Bulls Producing Wins Despite Constant Changes

Bulls Producing Wins Despite Constant Changes

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010
6:03 P.M.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISPrior to tonights game against the Pacers, Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro updated the assembled media about Joakim Noahs plantar fasciitis treatment, as the teams starting center didnt make the trip to Indiana after playing 27 minutes in last nights overtime home win over Portland.

Everything went well, as planned, and now hes just got to hopefully have a good reaction to all the treatment hes having, said Del Negro, who suffered from the same injury during his own playing days. I dont know if theres been a perfect plan. I could have played him a little bit more against Indiana and Philadelphia, then let him rest a little bit because we needed him against Portland. I played him probably a few too many minutes against Portland, but he wasnt going to play in the back-to-back to kind of monitor it.

Hes going to be out for a couple days, for sure. Hell miss a few games here, which was kind of planned. Were just trying to figure out the best attack for this. Hes going to have some pain once in a while; hopefully we can minimize that with the treatments and all the different modalities that theyre doing, he continued. Its a very difficult injury to figure out. You can play five minutes and have pain, you can play 20 and have pain, you can play 30 and not have anything. Its got to be managed. I know hes feeling a little bit better today with the treatment he had, so hopefully thats a step in the right direction, but its going to be a little bit of time.

Del Negro also addressed Luol Dengs knee, expecting the small forward to play after complaining of soreness after last nights game. As far as the actual matchup tonight, Del Negro believes a focal point is defending Indianas three-point shooting attack and smaller lineups.

We have to have energy, get to the shooters, run them off the three and be efficient in our transition game, said Del Negro. Well try to utilize some of our size up front when we can.

Theres a fine line. Depending on what were doing, posting up and taking advantage of our size up front, compared to what theyre doing in transition. Really, foot speed is a factor, he continued. We just have to be smart about when to attack them inside and also match up with the speed of their personnel.

Del Negro continues to have high regard for newcomer Hakim Warrick, whose acquisition has proven even more valuable with Noahs injury issues.

Hes so athletic, hes long, he runs the court well. We can go to him a little bit in the post, but he has a good feel for the game, observed Del Negro. When youre that athletic, that long, you can do things around the basket and make it look easy.

Pacers head coach Jim OBrien, a Philadelphia native, also is aware of Warricks potential impact, as well as the Bulls addition of Flip Murray, another Philadelphian.

I think Flip Murray is a good pickup. Hes a scoring machine off the bench, said OBrien. Warrick is a very live body and with Noah having been out with the foot problem for an extended period of time and now that they traded Tyrus Thomas, its a good fill-in for them.

OBrien has also noticed the gradual improvement of the Bulls over the course of the season.

Theyre scoring a lot of points, it starts with that. In transition, we need to make sure if you shoot the basketballif youre not sprinting to the offensive glass, then youre sprinting back to half courtso Derrick Rose is not one-on-one in the open floor, said OBrien. Then, you have to get out and challenge Deng and Hinrich.

You have to make sure Brad Miller doesnt get off, he continued. Theyve got a lot weapons. Taj Gibson has had a remarkably strong year for a rookie. Theyre a tough team to handle.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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.