“Next man up”
has become the slogan for the Chicago Bulls for about three years now. Ever since Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, head coach Tom Thibodeau has been forced to change his lineup more than any other coach in recent memory.
Not only have the Bulls had to deal with injuries to Rose the past few seasons, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Kirk Hinrich are among a few others who have missed time due to injury, forcing the Bulls to juggle their lineup and do their best to win with what they have had.
The 2014-15 campaign has been no different. After entering the season as heavy favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals, the Bulls have once again struggled to stay healthy. Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Joakim Noah have all had stints on the injury list this season and as a result, the Bulls have struggled at times to close out games.
After the loss of Rose for 4-6 weeks, the Bulls would once again be bitten by the injury bug.
Jimmy Butler will miss 3-6 weeks with a left elbow ailment, and Taj Gibson also sat out with an ankle injury. Without three of the team’s top scorers many figured the Bulls would struggle to find scoring especially late in the fourth quarter. However, the Bulls played up-tempo basketball on their home floor against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season and had the last words after a week beginning with some trash talk.
“I don’t want to talk about Chicago. You know I hate them. You can put that,” Wizard’s forward Nene told the Washington Post on Monday. Needless to say there is no love lost between the two teams, and it would show on Tuesday.
The Bulls would defeat the Wizards 97-92 on Tuesday behind a clutch performance from Noah, and the balanced attack of their young core. Rookie Nikola Mirotic scored 23 points with 8 rebounds, and Aaron Brooks added 22 points and 8 assists filling in for the injured Rose.
“It’s going to be the collective effort. You can’t replace a Derrick or a Jimmy or Taj individually. We have to do it as a team,” Thibodeau said after the win. “They’re going to keep coming, they’re all tough. We’re going to need a lot of resiliency and a lot of fight.”
Noah once again put the Bulls on his back, much like last season, when he became an unlikely MVP candidate. Noah scored 12 points and pulled down 12 boards while battling with his personal rival, Nene. Washington’s forward, and the Bulls’ new arch nemesis, would foul out after going scoreless and grabbing only 6 rebounds. He would also pick up a flagrant foul while taking a shot at Noah, who calmly walked away.
“I’m just happy we won, and I’m happy I kept my composure,” Noah said about the play. “Just trying to put out a video a couple hours before the game about non-violence. And trying to teach these kids about the big picture. You know what I mean? So it wouldn’t have been a good look, not today. But I’m really, really proud of this team and the way we stepped up tonight.”
The Bulls (38-23) would also get another solid game from Pau Gasol. Gasol scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds to add to his league leading 39th double-double this season. The veteran Gasol knows how important these next few weeks will be while the Bulls are without their starting backcourt and leading scorers.
“I think every game is going to be emotional from now on,” Gasol said. “Every game is meaningful, and this team, they’re a tough team. They try to play extra physical to try to take away stuff.”
The Wizards (34-27) were led by John Wall’s 21 points and 11 assists, and Paul Pierce who chipped in with 16 points including 4 of 6 from the three point line. They are now 3-7 in their last ten games and 13-16 on the road this season.
Chicago did a great job defensively on Washington guard Bradley Beal, who came up huge against them in last year’s playoff series loss.
“The game was lost in a variety of ways,” said Beal, who scored only 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting. “Just bad possessions. And I feel like I had a lot of open shots that I should have made which could have put us in a better position to win the game.”
The Bulls will again play at home on Thursday, when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been hampered by injuries all season long as well.
The Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
SRN’s own Phil Meyers joins us to talk about another amazing contest in the Carolina – Duke rivalry, Wednesday night the 92-90 OT thriller at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Plus, Ryan Horvat, also from SRN analyzes the NBA trade deadline deals, while Dave and Steve discuss news from around the NFL.
Hear interviews from Mike McCarthy, new Bears GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox, as well as Lions GM Martin Mayhew.
Don’t miss cameos from Dick Vitale, Bob Uecker, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Derrick Rose came ready to play on Thursday night and prove to the national audience watching on television that he is still one of the best point guards in the league.
