out for fast breaks.

Dwyane Wade corralled weak-side rebounds and popped it ahead to Butler and Bobby Portis for layups. 

Butler then hit two triples in succession to give the Bulls a 76-67 lead.

He struggled from the field but hit four triples on his way to 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Wade was one rebound short—one Felicio rebound attempt with seconds remaining, from getting a triple-double with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes

But the 3-point shooting has been a welcome addition since the trade of Doug McDermott, their best 3-point shooter.

Denzel Valentine followed up his sterling showing Friday night with another competent and confident performance, hitting three triples to score 11 and at least competing on the defensive end.

Cameron Payne made his debut as a Bull and hit two triples in the first half, both passes off the ball as he hasn't had enough time to grasp the offense, only going through a morning walkthrough with the coaching staff after the team arrived in Cleveland.

All in all, the Bulls had their ninth game with 10 or more triples, hitting 15.