A loss like this would hurt a lot more in May instead of March, but it still qualifies as a stomach punch game for the Bulls. If the goal is to get a top playoff seed, blowing an 18-point halftime lead on the road isn't recommended. Derrick Rose had arguably his worst game of the year, going 5-21 from the field and 0-6 from distance, plus 6 turnovers. The simple fact is, this is Rose's team plus a group of good to very good players that play well together. Without a second superstar, Chicago's fate remains tied to Rose's performance on a nightly basis. The good news is, that will win a lot of basketball games. The bad news is, right now the Bulls success is predicated on the play of one person.
The Bulls pay Carlos Boozer $15+ million dollars a year to put up 20 points, 10 rebounds and to be the go-to guy when the offense breaks down. Playing suspect defense and averaging 16 and 7 over his last ten games isn't going to get it done for Chicago. When Derrick Rose has the rare off-night, the Bulls need Boozer to be the veteran leader that gets a basket when the team most needs it. Instead, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have become options 2a and 2b lately, while Boozer has been a 3rd option who gets a few plays called for him early on.
Deng played well, hitting three big three-pointers, however he once again logged 40+ minutes. If the Bulls do sign Rasual Butleras has been reported, Deng should get some much-needed rest. Noah had a very active game with 13 points and 12 rebounds, as did rookie Omer Asik, who had 9 rebounds in 14 minutes and made multiple hustle plays. Management has to be very happy that they held onto him at the trade deadline.
Al Horford was a monster for the Hawks and almost single-handedly won it for Atlanta with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Kirk Hinrich played as Bulls fans might remember, leaving the stat sheet empty but playing shutdown defense all night. He guarded Rose as well as anyone has this year.
Gut punch that this game may have been, It is only one game. Chicago had been playing its best basketball prior to tonight's second half meltdown, and have a history of bouncing back from losses this season. They must rebound from this one quickly though, as fellow MVP candidate Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic await the Bulls on Friday night.
It seems a calf injury won’t be enough to keep Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich from suiting up against his former team. Chicago Tribune reporter KC Johnson spoke with Kirk today and reports that he will play against the Bulls.
Back at the Berto Center, the Bulls are waiting to see what players might become available before the "second" trade deadline expires at midnight Tuesday. NBA rules state that any player released after March 1st is not eligible for play in the postseason. This creates a flurry of contract buyouts as teams try to shed salary and players try to maneuver onto playoff contenders. Since trading James Johnson to Toronto for a draft pick, the Bulls have been one man short of the NBA roster limit. They have 14 days from the trade to fill the spot. So it's not a matter of if Chicago brings in someone else, it's when.
There are a lot of names floating around the Twitterverse, but the most frequently discussed have been Rasual Butler and to a lesser extent, Carlos Arroyo. Other options include bringing up the ever-hungry D-Leaguer, or, to throw a bucket of cold water on everyone, signing a player to satisfy the rule without the intention of playing him. The latter seems a remote possibility, unless management somehow decides that the buzzword of this Bulls team (Chemistry!) is too precious to tinker with.I for one am hoping for Butler, as no guard available is worth more than someone who can reduce Luol Deng's minutes.
Whoever ultimately is signed will be the last addition to this year's team, and the group we will see in the playoffs. One team certain to be in the playoff mix would be:
Atlanta is playing it's first home game since February 12th, and have the haggard look of a team that just finished a rough seven-game road trip. Unfortunately, Kirk Hinrich will not be playing after re-injuring a calf that has plagued him this season. It's a huge bummer personally, as I'll now miss the beginning of the new era of Captain Kirk. Josh Smith is questionable after a bad bruise on his knee kept him out of the second half against Denver. Throw in the loss of PG Mike Bibby, who was traded last week, and the Bulls are catching Atlanta at the right time.
In a bit of scheduling genius, this will be the first matchup against Atlanta yet this year, however the Bulls will face them three times in the next three weeks. It would behoove Derrick Rose and company to set the tone for those games tonight.
Coach Thibodeau will look to force the Hawks to shoot jumpshots, which they for some reason love to take and hate to make. Noah and ex-Gator teammate Al Horford should be a fun matchup of two of the East's best bigs. But look for Boozer to have a big game as the rest of the Hawks' frontcourt could be nicknamed the Poo-poo Platter.
It'd Be Nice To See
Rose rediscovering his 3-point stroke; He is 6 for his last 30 from distance. Some extended minutes for Korver, who is still trying to find his own 3-point shot, while keeping Deng's to around 30-35.
Game three of the five-game road trip continues at Phillips Arena at 6:00 CST. WCIU has the call.
Roster updates and game info on Twitter @rightfieldsucks