That one went exactly as it was drawn up. Am I right? The Bulls won their first playoff series since 2007 and only their second since MJ skipped town. They were also able to do so in only five games. So why is there a sour taste in my mouth? Well, you do not win any trophies for getting past the first round and, by the way the Bulls looked in the first four games of the series, it looks like they will not be sniffing a trophy anytime soon. (Ed. Note: After winning a trophy, it is customary to smell it.) How is that for a little doom and gloom? Everything is not broken, but let us take a gander at some of what we learned as we leave Round 1. Fight!
Unit: DJ TrainWreck began as a haphazard bunch that we watched grow and mature into one of the better reserve units in the league. And the first round saw their role get squeezed to nothing. This is not shocking. It is common practice to limit bench minutes in the playoffs in favor of the starters, seeing as they have more time to rest between games (as the NBA playoffs take six or seven months). Yet, the Pacers sure looked fresh as their bench rotated with the starters throughout each game. I realize that there is less of a drop-off in the talent between starters and reserves for the Pacers, but the Bulls could have used some extra pep in their step. Also, it became clear that Thibs prefers the veteran (Yes, announcers, the second “e” is pronounced in that word.) presence of Kurt Thomas over rookie Omer Asik, as the big Turks minutes were severely cut in all but the last game.
Big Money Boozer
Do you often think about giant bugs attacking Earth? Are you sometimes thinking that the Bulls should get more out of their highest paid player? If you answered yes to either of these, you are not alone. We a are dumb bunch. We knew that Boozer does not play defense well, he is injury prone, and fans (especially in Utah) questioned his heart and/or work ethic. Yet, he figured something was going to be different in Chicago. To recap what we knew going in and what has now happened: Boozer missed 23 regular season games, has been anywhere from mediocre (I am being kind) to atrocious on defense, and it sure looked like he was plain not trying at times in the first round. And now it is reported that he heard his toe go POP!, and has been diagnosed with
not wanting to play hard turf toe. The only slack I will cut the genie is that after more time with Noah (that means both of them being injury-free at the same time), they should be able to click together better. Until then, to quote Boozer, “God damn!” Or rather, until then, play Boozer when down, play Taj Gibson when leading. Taj had a great game last night, making me wish – once again – that he was the starter.
Love or Hate the Big Goof
Danny Granger said that Noah was a dirty player after last night’s contest. (He then accused someone of saying the f-word, and, “Billy cheated on his test.”) Danny is not the only person who is not much of a Noah fan. In fact, I doubt many people outside of Bulls fans are Noah supporters. Noah is that player on the other team that you hate. He does stuff like pumping up the fans after a big play (right after your team’s player was called for a charge), he plays tough, and is sometimes crafty (which some may construe as dirty). It is exactly what every teams wants from their starting center (the hair is just bonus). There is no doubt that the center position is the most brutal in the game. Therefore, you need to slot someone in there who can take it and dish it. I am more than happy that I do not hate Noah, because that means he is on the team that I support.
A Little R&R
The Bulls will resume play on Monday, as they wait for Orlando and Atlanta to wear each other out. Five days may be enough time to lose some of your rhythm, but it will also provide the Bulls with valuable days to recover. Even Rose admitted, “Of course you want rest,” as opposed to playing. We know of Rose’s ankle, Boozer’s toe, but what of all the other injuries that are hidden? Noah just recently is gaining some of the form he had before thumb and ankle injuries. With Deng playing 52 minutes out of every 48-minute game, you know he could use a nap or two. And what about Taj Gibson’s plantar fasciitis? Five days are not going to heal all that ails the Bulls (only alcohol does that), but it can only help, as the ATL and Magic have at least one more date before playing in Chicago.
The Dirty, Dirty or Disneyland
The ATL currently holds a 3-2 series lead as the two go back to play Game 6 in Atlanta tomorrow. Each team presents their own dangers for the Bulls, but I would rather not have to play against Dwight Howard. The Magic’s shooting has been down as of late and that could turn around at any time. If the shooting does turn (as it did last night), then you have to contend with the league’s most dominating physical specimen inside and a dangerous supporting perimeter game. I will take my chances with the ATL, thanks. Regardless, each extra game they play is good news for the Bulls. Play on!