Bulls have healthy respect for Central rival Pacers

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Bulls have healthy respect for Central rival Pacers

And then there were two. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed that reserve point guard John Lucas III would be available for Wednesday nights game against the Pacers, but said that backup power forward Taj Gibson, like small forward Luol Deng, would be unavailable.

Hes getting there. Hes doing a little bit more each day, says hes feeling better. The swellings down, Thibodeau said after the Bulls morning shootaround at the Berto Center. Theres always a chance, but unlikely.

As many hands on deck the Bulls have when playing Indiana, the better, as the Pacers have shown in the past year, theyre tired of being the little brother to the team from next state over.

Well, theyre a well-balanced team. They were a good team last year. They had injuries early on in the season. When their team was healthy, they were very, very good. Theyve done a great job. Theyve added George Hill and David West, who are terrific players. They already had a quality team with quality depth and theyve added to it, and theyve gained experienced, so thats what I think makes them so good, said Thibodeau. Theyre a divisional team, the proximity, theyre good, but every team we face is good. You have to be ready for everybody. Theyre a very good team and weve got to be ready for them.

The thing that concerns me is who they are. Every team in this league is very good. You guys think there are easy games. Theres no such thing as easy games in the NBA. Every team is talented and youve got to be ready to play. Thats the biggest challenge, he added. We dont change the way we play. We know for us, its always the same thing. Its defense, rebounding, low turnovers, inside-out, share the ball and we know if we do those things, well be in position to win, so we strive to get those things done whether its in practice or a game, every day, and try to get better in all those areas.

Concurred Ronnie Brewer, who will start in place of the injured Deng: You can say that with almost any team that we play, but I think the way that last year ended and every game that we play against them has been tough, its been physical and a real close opponent, and theyre an improving team. Theyve got a lot of talent on their team, very well-coached and its always going to be a tough game when we play them.

They play extremely hard and with that combination, they tend to have a difficult team to beat. Its going to take a great effort from us, 48 minutes, he continued. They play hard, every possession. They dont take a possession off, very physical, but I think the guys we have on this team, we dont really back down, we dont really back down from that kind of stuff.

Brewer acknowledged that the Bulls, undefeated at the United Center thus far this season, are even more confident when playing at home, though he says the teams motivation lies inward and with their hard-charging coach.

Thibs always says it's bad to feel like whenever you play at home, youre going to win, but thats kind of how we feel, he said. Our fans come out and provide great support, they stick behind us whenever were not shooting the ball well or not getting defensive stops. I think that really pushes us over the hump.

Thibs pushes us. We dont really record-watch or look at any other teams in the league. We take it game by game, the opponent at hand and we focus on what weve got to do it, and how we can improve every game, he went on to say I know what our record is. I dont know what their Indianas record is.

Although Brewer professed not to know what the Pacers record is, he was complimentary about their development under head coach Frank Vogel. Indiana went down to the Bulls in five games during their first-round playoff series, but the eighth seed didnt go without a fight, almost literally.

Coaching is all about adjustments and whenever we did something, he made adjustments to try to change it and they were a young team with not a lot of playoff experience, and they came in there and gave us a hard-fought series, he explained. They dont get under my skin, but I think a lot of guys on their team bother players with their play. David West was a great acquisition for them, Tyler Hansborough plays extremely hard, Darren Collisons a great up-and-coming point guard, so theyve got a lot of pieces on their team makes them a very dangerous team.

I think the team is a reflection of the coach and sometimes, you jump on a team early and they might throw the towel in, but a lot of well-coached teams will continue to fight, continue to battle for the entire game and you get up 10 or 12, and try to make a run, good teams will stick with it and come right back at it, and make a run themselves and make a game out of it.

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups. 

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I give them credit for bouncing back after a tough home loss,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to understand what makes us successful. When we’re committed to following the game plan and executing…It’s the little things we have to do that add up to give ourselves a chance to win.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 14 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away, and pulled to within a game of the eighth playoff spot in the East.

But the Bulls’ defense, one that held the Bucks to just 39 points in the second half, caught his eye.

“I could actually say we played some legitimate defense,” Butler said. “Got back in transition, we always helped. We came out, stuck to the gameplan of getting back.”

He didn’t have to carry a heavy load offensively, though, leading to his being fresh down the stretch as he started the fourth quarter on the floor as opposed to the bench.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

It helped the Bulls shoot 54 percent overall, bringing their mark to 10-1 when they cross that threshold.

“I’ve been playing with a lot of confidence,” Mirotic said. “I’ve spent a lot of hours before practice and after. I know you guys have been asking about consistency, so I’m working on that and trying to be more consistent.”

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

Antetokounmpo scored 22 with eight rebounds and seven assists, but 12 of those points happened in the first quarter. Middleton scored 14 but shot six of 17.

“When we get slapped in the face and punched in the mouth, adversity hits and we have to handle it and get through it,” Hoiberg said. “I didn’t see any head-hanging when it didn’t start off great.”

But Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

“We were ready in case that happened,” Hoiberg said. “We felt we had to do everything possible to give ourselves a chance. We were ready to play our guys big minutes tonight and we’ll have to do that in the next eight games.”

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.