We just wanna win in front of the hometown crowd

Ah, but there are many other reasons the Bulls are headed back to Chi-town to clinch their first-round playoff series against the Nets on Thursday, versus getting five days of R&R.

The wheels fell off last night with the rebounding and they allowed the Nets do whatever they wanted in the paint.

Then there’s that little challenge called “but our point guards are always injured.”

And it’s understandable the Bulls would be dragging a bit after Saturday’s miraculous victory.

If the Bulls had won in Brooklyn, it would have been their first four-game win streak of the year. Not sure we’d be hearing too much about that streak. Although the Bulls would have to quickly re-brand themselves as streak-makers instead of streak-breakers. Well, not so much.

Searching for a silver lining, I will say that once the Bulls are knocked down like this, they bounce right back. And, unlike the Nets, they’re not afraid to watch the tape. At least it won’t be called “Nightmare in Brooklyn,” but something like, “Went to Brooklyn and took a good long nap.”

Coach Thibs is on case and will not let PJ steal his game plan any more. He’s very clever that Thibs, so we can expect great things on Thursday.

Meantime, the Heat are busy getting their mani/pedis and making their videos, or just being their generally annoying selves.

So LeBron and company, I’ll see you at the UC in the coming weeks for the second round, because the Bulls are one win away to the re-match. And you’re going to need way more than nice nails to beat my Bulls.

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Nate the Great leads Bulls into thrilling triple OT win

What a difference a year makes.

Almost a year ago to the day, I found myself in Duck, Outer Banks, NC taking in the Bulls first round playoff game vs the 76ers during the Olsen family vacation.

We all know what happened during that game. You, me, we, the basketball world lost DRose for a year+ to a torn ACL.

This year, positioned in the living room of the same condo in Duck watching the same less-than-fabulous TV, the results were thankfully completely different.

The Bulls defeat the Nets 142 to 134 to take a 3-1 lead in their first round playoff series.

In true Bulls fashion, they did it collectively. They found a way. At Mr. Robinson’s playground, you play by different rules. In Nate World, he scores all the points.

Or, at least that was the case on April 27, 2013 in the fourth quarter as he proceeded to single-handedly score 23 points to save the Bulls from a 14-point deficit and bring them into OT.

I was here at the condo in Duck watching the game by myself while the rest of the crew went out exploring, although they re-joined me with less than three minutes in the fourth. At that point, we began brainstorming titles for the blog, which was to have described how the Bulls lost game four, and ended up all tangled 2-2 with Brooklyn. I was less than thrilled about having to come up with a title for yet another loss.

We were going to call it “I should have gone to the dunes.” That’s where Art, Bette, Kevbro and sis-in-law Casey spent the afternoon. I guess they were hang gliding. Or maybe just buying tee-shirts at the gift shop.

Oh ye of little faith. Note to self: You’re a Bulls fan. And when you’re a Bulls fan, anything can happen. One night, you lose to a bottom-feeder. The next night, you bust a streak.

Or bust two streaks.

Or, on a Saturday afternoon in April, 1 p.m. CDT start and all, you decide to bring the basketball world a performance nothing short of epic. Or historic. Or heroic. Try all three.

The heroics came from everyone, in all ways, and from all sides. One-footed Jo really out-performed in the OTs, with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Coach Thibs used one of my favorite words when he spoke about Jo: “He’s sort of mucking through right now because he hasn’t practiced a lot. He’s doing it on will.”

Captain Kirk played 60 minutes, and I’m just reading now that he had to get an MRI for the injury that I guess he’s been playing with these past few games. He racked up a double double, with 18 points and 14 points.

Big Naz evidently had two monster plays in the final OT. But I missed those. It’s reported that he grabbed a missed Boozer free throw to make a timely basket.

Here in the Outer Banks, when you have a 6 p.m. rez at Bette’s favorite restaurant, the Collington Cafe, you are not late and the car departs at 5:30.

So yours truly missed the final OT.

But this was The State of Nate. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t have been a first OT.

Other key contributors all deserve accolades as well. Jimmy, Carlos, Luol, Taj. Remember, there’s no I in team.

Does the fact that Jo was at the Berto Center (Bulls practice facility) shooting baskets late Friday say anything about the team’s character?

Or equally impressive, the fact that Coach Thibs was still at the Berto Center at the time to witness Jo practicing?

When it comes to the Bulls, it’s not a good idea to write the headlines, or the story prematurely.

The Bulls are writing their own history, and I’m going to be here to watch it. Glad I didn’t go to the dunes.

It may not have been pretty, but…

…it was a BIG win.

The Bulls took a 2-1 series lead against the Nets last night as they brought the show back to the Madhouse on Madison.

