Despite loss to Trail Blazers, Bulls clinch playoff berth, and UConn men win!

When I went to bed after watching the Bulls’ dismal performance vs. the Trail Blazers, I was anything but a happy birthday girl. When Thibs waved the white flag and sent Jimmer in, I knew it was over.

But we are familiar with the Bulls’ ineptitude with holiday games. Remember, don’t expect a win on any of the following days – New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, St. Patrick’s Day.

Given my birthday obviously ranks up there with all of the aforementioned holidays, we should have known it would be a rough night!

Then, add to it the three-day break. The Bulls are better when they play at 7 p.m. local time, and every other day. What exactly were they doing for the three days? Has Thibs forgotten the shooting and layup drills? CMO!

Thankfully, I had the UConn men’s basketball game to watch, and you know what I like about them? They make baskets. Right, they must have gotten some coaching from the UConn women, because they were looking good, and it’s on to the Elite Eight. Go Huskies!

Conversely, the Bulls threw the ball anywhere but in the basket. Honestly, foot boot and all, I could have shot better. OK, that’s called exaggeration.

“Offensively we were just so bad,” acknowledged Dunleavy.

Jo: “We got beat in every aspect of the game. No excuses. We didn’t have the edge we usually do. Maybe the (three-day) break did something; maybe it didn’t. We’re disappointed, but we’ve go to bounce back.”

In reading Sam Smith’s blog on bulls.com, Bulls clinch playoff berth but don’t celebrate, I started to feel a little bit better.

FROM SAM SMITH’S BLOG

And though making the playoff has been taken for granted for weeks, it wasn’t after the last time the Bulls played the Trailblazers, back in late November when Derrick Rose suffered his season ending knee injury. The Bulls then went into a month long dive that saw them lose 11 of their next 14 games.

The sentiment in the community seemed overwhelming to effectively throw the season, to purposely lose for a draft pick.

Then just as the Bulls were beginning to recover with five wins in their next seven games to get within four games of .500, the team traded the popular Luol Deng, who’d emerged as the team’s leading scorer in Rose’s absence.

There are not many teams that can survive losing their two top scorers, and in that fashion. It did seem, to many, like the team was giving up. No one would have blamed them at that time. And, in fact, few believed the Bulls were a playoff team any longer. Rumors swirled of multiple players being dumped for draft picks. Questions circulated among even the players about whether all the work was worth it with everything going on around them.

But coach Tom Thibodeau never wavered, that this was a team that could and would compete.

And the character of the players would not allow them to give less than their best no matter what anyone else believed or suggested.

I started to think about the similarities between the Bulls and the UConn men. Remember, they were banned last year. That’s probably what Jo would call “adversity.”

“We were banned from a lot of things,” Coach Kevin Ollie said. “We couldn’t come here for the tournament, but they weren’t banned from loving and pushing and encouraging each other, and that’s what it’s all about. Those dark times, if you don’t give up in the dark times, it will reverse, the wind will start going in your favor, your direction.

“And I think that’s what’s happened now.”

So on one night, my birthday, our Bulls hit a bump in the road, but the Huskies prevail. I’ll take it, because we know better times are ahead for our Bulls.

After all, things improved overnight, with the Knicks’ loss to the Suns, securing the Bulls a spot in the playoffs. Why is it the Knicks are always part of the conversation? Even when losing? Ah, probably a topic bloggers smarter than me need to assess.

For now, it’s on to Boston for the Celtics on Sunday and back in CHI for the Celtics again on Monday. Not exactly the Bulls’ preferred schedule, but I’ve put too many calls into Adam Silver already, I better just hope the Bulls remember how to shoot by then, and given 7 p.m. local time starts, we could see two wins!

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Celtics! (2X).

Notes: Nice to see Rip Hamilton at the UConn game sitting next to Jim Calhoun. The Bulls have 10 games left, and only one (hallelujah!) vs. a Western Conference team – the Timberwolves.

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