Bulls back in the series behind “Dunlevee’s” 35 points, JB makes Nene disappear

So the Bulls work a bit of their own wizardry in DC Friday night, with Jimmy and Nene in a Friday Night fight. And once again, unexpected heroes emerge. This time, it was “Mike don’t leave me open Dunleavy,” or Dunlevee, as Thibs calls him.

Not sure why Thibs can’t pronounce his name, given Dunleavy’s Dad is a rather famous NBA coach, and I believe Dunleavy’s name is announced part of the starting lineups in arenas where he plays. But we’ll let it slide. Thibs admitted in an interview yesterday he’s been watching all of the other playoff games.

How does the man have enough time, when he’s only got a day and a half to put together a game plan to enable the Bulls to destroy the Wiz, and also had to set up a makeshift basketball court in the DC area hotel where the Bulls held their “walkthrough” Saturday.

Those are issues for others to solve, meantime, in their “do whatever it takes” fashion, the Bulls will hopefully find a way to capitalize on Nene’s absence today (he was suspended by the League for “head-butting and grabbing guard-forward Jimmy Butler of the Chiago Bulls around the neck with both hands and attempting to throw him down.”

Let me just put it out there now. A Nene fan I am not. Nor am I a fan of John Wall. The rest of the Wizards. I’ll take them or leave them. But leave them is the preference, in the dust, in three more games, to be exact.

I’m excited for Dunleavy, who’s played in the league for 12 years, and has only made it into the playoffs twice – once with the Pacers, and then last year with the Bucks, as the eighth seed in the East, facing Miami. Wonder how that turned out?

Coming out of Friday’s game, Dunleavy’s iPad blew up due to all of the friends, fans, pals, various and sundry tweeting, e-mailing, facebooking about his 35-point performance. He couldn’t sleep Friday night.

Jo was most worried about what he would have for lunch Saturday, and reported he may go with eggs benedict, and said he would get to bed early. Early for me is 9 p.m. Jo, maybe midnight?

Joakim: “You’ve seen all three of these games have really come down to the end. Dunleavy played huge for us. Jimmy played huge for us. A lot of guys stepped up. I’m proud of this team. It was a hostile environment and we have a quick turnaround so we have to come back ready to go.”

It might not be a Sunday afternoon fight, but we’ll all eagerly wait to see which new hero or heroes emerge today.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Wizards and bring it back to CHI all tied up.

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An extraordinary story

Instead of focusing on the Bulls’ two losses to the Wizards in round one of the playoffs, I’m taking a different approach.

I have been thinking back to last season’s series versus the Brooklyn Nets, and the Bulls’ performance was nothing short of extraordinary. Overcoming the pounding in the game 1 loss to take the second game in Brooklyn. The amazing triple OT win led by Nate Robinson in Q4 and onwards of game four. The unprecedented effort the team showed during the pandemic game, even though they lost. Jo emerging to lead the team in Luol’s absence and despite his plantar. Winning the final game in Brooklyn.

That was exceeding expectations. And the series was nothing short of extraordinary.

This year, the Bulls find themselves in a different position. Times change, seasons change and plans change. The Bulls were to have been contenders – but that was with DRose and Luol. Circumstances resulted in the loss of both All-Stars for the 2013-2014 campaign.

It wasn’t supposed to have gone this way. This was THE year. The puzzle pieces all in place. Dunleavy brought in to complement DRose. Luol second leading scorer, and “the glue.” Captain Kirk to back up Derrick. Jo with his stellar defense. Taj a starter disguised as sixth man.

The feel good story of Chicago sports, the Bulls winning their 7th NBA title in 2014 – had to be re-written. Horror is the genre which comes directly to mind. And horrific it was, at the outset.

It was a rough November (starting with DRose knee injury two), a terrible circus trip, and most of December was even worse. But glimpses of our resilient winning Bulls re-emerged, starting with a big win on the big stage to a big team with an even bigger salary – and the Bulls were victorious, on national TV on  a holiday, despite a noon EST start.

