Bulls face Celtics with playoff implications on the line


Apr 13

By Adam Fluck

With Toronto winning in Detroit on Monday, Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro knows that his team may need to win its final two games in order to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

With a back-to-back set against two teams already in the postseason—Boston at home on Tuesday and at Charlotte on Wednesday—doing that won’t be an easy task. With just a half game lead over Toronto, which holds the tiebreaker over Chicago and finishes their regular season Wednesday at home against New York, the Bulls have to work under the assumption the Raptors will take care of business against the Knicks, thus two wins is what it may very well take.

On Tuesday, Del Negro talked about what hanging on for a postseason bid and first round match up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers would mean.

“The guys have battled a lot of adversity throughout the year,” said Del Negro. “One of our goals this year was to get to the playoffs. We have an opportunity, but it’s no easy task. I give the guys a lot of credit. They’ve hung together, worked hard, and they’ve grown. Hopefully we can get everybody out there and play well and efficiently, and come out with a big win.”

When asked about comparing last year’s playoff experience to making it this season, Del Negro said: “Different year and different team. We’d be playing a different team. But all those experiences are a big benefit. You have Taj Gibson and James Johnson, rookies that haven’t experienced that. I know [last year] was great for Joakim [Noah] and Derrick [Rose], especially being in the playoffs and getting a feel for it. It builds confidence and it helps your overall team.”

The Bulls have caught breaks recently, facing Cleveland without James and Toronto without Chris Bosh. But Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers said prior to Tuesday’s game that his regular starters would play. Currently fourth in the East, there’s still an outside chance Boston could claim the third seed with two more wins and an Atlanta loss.

“It’s important for us as well,” said Rivers of the game. “Obviously it’s important for Chicago, but we do have the chance to get the third seed. With most of the guys, they’re going to play normal minutes. With a couple guys, I’ll watch their minutes, Kevin [Garnett] being one of them. We know how [the Bulls] are going to play. They’ll give us their best. I’ll find out about our guys and how important they think it is when the game starts.”

As a player, Rivers was injured when he tore a ligament in his thumb during his team’s last regular season game of the year when they had already clinched home court advantage. Though he still played in the postseason that year, he was affected by the injury and understands those things do happen.

When asked about his philosophy on resting players leading up to the playoffs, Rivers replied: “I think if you have everything clinched, which we don’t, I’m in favor of rest if I think it’s going to help you. I don’t rest because you just want rest. We are an older team and rest is important. We have to be as fresh as possible.”

Speaking of rest, Bobcats Head Coach Larry Brown indicated on Tuesday that he would not sit any of his starters when the Bulls visit Wednesday.

“That's too important to both teams. We owe it to the league to do the right thing,” said Brown, whose Bobcats have locked up the seventh seed.

Following their big win in Toronto on Sunday, the Bulls control their own destiny—win twice and you’re in. But they’ll have to earn it playing against teams that will be at or close to full strength.

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on facing the Celtics, making the postseason, and the reasons for Boston’s success (04.13.10):

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