While the Bulls looked like they were sleepwalking through the first half of the first quarter, they kicked it into high gear in Q2 and Q3 with their signature defense. I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that. The Nets could NOT score a basket.

Ah, be still my heart.

For once, I was able to watch almost the entire game, since it seemed like the lead was substantial enough. But in the final few minutes, it became iffy, so I had to step away.

The Bulls bookended the game with the slow start and then the fourth quarter collapse. Yup, been there done that. So this will be corrected by Saturday.

However, the defense, combined with the domination by Luol, Carlos, Kirk were once again the core foundation. And Big Naz was solid. Poor Jo can hardly walk. No one understands he can make it up and down the court for a game, but he willed it once again and his passing was stellar as always.

Wait, what about the Taj Gibson dunk over Kris Humphries in Q2? Reservations for two at Gibsons.

Now with the early start on Saturday, at 1 p.m. CDT, we know some adjustments must be made. The Bulls have an unfortunate track record in day games. If it’s not a 7 or 7:30 p.m. start, they’re not too interested (or effective). So whether they need to employ mind games, take some potions, change their clocks, eat dinner at 10 a.m. or call the Zen master. Get on it guys.

And the thought of the Florida foes having to face the Bulls’ defense in round two, when they could potentially break a nail and/or tarnish their manicures. Well, that thought makes me all too happy.

Bulls Banter headquarters is temporarily relocating out of Chi-town to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where I plan to bring you insights from other key contributors, including viking20 and Kevbro.

Stay tuned, and See Red!

This is Bulls basketball

It’s not a good idea to anger a bull. But 15 of them? Not highly recommended.

Our Bulls have returned; the impostors are gone. This blog could also be called Defense or Rebounding or Bouncing Back.

The team meeting at the host hotel in Manhattan yesterday (where the Celtics are also staying) seemed to have done the trick. It must have been the makeshift basketball court constructed of masking tape in the ballroom. Or perhaps it was watching the replay of “Nightmare in Brooklyn,” (Saturday’s game) which helped transform the Bulls back to the team we know and love.

Coach Thibs has been saying “we have to do this collectively.” And tonight, they did.

So who’s the MVP? The team.

Jo, playing on one foot, yet making a monster play at the baseline, grabbing the ball when it was headed out of bounds, throwing it to Kirk, who passed it to Nate for a big three. And Jo set the tone from the outset with his excitement and energy. Coach Thibs says he “willed it.”

Yes indeed, Jo with a double double – 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Big Naz, with timely baskets, veteran moves, a save at the end of the floor. And what about that sneaky pass to Boozer in the paint? Stylin’! Jo, in his post-game interview said Naz is a class act, on and off the court. Well-said, Jo.

Luol, “the glue of the team,” as Coach Thibs just said in the post-game interview. And he racks up a double double, with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Captain Kirk. He was the angriest of all the Bulls. Call the cops. There’s been a mugging. He was all over the Nets.

And what can you say about Carlos? Another double double…here we go again. This getting a little bit predictable. Thirteen points and 12 rebounds.

I really enjoyed the interview Luke Stuckmeyer (Comcast SportsNet) conducted with Jo’s Dad, tennis star Yannick Noah. He talked about how nervous he is watching the games, you know, with his son out there on the floor and everything.

Step aside, Yannick, Cinjo’s in town. I’ve got no one out on the floor, I’m not the sister to any of the players, nor am I the mother, nor the girlfriend. (Maybe I’d like to be…we’ll cover that on a blog of another sort). Almost called 911 during the last few minutes of the game, but then decided it best to just step away from the TV. It’s not easy being a Bulls fan, and it’s certainly rough on one’s heart.

Did the Bulls win the championship? With the amount of celebrating that went on around here, at Cinjo’s palace, you would think they had. Wait, I forgot. The Heat already won…if you listen to the media.

So now, it’s back to the United Center on Thursday.

“It’s a whole other ballgame out there (Chicago),” Noah said. ”Not even comparable. This is a great place to play basketball. But this is new fans. They’ve been doing it a long time over there in Chitown. They’re going to be ready on Thursday. It’s going to be a battle. We’ll be ready; they’ll be ready. It’s playoff basketball. It’s what it’s all about.

This is Bulls basketball. See Red!

What game?

Was there a game last night? If so, I will have to pretend it never happened. There’s a psychological term for this. It’s called denial.

I guess it was fortuitous that I met up with my pal at Harry Caray’s to watch the game and the TVs weren’t working. In retrospect, it would have been best if we skipped the game entirely. We were going to move somewhere else, but management got the screens working again. Wish they could have done the same with our Bulls.

