Saturday, March 12, 2011Posted: 3:45 PM
By Aggrey Sam
1. Following their deadline deal of All-Star floor general Deron Williams to New Jersey--which netted them point guard Devin Harris, rookie power forward Derrick Favors and two first-round draft picks--the Jazz have been struggling. New Utah head coach and former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin was placed in a tough position, having to fill the shoes of retired Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan in the middle of the season, and injuries (such as to power forward Paul Millsap, who is reportedly a game-time decision for Saturday's tilt, due to tendinitis in his knee) haven't helped the situation, causing the free-falling Jazz to sink to 10th in the Western Conference playoff race.
2. Friday's win over Atlanta put the Bulls within a half-game of Boston for first place in the Eastern Conference and with the Celtics off Saturday after falling to Philadelphia Friday, a win over Utah would put Chicago in possession of the East's top spot. However, the Bulls' potential reign alone at the top could be short-lived, as Boston faces Milwaukee Sunday, while Chicago will be idle. Looking ahead--something Thibodeau wouldn't approve of--if the Bulls and Celtics finish the regular season with identical records, April 7, the date when the two teams meet for the fourth and final time, will be very important. Boston was victorious in the season's first two meetings in Massachusetts, while the Bulls won at the United Center in January, meaning a Bulls' win would neutralize the first playoff-seeding tiebreaker criteria.
3. After not playing since Joakim Noah's first game back in the lineup, 38-year-old veteran Kurt Thomas started in Carlos Boozer's place Friday night--Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau made the decision to go with Thomas over Taj Gibson based on not wanting to break up the chemistry of the team's second unit--and finished the evening with 13 rebounds, while also limiting Hawks center Al Horford to six points after he burned the Bulls for 31 and 16 rebounds in a Chicago loss in Atlanta last week. "It can be difficult, but I've been playing a long time," Thomas told CSNChicago.com about being "put on ice," then being inserted into the starting lineup. "That's definitely the first time that's ever happened--the first time I've ever experienced that--but I just love to play. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I just want to go out there and be successful." Thomas added that he felt "a little bit" of rust, "but once the game got going, it's just like riding a bike."
4. When asked about Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf's comments about the team being capable of winning "at least four championships," in light of Saturday's celebration, Derrick Rose responded, "The only thing we can do is just play hard and try to put ourselves in a position to win. He's a great owner. We have great management, from Gar, Randy, Pax and everybody. The only thing we can do is push for it. We have a good core group and hopefully we get there one day."
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