Like I’ve said before, the Bulls might be the only team who likes those sleeved pajama jerseys, because that’s what they were sporting when they beat the Nets on Christmas Day.

There were big games and big wins – and I spent one of the happiest days of my life with my Bulls for one of them – March 9, 2014, when the Bulls defeated the evil Heat at the UC.

The media gave up on the Bulls. Some fans said to tank. Charles Barkley, the ultimate Bulls hater, wrote them off months ago (and as of last night, said the Bulls vs. Wizards series is over in 4). Whatever.

But despite everything going against them, the Bulls made it to the playoffs, at a higher seed than last year, gave us wins to remember against the Knicks (home opener, I was there), the Heat, the Spurs, the Nets, the Suns, two in a row against the Celtics, maybe a win here and there against a few other Western Conference foes.

The playoff series, thus far, has been anything but extraordinary. You hear Thibs, Jo and other basketball aficionados say that “defense wins games.” I guess the part we forgot to mention is that you need to add some offense.

The Bulls have been offensively challenged all year. They lost their two leading scorers. They have built a make-shift team that has exceeded expectations, with “season saver” D.J. Augustin at the helm. And I, for one, am proud of their accomplishments. How they fought. Their attitude. The teamwork, respect for each other, and will to win.

They need some reinforcements. And it doesn’t look like they will be arriving anytime soon. But I contend that the same story could not be written about OKC without KD and Westbrook, or the Heat without LeBron and Wade.

Just where would those teams find themselves if in the same situation as the Bulls? Not at #2  in their respective conferences, I promise you that.

In my view, with what the Bulls were given this season, the exceeded expectations, and wrote an extraordinary story. And while I will be extremely sorry when the story of this season is over, I am as proud as ever to be a Bulls fan. I guess I’ll just have to get my Bulls fix watching NBA Hardwood Classics.

And the playoff series ain’t over yet. Following last night’s defeat, according to Taj Gibson, as reported by Bulls’ blogger Sam Smith, Dikembe Mutombo gave the Bulls a little pep talk.

He said, “We have to keep our heads up. We just have to try to win one on the road. He said we’ve been in this situation before. He said he’s been in this situation. It’s a different game on the road. You have your teammates. First things first; we have to win one.”

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Wizards.

Just three words

It’s a holiday.

Right, it’s Easter. Did you really expect the Bulls to win? We all know their Christmas Day victory vs. the Nets was only due to the sleeved jerseys.

Or try

Too much ham.

Start time early.

Got no offense.

Forgot about defense.

Not without Sager.

Don’t see red.

It’s not snowing.

Don’t like Nenê.

Bring back Boozer.

Not the way I hoped to settle in after a long day hosting Easter, but given I’m too upset to watch any of the post-game coverage, I’ll have lots of time to do the dishes.

So let’s leave it at – Bulls win Tuesday.

See Red!

Go Bulls.

Beat the Wiz.

Thibs has got them believing they can beat anybody

ICYMI, the Bulls defeated the Magic last night 108 to 95. Biggest storyline there was D.J. missed the game due to “personal reasons” – his wife had a baby, so Thibs just looked around the locker room and found someone else to step in.

It was Jimmer Time! Jimmer Fredette scored 17 points in 30 minutes, and got the basket that led to THE most important achievement of the evening – Big Macs for the fans at the UC (when the Bulls score 100 or more).

The Bulls’ leading scorer was Mike Dunleavy, with 22. Boozer had a double double. Jo was two assists away from a triple double. Once again, six guys in double figures, including the rookie, Tony Snell.

When have you heard this before? Oh, maybe a few days ago or last week. They never know who it’s gonna be, but somehow, some way, the Bulls get it done, find the points, go to the guy with the hot hand, and play as a team.

I just listened to a post-game interview with Joakim and if you just played the audio and disguised the voice, it could have been Thibs.

These crazy Bulls, they all say the same thing! Concentrate on the next game. Get ready for the next opponent. Don’t short-change the system. Make improvements. Know your job. Do your job.