When you go to Harry Caray’s or one of Chicago’s other signature sports establishments, there’s a lot of high fiving and hooting and hollering with people you just meet – your new BFFs – to celebrate your team’s success. I think we all may have celebrated one or two blocks.

We had to call in a mathematician to calculate the point differential starting in the second quarter. None of us could compute such large variances. At one point, I turned back to the TV, and said, “It’s only down to 14!”

My new-found pals quickly pointed out it was actually 24.

And I think that’s the best it was gonna get.

Usually, after a game like this, continuing the pattern of denial, I can’t even watch the post-game coverage. But, I put my cowardice aside and just turned on Comcast SportsNet to see what everybody had to say.

Here’s the gist of it, paraphrased.

Coach Thibs. “Poor. Poor. Everything was poor. Did I mention poor?”

Jo “We got smacked in the face.”

Kirk “Offense was bad defense was bad.”

Los “The game was won in the first half.” [Author’s footnote – too bad it was by the other team!]

I bought a basketball yesterday, and now I need to figure out how to get some air in it, and then I’m headed out to look for a pickup game over at the local park. Coach Thibs, if you’re reading, I’m available. And I promise to be ready.

On the bright side, it doesn’t seem like it can get much worse, and we know the Bulls always bounce back (pun intended). But in the playoffs, you really need to sustain the momentum, not go from cold to hot.

Here’s to the Bulls heating up starting with Monday’s game, and never looking back.

Second season

By defeating the lowly Wizards last night 95-92, the Bulls grab the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and are headed to my birthplace to face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.

The last game of the regular season, well, it was dé·jà vu.

They blow a 21-point lead and have to struggle at the end. Once again, true to form, I fell asleep halfway through the game.

Unexpected heroes continue to emerge.

Our man Nazr had a brilliant night, with 17 points and 7 rebounds, and he even earned his own poster from Stacey King. Captain Kirk brought the Hinrich Maneuver back out, and scored 18 points.

The UC crowd was dead, or at least comatose. Although for once, I don’t blame them, as it looked like they would be headed home to say they were there when…the Bulls lost to the Wizards for the third time in the regular season.

Carlos Boozer, the regular season’s unsung hero, and my choice for Bulls MVP for the year got his 44th double double (19 points, 11 rebounds), fifth in the NBA!

Second season starts Saturday, and I’ve been saying all along that the Nets are beatable. And the regular season turning point, February 1, 2013, when the starting lineup was decimated by injuries within the course of 20 minutes, was in Brooklyn.

Kirk was sent back to Chi-town because of his elbow injury, Jo out with the plantar (I think it was occurrence #1), and Carlos – hamstring. Oh, Vladimir (Radmanovic) was out too. Maybe his back.

So with more than half the starting lineup gone as of an hour before the start of the time start time, Coach Thibs had this answer for reporters when asked for the starting lineup: “Don’t know.”

That Coach Thibs, he’s really vague, isn’t he? Kinda hard to get a read.

He ended up playing Brooklyn-born Taj Gibson for all 48 minutes, and Lu played all but a few seconds. Taj ended up with 16 points and 9 rebounds, while Lu put up his usual double-digit point total with 18. I believe that might have been the first time we were introduced to Nazr Mohammed (my man).

The Bulls lose that one, but win their other three meetings with the Nets. And with New Yorks’s Taj, Jo and Cinjo all either playing or watching/cheering/blogging, it seems like the second, aka “real” season could start out strong.

Here’s Jo:

“There were times guys were looking at our team and they were laughing. There were seven or eight guys on the bench. We just never gave up. That’s something everybody should be proud of. And now it’s playoff time. So let’s go.”

Re-gaining strength

Although I would really like to point to the 18-point margin of victory as the Bulls defeated the Magic 102 to 84 last night as the highlight, what’s more, actually most important is that the Bulls are re-gaining their strength.

Both Joakim and Taj returned, and the Bulls were looking more like themselves, with high energy and good ball movement. I just love Jo’s enthusiasm, and boy did I miss his pre- and post-game interviews. Nate performed a new magic act – transforming into a facilitator, as he passed the ball to everybody, even the guy in the stands dressed as the Bulls mascot, Benny the Bull.

Nazr really took Coach Thibs’ “48-minute principle” to heart, as he fouled an Orlando Magic with a second left in the game, when the Bulls had already won, and, in an unprecedented, and perhaps one-of-a-lifetime move, Coach Thibs actually took a seat on the bench. I guess he figured the Bulls could pull this rabbit out of a hat.

If there’s a takeaway from this season, other than “we have more than enough to win with,” perhaps it’s that every game counts.

