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Are the Bulls good enough to beat the Nets?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Mar 27
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Look, let’s put it right out there.
The Bulls are in big trouble, and if I had to pick now I think they’re not likely Saturday to beat the Nets, who won their ninth game and second straight in Friday’s win over the Pistons.
That’s right. I don’t feel confident the Bulls can win at home over the team that took five months to get its ninth win.
Before Friday’s game, Brook Lopez, who is averaging 26.8 points and 9.3 rebounds the last four games, said he felt good about the Nets beating the Pistons and Bulls.
“You have to look at the next one (as) a winnable game against Detroit,” Lopez told reporters. “Then we go to Chicago, and we played well against them the last time we were in Chicago (winning 103-101). So they’re both winnable games for us.”
And Lopez is one for one so far.
Yes, this is what it’s coming to. The team that was on the verge of becoming the worst in the history of the NBA believes it can defeat the Bulls on the road. Why not. They’ve done it once already.
And the way the Bulls surrendered on national TV Thursday to the Miami Heat, it’s difficult to make a case for this deteriorating team.
Following Friday’s Nets win, there seemed to be a lot of confidence that Saturday in Chicago might be even easier.
“We want to carry these two wins and play with the same enthusiasm. When we get four and five giving us 60 points or so we’ll be tough,” Devin Harris told reporters. “It’s good to get two wins in a row. But we’re not satisfied with it. We got one more to get to not be tied with the (all time loss) record.”
“They’re a team that has been struggling a bit,” Keyon Dooling said about the Bulls. “They’ve had some injuries, so it’s an opportunity for us to go in there and get another win.”
And how about this from Lopez: “The way we’re playing, it’s great that we play in Chicago tomorrow.”
Luol Deng remains out with a calf injury. Joakim Noah remains on limited time with plantar fasciitis. Rookie James Johnson has a foot problem and might not play. That would leave slumping, struggling (any other adjectives for jacking shots at will?) Flip Murray at small forward. So if you break down the matchups with Yi Jianlian scoring 31 in Friday’s win over the Pistons, it’s difficult to make much of a case for the Bulls talent over the Nets. That’s a Nets front line with a pair of seven footers and a 6-8 small forward.
Lopez is far better than anyone on the Bulls front court. Yi is perhaps a wash with Taj Gibson, much softer but if he’s hitting a better scorer and taller. Jarvis Hayes looks like Quentin Richardson, who abused Murray in the post. Mouse in the house! But Murray never said he was a forward.
Derrick Rose, of course, is better than Harris. But Lee is a tough defender and the Bulls only have perhaps a bit of an edge in the backcourt, likely none if they continue to play with the studied indifference and soft attitude they displayed Thursday.
They even ran away and hid as most of the players were unavailable in the locker room after the game.
I guess you can’t blame them.
I talked to a coach whose team saw the Nets recently and he said he felt badly for the Bulls, and not only because of Thursday’s loss.
“You hate to get a team like that at home after what happened to them (Thursday),” the coach said. “The Nets are playing loosey goosey, like they’ve got nothing to lose, and have some athletes coming off that bench.”
How ugly would it be for the Bulls to be swept at home this season by one of the worst teams in the history of the NBA?
The frustrating part is they’re still in the playoff race because the Raptors lost at home again Friday night. There’s another team with issues. Chris Bosh made some crucial errors down the stretch and for another season he’s leading a team with a losing record. Bosh, according to reports out of Toronto, was indifferent and soft down the stretch, settling for jump shots or moving the ball instead of attacking and trying to take over. Biding his time and trying to avoid injury to save himself as a free agent? Or just a stat gatherer who doesn’t impact winning? It was interesting to watch Bosh on the last play when Carmelo Anthony hit the winner. Bosh was playing on the interior. But he stood around in the paint not making much effort to get into the play. Bosh is known as a notoriously disinterested defender. But have a little pride?
The same might be said about the Bulls.
I’m not saying he’ll make any difference toward winning or losing, but I’d have Joe Alexander on the court because at least in the few minutes he’s played so far as a Bull he’s competed physically, taking hard fouls, going onto the floor a couple of times and delivering cross body blocks.
Perhaps the worst part of Thursday’s defeat when the TNT crew was encouraging the basketball world to laugh at the Bulls was the lack of resistance. The Bulls played soft. They played dumb. They played disinterested.
It’s why I’d put guys like Alexander on the court instead of guys like Murray. Sure, Murray is a veteran who can score. But he has no investment in this Bulls team making the playoffs. He knows he’s gone after the season and is a mere rental in the Tyrus Thomas deal so the Bulls can get cap room. Alexander has shown he’ll compete. But more so because of his limited experience and success, he’s a good candidate to want a minimum deal, which would fit better with the Bulls trying to fill out their bench for next season.
Put the guys on the floor who want to play now and care. And who might want to be a part of what the Bulls might have going next season. And aren’t afraid to take a hard foul. Or just not a stupid, lazy one.
After those 10 straight losses which should have ended the Bulls playoff hopes, and probably did, the Bulls began to play some defense and compete. They didn’t Thursday. And while making the playoffs is mathematically possible as they remain two behind Toronto, you usually judge teams down the stretch by how they play more than how many games they are winning.
Murray, Jannero Pargo and Johnson were guilty Thursday of settling for quick jumpers. I know the defense was poor as the Heat was prepared for the Bulls and took advantage of the mismatches and the Bulls tendencies. But at least on offense, go to the basket, push the ball, challenge the defense. Make them make plays. The Bulls settled for indifference.
And when things went against them, they settled for defeat.
I think the fans understand. They’re generally in agreement about pursuing free agency this summer. They hope the Bulls make the playoffs, but they understand the injuries and the manpower sacrifices to be in position to improve the team.
But there’s no excuse for refusing to compete. No one understands or accepts that. Or should. Do they want to get the coach fired? It’s too late in the season for that. Do they feel sorry for themselves because of the injuries? Do they feel overmatched after the trades?
Who cares. There’s no excuse to be down 30 points at halftime to a team of role players, most of whom aren’t going to return. But they are not allowed to give up in Miami. If they do, they don’t play. They have to compete and they do.
OK, fellas, it’s on you. Think you’re good enough at home to beat one of the poorest teams in league history playing a second of a back to back on the road?