And Thibs has got them believing they can beat anybody.

I just looked back at some of my blogs from the close of the last season, and in the final regular season game, the Bulls beat a team I called “lowly,” the Washington Wizards, who the Bulls maybe indeed face in the first round this year. Not so lowly anymore, yet I don’t think they know how to spell d-e-f-e-n-s-e, so the Bulls should prevail, assuming they get the Wiz and not the Nets.

And I’ll confess right now, that I was also just watching a little NBA-TV (I have got a disease, and it’s called Bulls basketball – I need a therapist). Anyway, one of those commentators said the Bulls aren’t as good as they were last year.

Hold on. This year, the Bulls enter the playoffs with guys who can actually walk! There might not be a Nate, but there’s a D.J. and a Dunleavy. Sure, no Belinelli, no Lu, but look at Taj’s improvement, and JB’s defense.

And if the Bulls are either so bad or not so good, why is it in every article you read, the Bulls are the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs?

Just think about it.

Here’s Jo:

“We’re hungry; we want this. We believe in one another. We believe in our system. It feels great to be in this position right now, but we’re definitely not satisfied. We want more; we feel like we can do more. It’s a group that’s gone through so much adversity. To be in this position is definitely a blessing. But we’re not satisfied. Expectations don’t help you win games. We believe in ourselves. We believe in our abilities. We believe we’re going to be a tough out.”

One game left, and then it’s on to the second season. And I, for one, can’t wait. Although paying for a Finals ticket AND much-needed therapy might break the bank. Good thing I get paid so much for writing Bulls Banter.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Bobcats.

Congratulations to former Bulls All-Star Luol Deng on receiving an award recognizing his philanthropic work in Africa, the United Kingdom and United States: Luol Deng wins J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

Bulls falter on the big stage, lose 100 to 89 to Knicks at MSG

I already wrote a thank you note to Adam Silver and put it in the mail this morning. That is, to thank him for moving the game to the local stations vs. ABC so only me, three other Bulls fan tweeters, and the 7-15 people who watch the MSG Network caught the game.

Failing to account for the holiday (Palm Sunday) factor, I didn’t see this one coming. The Bulls basically getting blown out of Madison Square Garden.

It could be worse. We could be the Knicks, with summer vacation flights departing this Friday.

Probably good the Bulls got a wake-up call with the Knicks’ stifling defense. Seriously, where were these Knicks the rest of the season? Why did they decide to become vigilant defenders the night after they missed the playoffs? Actually, I guess I don’t care all that much. They had nothing to lose, but the Bulls on the other hand, had something to gain.

If they had beat New York, they would remain the #3 seed, and would have a better chance of facing someone other than Brooklyn in round one.

But now they’re back to the #4 seed. To be honest, figuring out who plays whom, when, what continent, month, planet – it will take a mad scientist to figure it out. The Bobcats and Wizards are still up in the air for their seeds, so are the Heat and Pacers. It’s like if the market is up, Jo’s hairdo (man bun) turns out right, it snows in Chicago (predicted for tonight) and it’s somebody’s birthday, the Bulls play Brooklyn. If it’s 75 degrees in New York, Thibs wears a red tie, the price of tea in China goes up and someone sees a rainbow, the Bulls play the Wizards.

Honestly, I don’t know, and Sam Smith, in the first paragraph of his blog, tries to break it down: Bulls Knicked in NY to end seven-game winning streak. You should listen to him. He is, after all, the unofficial official Bulls blogger, and me, well, I’m not.

“Our mindset wasn’t really good,” Joakim Noah said. “We had a golden opportunity. We let a big game slip. It was probably the biggest game of the season.”

“Normally we are able to count on our defense,” said Thibs. “Our defense wasn’t very good tonight.”

“We were lackadaisical at times. We can’t complain about it,” Taj said. He had 13 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.

Right, Jo and Taj did complain, and not to one another, but rather, to the refs. “T for two?” Indeed, technicals for each of them, and Jo got called for it, when in my estimation, he was rather “innocently” applauding after a Knicks player missed a free throw.

