Welcome back, Chicago Bulls and Pippen Peoples!! Not to Pippen Aint Easy, even though you know I love each and everyone of you. I mean welcome back to the playoff chase. As reported by Ashley Wijanco last night, the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics 94-82 to leapfrog into the top 8 seeds of the Leastern Conference. The way the Bulls played last night is an indication of why Bulls fans are sometimes so frustrated with this squad. Last night was a total team effort led by Joakim Noah’s near triple double. But the scoring came in waves, Carlos Boozer had 16,Luol Deng had 14 and Taj Gibson finished with 12. The bench outscored Boston 33-23 which included Mike Dunleavy’s 11 points.
Next up for the Bulls stands the Atlanta Hawks, who has to deal with their own super star Al Horford being shut down for the season with a torn right pectoral muscle. Outside of Derrick Rose, the Bulls have a full complement of players at Tom Thibodeau’s disposal. However, all the players have to show up. The more I watch the Bulls, the more I realize that Carlos Boozer has to be aggressive and make an impact. Let’s take a look at the last three games. Against Memphis, Carlos went to work and scored 21 points and 10 rebounds in a Bulls victory. Against the Raptors, he misses his first seven shots on the way to a 1-8 shooting night in a Bulls loss. Last night Boozer goes for 16 points on 8-16 shooting in a Bulls win. What does that show us my Pippen Peoples? If Carlos Boozer is aggressive and takes the ball to the basket, the Bulls are dangerous. Last night was fool’s gold to me considering a lot of his points came from jumpers with no visits to the free throw line. We all know the adage “Live by the Jumper-Die by the Jumper”. With Horford out of the line up, the Bulls should have a field day against the Hawks frontline. Former Utah Jazz power forward Paul Milsap will be a load to deal with, but if Noah and Boozer do what they are supposed to do along with Taj Gibson coming off the bench. This is a major advantage for the Bulls. If one of these guys decide to take the night off, which they are prone to do, the Bulls are in trouble.
Besides Milsap, the Atlanta Hawks main scoring weapons are in the backcourt. They come in the trio of Jeff Teague (yes, Marquis’ brother), Kyle Korver and Lou Williams. Jeff Teague is very quick and has a knack of getting to the basket. However, he does have trouble sometimes finishing when he gets there. Also Jeff has an inconsistent jumper. But he is a threat. Kirk Hinrich and DJ Augustin have to find a way to stop penetration in the lane. If they do not, believe me I know they can text Kyrie Irving and ask him what Teague can do after he got a jumper put in his face to lose in Cleveland about a week ago. Breaking news into Pippen Aint Easy….Kyle Korver can shoot!!! I mean really shoot!!! He has the consecutive games record with a three pointer that is still going. He is one of the reasons why there is a 5 second delay. If he is left alone, the opponent usually shouts an expletive. Being a former Bull, Chicago knows they need to figure out a way to have someone all over him at the three point line. As good as the Bulls defense is, they tend to struggle with three point defense. This is a product of quick penetration of the guards and the kick out to the three point line. They might want to improve in this area by tomorrow night. Lou Williams is the firepower coming off the bench for the Hawks. He is starting to get his groove back after suffering a serious knee injury last year. He might be the X-factor in this game. If the Bulls can put the clamps on him, it bodes very well.
Even though, the Bulls won impressively last night, a couple things concern me going into this game. It seemed that the Bulls started running their offense more through Joakim Noah. Granted this worked against the Celtics considering that they won, but for how long? If Coach Thibodeau is leaning towards this strategy, what does this say about the point guard play? Pippen Aint Easy has been front and center on pointing out the struggles of the point guards over the past few games. Are the struggles starting to become evident to Coach Thibodeau? Is his trust in Hinrich and Augustin starting to fade? Watch the games then log on to Pippen Aint Easy, your best choice for Bulls news, previews and reviews. Furthermore, DJ Augustin is starting to have issues dealing with pressure and trapping defense. The Bulls were blowing out Boston in the second half until they starting trapping Augustin and turning him over. That made the game more respectable. This is not a good thing considering the Bulls are 27th in turnovers.
The Bulls need this game at home. They have been madly inconsistent this year at the United Center. They started out 6-1 then lost six of their next seven. This year they have beaten the two time defending champion Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers which by the way happen to be the top two seeds in the Leastern conference but lay eggs with teams under .500. The good news is that Atlanta happens to be above .500 so maybe the Bulls will pay attention.
With Al Horford out, the Bulls need to win this game at home.. I think they will.