The Chicago Bulls erased a 16 point first half deficit and shocked the Nets with a huge second half to win an important 92-90 game in Brooklyn. The Nets held a two and a half game lead over the Bulls for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls entered Thursday one half game game behind the Hawks for the 5th seed.
After losing late in Washington Tuesday, the Bulls came out flat against the Nets and just couldn’t score early on. They lacked energy and looked like a team who didn’t come to play. The Nets took advantage, and led by Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, built a 16 point 2nd quarter lead. It appeared the Nets were going to be too much for the Bulls, who were once again short handed. (Noah, Gibson, Hamilton, Belinelli, and of course Rose).
The Bulls were only able to cut the Nets lead to 11 at the break. However, when the second half started the Bulls looked like a different team. I’m sure head coach Tom Thibodeau let them have it during halftime. One thing Thibodeau doesn’t tolerate is lack of effort or low energy. Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler responded with huge second halves.
Boozer made so many difficult shots and finished with 29 points and 18 rebounds. The great thing to see as a fan, was in the 4th quarter when the Bulls kept feeding Boozer and let him dominate the Nets frontcourt. It’s something the Bulls need to do more often down the stretch of games. Boozer really appears motivated and has taken on the challenge of providing more offense with everyone down.
Words cannot express how much Jimmy Butler has meant in certain situations for the Bulls. He does it all: Plays great defense, rebounds, gets to the free throw line and now has showed he can knock down the mid range jumper. Butler made many big shots and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is turning out to be a great draft pick by the Bulls front office.
Luol Deng, who continues to log the most minutes in the NBA, was solid as always in providing 18 points and 7 rebounds. The key for the Bulls on this night was how much everyone stepped up when facing adversity. The Bulls outscored the Nets 56-43 in the second half. Very rare for the Bulls offense to look as crisp as it did in the second half.
I called out Tom Thibodeau after Saturday’s loss in Dallas. I felt the offense was stagnant and predictable down the stretch. The Bulls never adjusted and ignored the advantage Boozer had in the post for 3 quarters of that game. Thursday night against the Nets, Thibodeau continued to go with what was working. The Bulls actually didn’t have their normal 4th quarter drought fans are accustomed to seeing. Very pleasant surprise and hopefully this continues Friday night against Orlando.
With the win against the Nets, the Bulls took the season series against Brooklyn 3-1 and now own a tie-breaker should they finish with identical records. The Bulls seem to get up more against Eastern Conference playoff teams than sub .500 teams. The Bulls are 3-0 against the Knicks, 2-1 against the Heat and 3-1 against the Nets. Only the Pacers have a season-series advantage against the Bulls at 3-1.
Here’s the biggest question considering the playoff format. What would make more sense for the Bulls regarding playoff seeding: Finish 4th or 5th and likely play the Heat in the conference semifinals should they advance? Or, settle for the 6th seed and take their chances playing either the Knicks or Pacers in the first round, with the chance of avoiding the Heat in the next round? Obviously winning a round in the playoffs isn’t guaranteed, so it’s wishful thinking to assume the Bulls would beat the Nets in the 4/5 matchup. How much does homecourt matter? I don’t believe it does for the Bulls.
Despite the Knicks winning 10 straight games, if they fell to the 3 seed, I wonder if the Bulls would be content to finish with the 6 seed and possibly avoid the Heat in the second round should they beat the Knicks. Very tough call. Some interesting scenarios down the stretch of the season. Oh yeah, let’s factor in the possibility that Derrick Rose could shock the world and announce he’s back for the playoffs. Don’t worry about chemistry or his minutes; he’s not going to comeback unless he has no restrictions.