Needless to say, Stacey King reported via twitter that the flight home was rough. Watching a replay of the game on their iPads was likely enough to make them air sick, they didn’t need a bumpy ride to add to that.

Let’s hope they’ve made their corrections by this evening, when the Bulls meet the Magic back here at the UC. One thing for certain is clear – they won’t be facing Orlando in the playoffs. They’re already out of contention.

We can be thankful that no one got hurt, the Bulls are in the playoffs, and most importantly – we’re not the Knicks.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Magic.

“Bulls Starting 7” come alive in second half, overcome 18-point deficit, beat Pistons

Bulls defeat the Pistons 106-98, racking up their seventh straight win, and take rightful sole possession of #3 seed in the East with the Oh Canada! (Raptors’) loss to the Knicks.

The Knicks once again, are in the conversation, and anything but irrelevant. This time, I’m thankful they found a way to defeat those pesky Raptors.

But on Sunday, it won’t be the same, as I’m hoping the Bulls destroy them, on what “was to have been matinee game until the NBA deemed the Bulls and Knicks both too awful for prime time, and the game would be meaningless, so now catch it on your local stations” game.

“It feels good to have the three seed,” Noah said. “It means (Sunday’s game in Madison Square Garden vs. the Knicks) is going to be popping. I like it when the Garden is popping.”

But back to last night, when the group becoming known as the “Bulls Starting 7” again worked its magic. “Augustin and Gibson, it’s like playing against seven starters,” said Loyer, interim head coach for the Pistons. “Those two guys, Augustin is their leading scorer, and Taj Gibson is as athletic and active as any power forward in the league. They do it against a lot of people.”

I was tweeting some new random pro Bulls fans that the ImposterBulls seemed to have shown up in the first half, and I really didn’t think, the way things had been going, that we’d see them again this season. And what about the basket covers? Q1 and Q2 – they did their job.

But I guess everybody ate their Wheaties during halftime, and someone bribed the UC staff to remove the covers during the break, because the Bulls scored 68 in the second half. Who? What? Are we in OKC? Teleported to a Spurs game or Lob City?

Boozer: “Give them credit for the first half, give us credit for the second half.”

So six of the “Bulls Starting 7” scored in double figures, and the lone outlier, All-Star center Joakim Noah, despite having only 6 points, joined 8 others (including MJ and Scottie) in the 400 assists/100 blocks club. Ah, just another day (or night) at the office.

It’s feeling a bit now like “it’s too good to be true,” this late-season surge, the Bulls with the best record in the East since the All-Star break (20-7), with the Nets right behind them, and the Pacers at 14-14.

“We remember no one was on our bandwagon at the beginning of the year and how that felt,” said Taj Gibson, who finished with 17 points. “We just believe in ourselves.”

And giving credit where credit is due, D.J. Augustin again rose to the occasion, with 24 points (team high), 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Thibs: “He has been a godsend for us.”

Now, on to MSG for the Sunday night fight that actually means something. My allegiance to the Knicks is fleeting, it was for one night only.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Knicks.

Notes: Boozer was 7 for 8, with 18 points and even had another dunk. But former UConn star Andre Drummond was the beastliest of all, with 26 rebounds, and out-rebounded the entire Bulls team in the first half. What’s the opposite of happy? That is.

Taj did D.J.’s “Louisiana Skip” following one of his dunks, although the skip was more angry than lighthearted. Remember, Taj is from Brooklyn. Brooklyn Skip? Not so much.

Commercial break: you can follow me on twitter at @TheChicagoNinja

Bulls extend win streak to 6 games with defeat of Timberwolves

I’ve gone off the deep end, with the monitoring of the Toronto Raptors, the live game scores, who they’re playing next, home or away, the injuries, what they’re eating for dinner. I’ve become more obsessed about the Bulls’ securing the third seed than anyone from the Bulls organization.

