- @ Charlotte L 80-96 – The Bulls started off the week with an ugly ugly loss at Charlotte. The backcourt was terrible on defense, with Raja Bell, despite playing badly injured, torching Ben Gordon to contribute 18 points and Raymond Felton going for 18 points and 9 assists. They played uninspired the whole game. The one bright spot was Tyrus Thomas, who put up 14 points and 12 rebounds. Unfortunately the Bulls shot 39% from the field and turned the ball over 18 times. Ouch.
- vs. Golden State W 110-88 – The Bulls rebounded from that tough road loss with a big win over Golden State. Golden State looked inspired in the first quarter, but the Bulls played very well the rest of the game, pulling away in the 4th. They were able to push the ball with 18 fast break points and outrebounded the Warriors 54-41. Essentially the Bulls beat the Warriors at their own frenetic game-pace and were much more physical. Salmons put up 23 points and Noah, who has been playing very well off Miller, had 14 points and 17 rebounds.
- vs. Milwaukee W 117-102 – This was a must-win for the Bulls, who are competing with the Bucks for the 8th seed in the playoffs. They came into the game in a virtual tie with the Bucks. After a hard-fought 1st quarter the Bulls began to build a big lead going into halftime. Although the Bucks made a run, they were never able to get closer than 3. The Bulls played very inspired basketball the whole game. Ben Gordon filled it up, dropping 34 points wih 21 coming in the first half. The story of this game was the 29 fast break points the Bulls were able to score, spurred on by Derrick Rose who had 27 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals. The win gave them sole possession of the 8 seed.
Player of the Week – John Salmons
While Derrick Rose had a very solid week, Salmons was the key component in both of the wins. He averaged 17.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. He also has been playing very effective defense on the perimeter. A shout out to Noah this week, for being very effective on the boards and averaging 2.7 blocks on the week.
What It Means
The Bulls have been inconsistent all year, struggling to sustain a high level of effort for more than a couple games. This week was no different. The thing that they have in their favor is the other teams that they are competing with for the 8th seed are pure garbage. The loss to Charlotte hurts, since Charlotte is one of the teams nipping at their heels. Beating Milwaukee was huge, however, and now the Bulls are in sole possession of the 8 seed in the East. The new guys are starting to fit in well also. Brad Miller has been very effective in the high post and his defense hasnt been as bad as we thought it would be. Salmons has been good since day 1 at both ends of the court.
The loss of Deng is a huge mystery, but it is clear that Salmons can fill in effectively (if not better than Deng). Deng claims to be day-to-day, though it is unclear how serious his injury is, as Zoner points out. Whether Salmons is better than him or not, the Bulls need Deng for the depth he gives them. They essentially went with a 7-man rotation this week, and that will wear players out.
Although the Bulls had a good week this week, the competition was not exactly the best in the NBA. That will change in the coming week. The Bulls go on a short 3 game road trip to Miami, Orlando, and Philadelphia. All are playoff teams that the Bulls are looking up at in the standings. All three are winnable games, but the Bulls will have to be at the top of their game, which they haven’t been on the road too often this year (they are 10-23 on the road). They come home Saturday night for a tough match-up with the Hornets. The Bulls beat the Hornets on the road earlier this year, but that was without Chris Paul. He will be a handful for the Bulls guards.
Bulls Weekly Grade: A-
I would have given it a B+, but somehow I was able to avoid mentioning Vinny Del Negro at all in this week’s roundup, which means he didn’t screw anything up too bad. Good enough to bump it up half a grade.