Thursday, March 31, 2005

Case closed? (the sequel)

Soon I'm going to have to remove that question mark from the title. Ben Gordon did it again, albeit this time not with a rainbow three or a floater in the lane (although he did have a couple of those), but with a drive and a dish to Tyson Chandler, who was rolling to the basket and scoring (with a foul) with 2.8 seconds left in the game, putting the Bulls up 3 over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers after the free throw.

Sure a crazy Lebron James 3-pointer sent it to overtime (and why wasn't Nocioni in the game on that possession? He did a fantastic job guarding -and irritating- Lebron), but the Bulls had the momentum and carried it into the extra period, outscoring the Cavs 14-2 for a 102-90 victory. That's 8 in a row, the team's longest streak, and putting them at 9 games over .500, their high-water mark of the season.

Even without Eddy Curry, the Bulls had to look to the national TV audience like the better team down the stretch. Granted Cleveland is a poor road team, but the Bulls had big plays when they needed it, many of which were by Chandler on both ends of the court. He still has the most awkward offensive post moves I've ever seen, but it does work to draw fouls, and that's what he did on that final shot in regulation and in overtime.

Kirk Hinrich was not at 100%, but he did play tonight and chipped in with 13 points and 7 assists, good to see the captain back. Gordon didn't have the explosive 4th quarter that the announcers were hyping for (how many times did Harlan and Collins mention that he leads the league in 4th quarter scoring?), but he did lead the Bulls with 21 points. Tyson had 15 points to go with 14 rebounds.

The Bulls got through March better than expected, and a playoff seed is all but clinched. April is now all about getting healthy and moving up in the seedings. And maybe watching Ben Gordon finally erase all doubt that he is the rookie (and 6th man) of the year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Case closed?

Ben Gordon sure looked like the rightful rookie of the year tonight, scoring 35 points in a 102-99 victory over Charlotte and fellow ROY candidate Emeka Okafor (who did have 17pts 10rebs).

After Tyson Chandler was ejected with 5 minutes remaining the game, the Bulls heavily relied on Gordon as his floormates down the stretch were Davis, Harrington, Pargo and Deng. Many times the Bulls had nothing going on offense, but just handed the ball to Ben who couldn't miss. Made an otherwise boring game (with the overall lack of talent on the floor) very fun to watch.

My mindset while watching the 4th made me realize how far this team has come. Against an expansion team like the Bobcats, even though the Bulls were in a tight game I fully expected them to find a way. How many times in the past 7 years were similar 4th quarters spent waiting to see how the Bulls could screw it up?

(read below for tonight's earlier post. Like I said I thought this game would be nothing worth writing about so it was posted before it's end)

Oh, that Mariotti...

I don't normally read Jay Mariotti's Sun-Times columns, but I do like reading nice things about the Bulls. So I got to read his piece on how the Bulls are back and blah blah blah. It's mostly garbage, standard fare from a guy who seems to have a little too much on his plate, even after getting canned from his radio show. I've pointed out this phenomenon before, but the guy can't write anything about the Bulls without mentioning Michael Jordan. This paragraph comes out of nowhere:

As sure as the Reinsdorf administration is jacking up season-ticket prices -- some b.s. about needing money to keep the young players, as if Michael Jordan didn't make the franchise enough megamillions -- the Bulls are headed to their first postseason since the dynasty years. We can safely assume this when only 13 games remain and they are closer to second place than ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The first instinct is to shout, "It's about damned time!'' and ponder the whereabouts of Jerry Krause, who curiously has never been hired by another NBA team and is holding radar guns for the New York Mets. Yet why dwell in the miserable past when, for the first time since Karl Malone was misfiring in the Utah air, we actually can talk about spring ball on the West Side and how the Bulls match up against, oh, the Washington Wizards. We'll even call it the Jordan Unemployment Series, noting that neither organization has MJ anymore and yet both will make the playoffs while he looks for a team to buy and runs his motorcycle racing team. Vroom!


Mariotti does eventually go into some peripheral analysis of this year's team, but this guy cannot let go of 1998. Or he hasn't been following the Bulls enough to fill a column on something new.

Another lift from this column is a joke that leads the column. Now either this is simply bad, or really really dirty (and therefore hilarious):

Sorry, but I'm still peeking around every corner of the United Center, expecting to find a grinning Ashton Kutcher. He's a fan of Chicago sports teams, remember, having grown up an Iowa farmboy before finding a bigger field to plow in Demi Moore.


Other internet findings:

  • Happy 1-year blogiversary to Celticsblog. They're one of the best around, so hopefully many more years.
  • Via NBAFanblog, you need to check out the NBA all-ugly team. As a strikingly handsome young man, this amuses me greatly.
  • Another blog that has made my daily rotation is The Cavalier Act on MVN. As a way to preview the Bulls' opponent before the two square off on national tv matchup between the Cavs and Bulls, check out this site to find out how the Cavs have been slipping lately.

