Friday, April 08, 2005

Home court advantage: Bulls?

In case you didn't know...

                      W   L PCT  GB    
1 x-Miami      56 19 .747  -        
2 Detroit        47 27 .635  8 ½    
3 Boston        41 34 .547  15      
4 Chicago      42 32 .568  13 ½  
5 Washington 41 33 .554  14 ½  
6 Indiana        40 34 .541  15 ½  
7 Cleveland    38 36 .514  17 ½  
8 Philadelphia 37 37 .500  18 ½  

   New Jersey  37 39 .487 19 ½
   Orlando       35 40 .467 21

If the season ended today, the Bulls would have a home court date against the Washington Wizards. It doesn't end today though (and probably a good thing given the injuries), so lets have a look at the remaining schedules. I'll include the Pacers, but exclude Boston since no matter how poorly the Atlantic Division winner finishes they will have the 3 seed. Dumb? perhaps. but that's the way it is.

Remaining schedules:

Bulls Wizards Pacers
-- 1GB 2GB

Very interesting, as all 3 play eachother in the final weeks. Also very even in terms of winnable games and tough games. Washington has perhaps the easiest schedule, void of a Detroit or a Miami like the Bulls and Pacers have to play. The Bulls have the most road games(4) of the three.


(1) Head-to-head:
Bulls v. Wizards:      1-1
Bulls v. Pacers:        2-1
Wizards v. Pacers:   2-1

(2) Conference Record:
Bulls:      27-17
Wizards: 24-20
Pacers:   25-19

(3) Division Record:
Bulls:      8-6
Wizards: 9-6
Pacers:   8-7

The Bulls look pretty good here, but definitely would benefit from a win over both the Wiz and Pacers. Both are on the road.

So 3 teams, each fighting injuries down the stretch to see who gets a 4, 5, or a 6 seed. Some might say that a 6 seed would in fact be the best of all, since they face the Atlantic Division winner and also avoid the Heat in the second round. But another side of me says I really want to see game one of the playoffs at the United Center. A win at NY followed by a gimmee at home against the Raptors, and hopefully Eddy Curry will be back by then to lock up the #4 seed and home court advantage.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A scoop of reality

Despite my best advice, Nocioni got into some brief altercations in the Magic game. Nothing escalated though, even after a head-rattling foul by Kelvin Cato to send Nocioni into the basket support. Despite that brief moment of fire by the Magic, they didn't look much like a playoff team, and letting an undermanned Bulls team on the bad end of a back-to-back beat you on your home court didn't do much to prove doubters otherwise. And the Bulls proved that injuries do not mean they'll go away.

But back to that game the previous night against the Heat. I wanted to quickly point out the drastic difference in perspective between two writers, one a blogger and one from the mainstream.

First from the Bulls Report:

The loss in Miami was a concession. Deng is out. Eddy is coming back slowly. Harrington's wife is expecting a baby. Kirk is slowed down. Even with a 100% healthy Bulls teams, beating Miami in Miami was going to be tough. It wasn't going to happen last night. Don't shed any tears.

Not only does's Scoop Jackson shed tears, he prepares for more:

This was the game that was supposed to prove the Bulls' nine-game un-losing streak was real as government cheese. They asked me to watch this game, use it against a hypothesis, use it to come to a conclusion. Gauge. Make statements.

So 48 minutes and 39 career-high Dwyane Wade points later, I came to this conclusion: The Bulls eventually are going to break my heart like the Illini did.

(ok questioning Scoop Jackson may be a bad example of 'mainstream'.....but roll with me)

I don't think it's possible for the Bulls to break anyone's heart. How can this not be all seen as a positive. I know there was talk last week of seeding, and home court advantage, and how to avoid the Heat in the second round. The second round?!? Was there any idea early on that Bulls fans could even consider the second round?

Look, I'm not one to be happy with mediocrity. That mindset allowed me to defend Jerry Krause's transactions of mass destruction. The Bulls should only be about winning world championships, maintaining their standing as one of the jewel organizations in the NBA.

But I will not be heartbroken no matter how the playoffs go. Any experience that these kids get will be a good one, and while the injuries may catch up with them, they've proven they can win through adversity, and still have the elements for an exciting playoff run. Unlike Scoop, I'm guessing most Bulls fans feel the way us Bulls bloggers (and obviously fans too) do. Forget anticipating doom, I'm gonna enjoy this ride.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I come not to bury Luol Deng, but to praise him

In honor of the Bulls fallen rookie, here's my post from a month ago that goes into just how important Luol Deng is to this team. No need to re-hash what we already know.

But in regards to his replacement, Andres Nocioni, the prospects are worrying at best. While another solid rookie, Noc is obviously no Luol Deng.  Nocioni's poor offensive efficiency (10.08 PER) undoubtedly contributes to the fact that Deng leads the Bulls in +/-.

On the other end of the court, Nocioni is a rugged defender (and superior to Deng), to the point where one might even call him a dirty defender. Not that it stops the Bruce Bowens of the world from being important stoppers on playoff (and in Bowen's case, championship) teams, but Nocioni needs to be careful. As the only true '3' left on the roster (I'm guessing Skiles will try and mix in Griffin and Pike in that spot as well), Nocioni can't let his aggressive mindset get him in foul trouble. It will be a fine line for him, since his reckless abandon is what has made him productive, best shown at his veteran-like ability to coax referees into charging his opponents with offensive fouls. Just remember the way he hassled Lebron James last week. But sometimes his exuberance can get out of hand, as in tonight:

The game had an ugly ending. Haslem was ejected with 2:52 left after retaliating for a hard foul committed against Wade by Nocioni.

Wade drove into the left corner and was fouled hard by Nocioni, who then struck Wade a second time -- this time in the back, knocking him to the floor. Haslem charged toward Nocioni and shoved him, sending him sprawling over some cameramen seated near the baseline.

Nocioni was called for a flagrant foul and a technical. He was not ejected, but was escorted off the court by Bulls team personnel.

I didn't watch much of the game tonight against the Heat, expecting a beatdown for the Bulls (who were without Curry). I had early optimism after learning Shaq was out, but after a 20 point deficit at the half my attention was fully elsewhere. From what I heard on the post-game, Nocioni's hard foul on Wade was in retaliation to a previous foul. Whether Noc was justified or not (and I surely don't blame Haslem in the least for protecting his team's star), this is the type of situation he needs to avoid the rest of the way. While hurting the Bulls on the court when compared to Luol Deng, Noc is sorely needed on that court in Deng's absence. Else we'll be pining for the days of Linton Johnson.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Well, crap

First the Illini lose, then I come back to read this. I guess one way of looking at it is that Deng will be around and be enjoyed for 15 years, and if the Illini play their cards right they can too. But for tonight I'll just let it hurt and gather my thoughts for later in the week.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Number nine

Only half-watched the game last night, an expected win over the Bobcats. I was too full of Illini pride (or was it beer?). Anthony Roche is on it though, so go there.