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2012-13 Bulls | 82 games of coverage | February
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Game 58 | Noah and the Bulls quiet the 76ers

Bulls 93, 76ers 82 | 02.28.2013 | Chicago 33-25 on the season

Sam Smith: They were laughing at Joakim Noah in Philadelphia last year, laughing as sports fans do in Philadelphia over someone else’s hardship. For Noah, it was when he still hoped, though even his belief was slipping away after Derrick Rose’s catastrophic injury in Game 1 of the playoffs. But now it was over as Noah was writhing with a severely sprained ankle it would take months to rehabilitate, and the Philly fans hooted and cheered.

They’re not cheering or laughing anymore.

“I really felt before the playoffs started that we were in position to win the championship,” Noah said late Thursday in the Bulls locker room after the Bulls’ 93-82 victory to sweep the season series from the staggering 76ers. “Derrick went down and it was very hard on the team. And then getting injured and the way the fans reacted, that was probably one of my biggest motivations.”

Both in working to recover, the face of Philadelphia, as ugly as that might be with a cheese steak and a soft pretzel in its mouth, driving Noah as much as the chance to deliver some repayment to the team.

Noah did that in a truly historic way Thursday with one of the greatest statistical performances in NBA history with 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks.

“Never seen anything like that,” said Carlos Boozer, who was a major support with 21 points and 12 rebounds. “That was legendary stuff. I’ve never seen a center do that, no teammate of mine. And we needed every one of them. Every rebound, every basket, every free throw, every block, every assist. He was amazing.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Joakim Noah | Discuss the game

Game 57 | Cavs show Bulls they can win without their point guard

Cavaliers 101, Bulls 98 | 02.26.2013 | Chicago 32-25 on the season

Sam Smith: Are the Bulls, who lost their seventh in their last 10 games Tuesday at the United Center to the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-98, worn down from the demands of the season with so many injuries?

Were the players, even like the fans, too anxiously awaiting the return of former league MVP Derrick Rose after the All-Star break, as many speculated before the season?

But now with the Bulls in such a slide — outrebounded by a Cavs team without Anderson Varejao, a Cavs team that shot 52.6 percent in the second half and just under 50 percent for the game — is it even more risky for Rose to try to return when he may be leaned upon even more to come to the rescue at a time when his knee and body may not be ready for that much responsibility just nine months after ACL surgery?

Do the Bulls desperately need Rose to return as they fell to 32-25 and sixth in the Eastern Conference with suddenly two games with Toronto in one week in April now shaping up as vital to even make the playoffs?

But does that make it even more questionable that Rose should return with the Bulls’ lockdown defense suddenly vulnerable to even the weakest of teams and the turnovers continuing to rise, signs both of mental and physical breakdowns.

These are just some of the questions being posed around the team as it heads into the stretch run of the NBA season with a long road trip starting next week.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Kirk Hinrich | Discuss the game

Game 56 | Bulls’ shooting drought brings new Dust Bowl

Thunder 102, Bulls 72 | 02.24.2013 | Chicago 32-24 on the season

Sam Smith: How’s that old joke go about the condemned man facing a firing squad and asking if he has one last request?

“Can the Bulls players shoot?”

At least not Sunday night in Oklahoma City as the Bulls established an NBA season low 29.1 percent in a game that was mostly uncompetitive throughout as the Bulls were behind 10 late in the first, got within seven early in the second and then pretty much were trailing by at least 20 points after the first few minutes of the second half.

In a sense, the Bulls appeared to be doing their devoted fans a favor by not requiring them to tune away from the annual Oscar movie awards show for too long.

That season worst 29.1 percent shooting? Well, the Bulls had to get hot to get there after shooting 20.8 percent, 10 for 48, in the first half when they actually were still in the game thanks to Thunder players practicing for the summer one-on-one tournament.

“It was bad tonight,” said Joakim Noah, with eight points and nine rebounds. “We took steps backward. That’s what’s frustrating. There’s really no excuse. We’ve just got to bounce back ASAP. The way we competed was embarrassing. It’s not the time to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got a home stretch coming up and things move fast in this league. We’ve got to bounce back fast.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 55 | Bulls turn their heat up on the Bobcats

Bulls 105, Bobcats 75 | 02.22.2013 | Chicago 32-23 on the season

Sam Smith: The Bulls lost to that team? No, really, that Charlotte team? At home? By double figures? The Charlotte team whose lottery pick in the Bulls’ Friday 105-75 rout has more names than he had field goals? Whose sixth man shot zero for nine and whose perimeter shooting stretch four was one of 12? That Charlotte team beat the Bulls in Chicago by 10 in December?

“We came with the right mindset,” said Joakim Noah, who with point guard Kirk Hinrich out again with his elbow infection pretty much ran the half court offense with 10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocks. “We came ready to play. We were aggressive from the start and that really set the tone. We were able to run up and get stops, get defensive rebounds and run in transition and get some easy baskets. We had good ball movement. Everybody was getting an opportunity to score and it just became contagious.”

If there was something going around, it was perhaps relief after the Bulls’ one sided loss to Miami. The Bobcats invitingly allowed the Bulls’ players plenty of movement without facing obstacles, like bodies. They backed up so Bulls players could see teammates cutting and didn’t have to thread and needle those passes. They generously spread out so the lane was pleasantly open for strolls toward the rim, and they were kind enough to keep their hands down so as not to block the Bulls’ players vision during their shots at the basket.