Unless maybe they’re lying, all of them, when coaches and players alike “claim” they don’t care who they face in the playoffs.

We all know the truth. Brooklyn is not our top choice.

First of all, it would be nice with a little variety. Spice of life and all.

Secondly it would be even better to face a team that doesn’t have a bunch of savvy, slithery, skilled and sneaky veterans. Give me those Wizards or Bobcats any day.

So to try to convince myself that I would be better off to stop worrying about things I can’t control, I’ve decided to channel my best Thibs.

Here’s what the man the legend Coach Thibodeau had to say last night following the Bulls’ convincing (at least in the second half) and rather surprising (Timberwolves are in the Western Conference) victory vs. our friends from Minnesota:

TIDBITS FROM THIBS

“The thing is, there are a number of teams playing well right now. Toronto being one of them.

For us, I don’t want us to change our approach. We started the season a certain way. Concentrate on what’s in front of you. So we’ll take a look at this game look at the things we did well, look at the things we didn’t do as well as we would like. Make our corrections. Study our opponent. Get ready for the next one. Put everything we have into it. Play for the team and just try to keep building.

If our concentration is on improvement and going step by step the results will take care of themselves, we don’t have to worry about what anyone else is doing.”

Thibs spoke to me. No more Oh Canada! watch.

Instead, let’s be thankful that no one is hurt, that the Bulls are riding the winningest (is that a word??) win streak in the NBA, at six games, and they’ve outdone themselves, compared to last year, when they landed fifth place in the East at 45 and 37.

This year, tied for #3 in the East, they’re at 46 and 32. Thinking back to the nightmare that was late November, and the doldrums of December, one would never have imagined the Bulls would find themselves in this position.

Except maybe the Bulls. And I know, my critics will shoot down my UConn Men’s basketball analogy, where everyone discounted them, just like our Bulls. But humor me just for a minute…it’s kinda sorta the same.

But looking back at Minnesota, you have to give those fans a bit of credit. Their team didn’t make the playoffs, and hasn’t for what, 10 years, and the arena looked at least half full, and those in attendance didn’t seem half dead. Don’t get me started on baseball and the stadiums with 1,200 people when there’s supposed to be 21,000.

The Bulls were too much for the Timberwolves. Too much Jo, with his triple double, too much D.J. with his three-pointers. And with everyone playing as a team and sharing the basketball and that defense. Well, you might think this Bulls team could be somebody.

Ooops, I forgot. The Bulls don’t have a chance, remember? And to think last year, it was the walking wounded, the half-dead, with their IVs, spinal taps, barf buckets and plantar who showed up to play the Brooklyn Nets.

What a difference a year makes. No one is in the hospital, they’ve brought in reinforcements (C.J. Watson, Mike James and Lou Amundson), everybody knows their job and does their job.

Yet three things remain the same.

No DRose.

No problem.

The Bulls dispatch Brooklyn for an early summer vacation in late April.

But first, they have to finish off four more opponents – Detroit, Knicks, Orlando and Bobcats. For once, I’ll call Adam Silver to thank him for the schedule.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Pistons.

 

 

ICYMI: Bulls destroy Wizards 96 to 78

In Case You Missed It because you were too busy watching the UConn Huskies beat the Florida Gators (Yahoo! Yippee, Woot Woot), there was another big win in the basketball world, as our Bulls defeated those Wizards in DC.

1.) Bulls finally on the right end of a blowout, going into halftime up 52 to 26, and leading by 20 or so through most of the game.

2.) U.S. Department of Defense hired Thibs and Bulls for series of multi-day defensive workshops this summer.

3.) Jo brought the finger pistols out again in the first quarter.

4.) D.J. did the “Louisiana skip,” as Stacey King called it, following one of his six 3-pointers.

5.) Jimmertime started early, with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, to a standing ovation by the DC crowd. Hmmm. Who is this Jimmer?

6.) JB sat down with three minutes left in the fourth.

7.) Thibs sat down too. Seems that 18-point margin with two minutes left in the game indicates floor stalking is no longer required.