As far as the game tomorrow, I will hold back on any preview myself since I have no idea who will be playing. Luol Deng was back for tonight's game against the Bobcats, but Kirk Hinrich wasn't. And Eddy Curry sat out the game with flu-like symptoms, so now his availability will be in question. I would really like to see a full-strength Bulls team showing off their stuff on TNT, so fingers will be crossed.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

TV Time-out

Two things:

  • From the Trib last week:
  • Comcast SportsNet Chicago launches on the Dish Network March 30, giving the station nearly complete penetration in the Chicago area.

    Finally!! Nothing like a Chicago baseball season to get Dish Network off it's collective ass. Where was this announcement in October???

  • Similarly outstanding news: The Bulls-Cavs game this Thursday has been moved from 7:30 to 7, because it is the lead game on TNT's national broadcast. Now it'll be neat to hear EJ, Kenny, and Chuck acknowledge the Bulls' success (they better give props to Skiles), but the Bulls have been a suck-fest on national TV over the past few years. They lost earlier in the season to Philadelphia on ESPN, and remember the group of games against the M.Jeff-led Wizards where the Bulls clawed their way to 60 or so points each contest. ::shudder::

Monday, March 28, 2005

Kirk Who-rich?

(Ugh, I apologize, but that title was so lame I laughed when it popped into my head. So there you go.)

Well the Bulls tried their darndest to pull off an Arizona (can we call it that after Saturday?), but held off the Memphis Grizzlies for a 94-86 win, their 6th in a row. In a month that was looked upon hesitantly, and started out a bit iffy, this win streak has firmly placed the Bulls in the playoffs, now thinking about taking the division moreso than the lottery.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this streak is that 4 of the wins were without Kirk Hinrich, still out with an injured hamstring. The fact that Hinrich's absence didn't hurt the Bulls in this stretch of games is a testament to those that gained minutes in his absence:

Duhon Points Reb Ast TO
Last 4 5 2.5 6 1.75
 2004 Year to Date 5.5 2.7 5 1.6
Gordon Points Reb Ast TO
Last 4 15.5 2.5 2.25 1.5
 2004 Year to Date 14.9 2.6 1.8 2.3
Piatkowski Points Reb Ast TO
Last 4 3 1 1.25 0.75
 2004 Year to Date 4.4 1.1 0.7 0.5
Pargo Points Reb Ast TO
Last 4 6.75 2 4 1.75
2004 Year to Date 4.3 1.3 1.9 1

This improvement in play (and with more minutes mind you) is not very substantial, but the fact that the loss of Hinrich's outstanding defense hasn't hurt them in the win column is enough to give these guys credit.

But where are the points to make up for Hinrich's absence coming from?

Curry Points Reb Ast TO
Last 4 21 5 0.5 1.5
 2004 Year to Date 15.9 5.4 0.6 2.6

Eddy Curry has really turned up his play, and while his rebounding still is poor, his scoring has helped offset the loss of Kirk. And not only that, just looking at him attack the basket the way he has is a very encouraging sign. We all know Curry's motivation could be contract-driven this season, but you have to think the scent of the playoffs getting stronger has encouraged him to be even more aggressive on the offensive end. If you looked at him playing against the Griz' Stromile Swift tonight, while both are looking for contracts (and playoffs) you could tell that Curry seemed to be playing for more. Knowing how 'Eddy Curry' and 'motivated' have gone together in his career makes his play something I'm looking forward to see continue down the stretch. In fact, if you look at how the Bulls performed without Hinrich and compare that to how they do without Curry (perhaps a study for another day), I'd say off-hand that the Bulls need Curry more to win.

On the flip side of that optimistic coin, Luol Deng suffered a wrist injury tonight (not sure on the prognosis), and while the team has stepped up to stay in (and even better themselves in) the playoff picture through the recent injuries, it'd be nice to get healthy for the end of the season.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Carnival of the NBA update

Carnival of the NBA #5 is up on Jeff did a great job over there on it, so make sure you check it out.

And I guess my buddy Jeff (a different one) is right, this weekend's NCAA games totally nullify my post from last week. Then again the point I was trying to make in that rant is that the Basketball is better in the NBA, if not the drama sometimes. Obviously there's good points to both, it just bothers me when people foam at the mouth over a tourney game and say: 'see? this is why I don't watch the NBA"

As far as the Bulls are concerned, two wins over the weekend (without Hinrich), and a home game against Memphis tonight. I'll wait till that one's over before I give another status report looking at the schedule and standings. Until then, enjoy the carnival.