Entering Thursdays matchup against the San Antonio Spurs Rose had averaged 24.0 ppg on .484 shooting in his previous six games. The Bulls on the other hand were not playing so hot-losing six of their last eight. However,Thursday night just may have been the breakout game Chicago needed, and the proof that Rose can still lead a team that the critics needed to see.
Rose led the Bulls with 22 points on 9-15 shooting and ignited the early spark by getting to the rim, rather than settling for jump shots in the first half. The result? The Bulls beat the defending champion, San Antonio Spurs (27-17) 104-81 and played arguably their best game of the season.
The win could not have come at a better time for Chicago (28-16), who lost on Monday night in Cleveland, which resulted in Rose calling out his team, and a player-coach-meeting with Tom Thibodeau.
“I said what I had to say, and I think my teammates took it to heart” Rose said after Thursday nights win. “That was my first time ever doing that, and it showed tonight that guys were a little bit composed.”
It was not only Rose who came to compete against San Antonio. All five starters would score in double figures and Aaron Brooks came off the bench to score 15 points in 24 minutes. While it was a nice win- to get the Bulls back on track, coach Thibodeau still had to address the rumors of being on the “hot seat” after the Bulls recent struggles, and reports he may have lost the locker room.
“As I told you yesterday, I could care less, couldn’t care less, and I don’t think our team couldn’t care less about that stuff,” Thibs said.
Well, maybe Thibodeau did not have much to say about the issue, but Rose stuck up for his coach after the game.
“This don’t have anything to do with Thibs at all,” Rose said. “The way that we’ve been playing don’t have anything to do with Thibs. He’s preparing us right. He’s doing everything and did everything possible to prepare us as a coach. It is up to the players to give that effort.”
Even Spurs head coach Greg Popovich had to answer questions about Thibodeau.
“He’s not gonna lose any team,” Popovich said before the game. “I think you guys just have to have stories. So somebody loses a few games, there’s got to be a reason. I guess that’s the one that was picked. Sometimes players listen to me. Timmy stopped listening to me a long time ago. I don’t even coach him. You guys think I’m kidding. He just plays. I talk to him once in a while, but sometimes some guys don’t want to hear it”
Popovich clearly did not want to talk about problems in Chicago when he has his own team to deal with and a NBA Title to defend this season. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 16 points but was held scoreless in the second half. Leonard also had the tough task of guarding a focused Derrick Rose and struggled to keep up with the former MVP who would score 14 of his 22 points in the paint.
Jimmy Butler also had a nice bounce back game after a two week slump, scoring 17 points and Pau Gasol— who was named a starter on the Eastern Conference All Star Team added 12 points and 16 rebounds. The Bulls will travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks Friday night.
Post Game Audio below.
It only took me two classes in high school to realize that science was not for me and my time would better be spent on other subjects… like girls or sports.
I would go thru the motions because it was a necessary evil and there was nothing I could do about it. If I knew that my Trivia Crack score in the science category would be so low, I would have made more of an effort learning about E = MC².
My gaming woes and pure scientific ineptitude is not the purpose of this article but the lackluster enthusiasm I had for science is equivalent to the Bulls attitude towards their match up against the Orlando Magic.
From the opening tip, the Bulls appeared to be going thru the motions and didn’t have the intensity fans are used to seeing from a Tom Thibodeau coached team. The Magic jumped out to a 29 – 21 lead, on 61% shooting and dishing out 8 assist as a team.
Derrick Rose scared the crowd for a couple of seconds when he went down after a Victor Oladipo foul in the 2nd quarter. Rose was quiet for most of the night but had some explosive plays in the 4th quarter to finish with 18 points and 7 assists.
Rose still hasn’t played a complete game but shows spurts when he gains some confidence after hitting a couple shots. If the Bulls want to make a run for a title, Rose will need to be attacking for 48 minutes when it is June.