Now the Bulls find themselves wondering if they’ll spend the next few weeks shuttling back and forth to NYC to play the Nets in my birthplace, Brooklyn. Or, they could face those giant Pacers here in the midwest, where the Bulls may actually have quasi-homecourt advantage, since more Bulls fans seem to be in the stands at Pacers games in Indianapolis than Pacers fans. I guess the Bankers Life Fieldhouse is United Center 3 (third to United Center North, aka the Bradley Center where the Bucks play).

Since people smarter than me can explain what the final two days of regular season play mean for the Bulls, I best direct you to KC Johnson’s article in the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/ct-spt-0416-bulls-chicago-20130416,0,1270352.story.

So DRose didn’t make our dreams come true down in Orlando, no magical last-minute appearance. It’s looking like we will need to cast a spell on our MVP if we want to see him back this year. But the players who have brought the Bulls to a respectable spot in the Eastern Conference have come back together, and we all know – that’s more than enough. Or at least I guess it will have to be.

One more regular season game, with Neil Funk and Stacey King for the hometown call against the Wizards Wednesday, and we’ll take a win any which way we can, by 1 or 18. Drive home safely Chicago – beep beep, and see you in the playoffs.

See you in the Eastern Conference Finals

So here’s a rhetorical question. If you’re the reigning NBA Champs with the best record in the NBA, and, the likely MVP – should you be able to beat a decimated Bulls team missing their MVP and half their team?

As my pal Nino would say, CMO! [Not chief marketing officer – c’mon now!]

So it’s all evened up, at two wins a piece. We’ll see you in the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami. You better rest up, let your guys sit out even though they’re not injured (to get their beauty rest), because once we have our big men back, and our MVP, you’re definitely going to feel the heat.

We can be proud of our Bulls, for never giving up, and even taking the lead, at least once or twice I think. Boozer, Jimmy Gets Buckets, Lieutenant Deng, Daequan Cook, Captain Kirk and Mr. Excitement, Nate Robinson – you all rocked it.

I’m glad we had this little dry run-through before the big show, because I certainly learned a lot.

1.) The Miami Heat are 100% beatable.
2.) National commentators are Heat-lovers and Bulls-haters, and they all best get ready to eat their words.
3.) Following right along with #2, Jeff Van Gundy – I’m not a fan.
4.) From now on, I will be listening to the hometown call on the radio while watching the game on the big screen.
5.) You have NOT seen the last of our Bulls.

The Bulls let you have one today, but bask in the glow while you can. Coach Thibs, and the rest of his team (anywhere from 9 to 11 players on any given game day) wanted me to pass along a message.

“We have more than enough to win with.”

“And we’re coming for you.” OK, I added that last part, but I’m sure Coach Thibs is saying the same thing.

Oh No Canada!

This one could have also been called “Friday Night Fight Moves North of the Border.” It definitely got chippy in the Air Canada Center in Toronto.

Rip ejected. The Little guy (Nate) almost in a fight with a Raptor. Boozer fouled out.

It was just one of those nights. A really bad day (night) at the office. Coming off Thursday night’s high vs. the Knicks, the Bulls indeed reached a new low. I don’t think we’ll hear any of them speakly fondly of Canada any time soon, as they lose to the Raptors for the second time in one week.

So now the Bulls move down to the sixth seed, and would have to play Indiana in the first round. The Pacers should change their name to Giants or Monsters or Big Men. They’re huge.

I won’t say the Bulls don’t stand a chance…but starting their summer break in early May rather than early June is looking like a very real possibility.

Unless…

OK, so now I’m even looking at the schedules of the Bulls’ probable first-round opponents. The Hawks only have two games left – he he, ha ha, they host the Raptors Tuesday night. Then they have the Knicks on Wednesday.

The Bulls have got that team which has already won the Championship, at least, according to most in the media (the Heat) at noon on Sunday on national (ABC) TV. Then, it’s Monday in Orlando for more magic and Wednesday back at home for continuation of the spells and wizardy with Washington.

After typing all of that, I’m not sure what my point is. I’ll send a note to Sam Smith (or maybe just read his blog, as I’m sure it’s covered there) to figure out – can the Bulls still move back up into fifth so they face the beatable Nets vs. the Giants from Indiana?

It’s coming down to the wire here for our Bulls.

Vaughn McClure’s (Chicago Tribune) article about last night’s fiasco was titled, “Defensive Breakdowns lead to Bull’s loss.” That did seem to be half of the problem. And the other half was lack of scoring. Does any of this ring a bell?

Trying to find bright spots, Carlos got another double double, and my man Nazr got one too, with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Go Nazr.

In this season of ups and downs, unexpected losses and even more unexpected and streak-busting victories, you can count on the Bulls to continue to surprise.

Winning the next three could be the biggest, yet most welcome surprise yet.

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