8.) Wizards cite fatigue due to late arrival from previous night’s game as an excuse for the loss. Bulls arrived at 3 a.m. from CHI after beating the Bucks. But who’s counting?

9.) Tornike “Toko” Shengelia (who? oh right, that player they got from Brooklyn who sits on the bench by DRose) dunked on a pass from D.J.

10.) Thibs schedules an non-televised game Monday night to trick the Bulls into thinking they’re playing their “usual” schedule. Otherwise, with three days off, you know what will happen Wednesday night in Minnescrapolis when the Bulls face the Timberwolves.

Bulls remain in a tie with Oh Canada! Raptors at #3 in the East, and if those north of the border boys keep it up, it looks like our Bulls may end up in a re-match with Brooklyn in round one. It may take seven games, but been there. Done that.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Timberwolves!

And, let’s go UConn – men and women!

Anything but pretty tour continues, Bulls beat Bucks 102 to 90

This was one of the games the Bulls were supposed to win. And for a while, it looked like a shoe-in, and perhaps Thibs could make it a Jimmer night, but I think he only made it in for the last possession.

When your 22-point lead to the lowliest team in the NBA is cut to six, it does not make for a happy Thibs, nor a happy Cinjo.

Although more ugly than pretty, the Bulls managed to get it done, again, with almost everybody but the assistant coaches, Benny the Bull and the ball boys scoring in double figures. And that’s the only way our Bulls can win.

JB and Captain Kirk led the Bulls with 17 each, followed up by D.J. and Boozer with 14 each, Taji Woo with 13, Dunleavy with 12 and Jo with 11.

“We shared the ball well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

“I love the balance of the team,” said Thibs. “We got seven guys in double figures again. The shot distribution is pretty even. That’s important. The rebounding is starting to come back, which is encouraging. Overall, our bigs did a very good job. Each night it could be someone different. Whoever has the hot hand or a favorable matchup, that’s the way we want to go, share the ball, make the right plays, make the right decisions.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Bucks need to just high tail it as far away as possible from CHI. They need to go into an NBA witness protection program or something. New names, faces, uniforms, arena. It was bad enough when they were actually a decent team, but now, with this dismal record and the ugliest uniforms on the planet, you don’t know if you should laugh or cry.

And speaking of crying. The energizer bunny that is the Toronto Raptors keeps going and going. Come on already! I had to resort to rooting for the Pacers to beat them just so the Bulls could take sole possession of #3, and those darn Raptors are victorious again!

So it’s becoming the wild wild East, and it’s anything but quiet, as nothing is settled in the “lowly” conference. They laughed at the East all season, but who’s laughing now, with Brooklyn and Chicago bringing two of the best records in 2014, and teams like the Knicks fighting to make it in.

The NBA, with its infinite wisdom, seeing how horrific those Knicks and those Bulls were playing back in December, moved the upcoming April 13 Sunday afternoon showdown between the Knicks and Bulls from national TV. Hey, I welcome Neil and Stacey and the hometown call and am happy to forego the anti-Bulls national commentators anyway. So I hope that everybody enjoys the Raptors and Pistons game they put in its place.

So tonight, despite you may think, there is another game other than UConn men vs. Florida. It’s Bulls and Wizards. Just check your phone for the score, and hope the Wizards’ spells are kept to a minimum in a game would could be a round one playoff preview.

Notes: There are at least six injured Bucks players, so you have to cut them a break, and be thankful…knock on wood…all of the Bulls are healthy. The Bulls waived a rook, Erik “Murph” Murphy to get some veteran help for the playoffs. My foot boot comes off today, I’m what you’d call old, I mean, a veteran, so it looks like the timing is quite fortuitous. Eaglery awaiting Thibs’ call.

See Red!

Go Bulls!

Beat the Wizards.

[And Huskies beat the Gators!]

Correction: The 1 p.m. EDT matinee game on April 13 is not the Raptors vs. the Pistons. It’s the Pacers vs. OKC.

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