Nikola Vucevic was determined on being the best Nikola in the building tonight, as he finished with 33 points, as he was 16 – 24 from the floor and added 11 rebounds. Vucevic was completely destroying Pau Gasol on the offensive side of the court all game and capped off the 3rd quarter with a massive dunk over Gasol.
Please find the highlight on the internet… it’s that good… search Vucevic makes Gasol look like a small boy and it should pop right up.
Entering the 4th quarter, the Bulls trailed by 15 and were never able to overcome their 1st half deficit. Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson did their best to breathe some life back into their team but it was too little too late.
The Bulls have an unhealthy reliance of coming back in the fourth quarter and this time they fell short.
I was able to pass my science class and move on from the mind numbing world of neutrons and electrons. For the Bulls, they have to contemplate the theory of relativity of the NBA season for a couple more months.
See what I did there?
Tom Thibodeau questions his teams edge after the Bulls Magic game
The Chicago Bulls came into Saturdays home matchup against the Boston Celtics short handed and uncertain on who would be in the starting five. Wings Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler both missed Saturdays game but lucky for Chicago, Pau Gasol showed up as usual.
Gasol scored 29 points and added 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots and reserve forward Nikola Mirotic chipped in ten points and 8 rebounds to help the Bulls escape the Celtics 109-104 in overtime.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would not name the Bulls starters until about an hour before tipoff and when he finally did it was announced Mirotic would be making his first start at the small forward position.
” I thought overall ( Mirotic) did very well. Thibodeau said after the game. ” He didnt shoot the ball great, but he made alot of great plays. He spaced the floor well. He has been working hard in practice and has been developing confidence there. I thought he made alot of good plays to get Pau going too which helped us get established inside.”
Besides Mirotic moving over from his original power forward position to make an impact saturday, Gasol was his usual self, playing 38 minutes and shooting 9-16 from the floor.
” ( Pau) is unbelievable. We see it night after night” Thobodeau added. “All the things he does on both sides of the court. He had a 9 blocked shot game, then to follow it up with a 5 blocked shot game. He got many rebounds, and got to the free throw line. The way he plays it gives your team alot of confidence”.
In what was a sloppy game by both teams, The Celtics hung around late in the fourth quarter thanks to Chicago native, Evan Turners game high 28 points on 12-20 shooting— including 4-5 from 3 point land. After trading buckets, the Celtics would tie the game at 99 with 2.6 seconds to play off a Jared Sullinger ( 16 points, 13 rebounds) put-back basket. Chicago would call a timeout and draw up a perfectly executed open shot for Aaron Brooks, that would fall just short. Despite the hot shooting of Turner, the Celtics (11-20) would not be able to hang with the Bulls in the extra period.
” We left too many situation points on the floor. We got out-rebounded and I made a mistake and threw the ball away” Turner said when asked what went wrong in overtime. I misjudged Green and Hinrich ran right past it. It was my fault. ”
Despite the loss, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked what he saw from Turner and the effort his young team put up against one of the Eastern Conferences powerhouse units.
” The best part of ( Turners) game was that he did not have a good first half and he had a great second half” Stevens said in his post game press confrence. ” He put us on his backs for a little bit in the second half”
Speaking of putting his team on his back, Gasol, who was once again brillant— has not only become a force on the court, but in the locker room as well. Thibodeau said after the game that Gasol’s ” actions speak louder than words”
” Pau has been great” Joakim Noah added on saturday. ” He has been huge for us all season. He is one of the constants every-night. His offensive game is really big for us.”
Through 31 games, Gasol is averaging 18 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and the Bulls are 24-10 and in first place in the Central. However this season the Bulls have their sights on more than just regular season accolades.
Notes from Saturday nights game…
– Jimmy Butler ( bereavement leave) and Mike Dunleavy ( right ankle) sat out
– Aaron Brooks scored 19 points of the bench. He has now scored in double figures eight of his last ten games.
– With Saturdays win, the Bulls have now won nine of their last 10 overall and eight of their last nine home games.
– Chicago pulled down a season high 24 offensive rebounds and out rebounded the Celtics 59-45.