Sadly, no one called Bulls high scorer Taj Gibson with 17 points “Sir,” and no one delivered any of the seven other Bulls players scoring in double figures some home made preserves to take on their journey, next stop Oklahoma City.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 54 | The Heat gets turned up and the Bulls turn over

Heat 86, Bulls 67 | 02.21.2013 | Chicago 31-23 on the season

Sam Smith: It turns out the Bulls might need Derrick Rose after all.

“It was supposed to be an exciting night,” said Joakim Noah said of the much anticipated national TV matchup Thursday with the Miami Heat which turned into an 86-67 Miami rout. “To come out and play like that is disappointing. They kicked our (butt). You got to give credit when credit is due. They’re very, very good.”

Best team I’ve seen this season, oh other than the San Antonio Spurs bench, perhaps.

Yes, Kirk Hinrich was out again with his elbow issue, and the Bulls are 4-9 this season when he doesn’t play. Though LeBron James, who was brilliant with 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and even missed a dunk, pretty much has that award wrapped up as the Heat continue to pull away in the Eastern Conference with their ninth straight win to go to 38-14. The Bulls are fifth at 31-23.

“Miami is rolling right now,” agreed Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “They are playing great. Their intensity’s great, they’re playing very unselfishly at both ends of the floor. You have to give them credit.”

There wasn’t much else to do or say as the Heat got down and played the Bulls game and beat the heck out of them at it. The Bulls need to pound smaller Miami on the boards to have a chance, and the 30th place rebounding team in the league, Miami, hung in losing the rebound battle only 39-36.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Jimmy Butler | Discuss the game

Game 53 | Bulls have some of their kind of fun in New Orleans

Bulls 96, Hornets 87 | 02.19.2013 | Chicago 31-22 on the season

Sam Smith: It was a tough, physical game for the Bulls Tuesday in their 96-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans.

“When we play with that kind of defensive intensity, 96 (points) is plenty,” said Joakim Noah, who had his team high 27th double-double, tied for second in the East with Al Horford behind Nikola Vucevic, with 15 points and 17 rebounds in addition to five assists and three blocks.

“Joakim was everywhere,” marveled Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “Multiple effort plays. It probably was one of his best screening games.”

Even with advanced metrics, no one is keeping stats for screens set. So assume Noah leads the East in that category.

The Bulls front line with Luol Deng with a team high 20 points, Noah and Carlos Boozer combined for 52 points on 53 percent shooting and 32 rebounds, Noah’s 17 rebounds a Hornets/Pelicans opponent best.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 52 | Bulls head for All-Star break with star crossed ending

Celtics 71, Bulls 69 | 02.13.2013 | Chicago 30-22 on the season

Sam Smith: The Providence Steamrollers Wednesday defeated the Chicago Stags 71-69 in a game…

Huh? That was an NBA game in Boston Wednesday with a 24-second shot clock? Without a jump ball following free throws? Not with a six-foot lane? It was the Boston Celtics scoring 19 combined points from the end of the first quarter to the start of the fourth. Yes, and winning.

I’m sure I heard Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers say they were going back to Doc’s place to watch Sid Caesar and Your Show of Shows.

They were dressed sort of modern, but this one looked like it came from 60 years ago as the two playoff contenders — No, you take Miami — trudged through the kind of game both teams like to call a grind, though it was more grind to watch.

The Celtics, 28-24, hung on in the end as Marco Belinelli had a last, desperate attempt on an offensive rebound blocked by Jason Terry and a Taj Gibson follow that he retrieved come up short. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 14 points while Belinelli led the Bulls, who didn’t have a player in double figures until the fourth quarter, with 12 points.

The Bulls committed 22 turnovers to give them a two-game total of 750 (actually 41, but it seemed like more) as both teams headed into the All-Star break on fumes, the Bulls much more so with five losses in seven games this month. Both teams shot 36 percent, but the Celtics won their eighth in nine games since Rajon Rondo’s knee injury.

Still, it seemed apparent it was two teams with one eye on the scoreboard and one foot out the door for All-Star break.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game
Sam Smith: Rose talks about potential return and his status
Also: Doc Rivers talks ACL’s and MJ before Bulls/Celts

Game 51 | Bulls could use a break as they lose to Spurs

Spurs 103, Bulls 89 | 02.11.2013 | Chicago 30-21 on the season

Sam Smith: The Bulls took a look in the NBA mirror Monday at the United Center and didn’t like much what they saw in a 103-89 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

“We have to grind,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, pretty much defining this Bulls team without Derrick Rose. “That’s what allows us to be successful. If we don’t, we’re not going to be successful. “This thing is going to be a fight. Our road is a tough one. If were not committed to the grind, it’s not gong to be good.”

It wasn’t particularly good as what the Bulls saw in the Spurs were themselves, but not as good. Part is obvious as the Spurs have the league’s best record at 41-12 with 13 wins in their last 14 games. The Bulls fell to 30-21 with one more game, in Boston Wednesday, before Joakim Noah and Luol Deng head off for the All-Star game.

“It’s amazing when you study them,” said Thibodeau of the Spurs. “It’s a machine.”

The Spurs are very much like the Bulls: Thibodeau and the Spurs Gregg Popovich are the last two coaches of the year; both have a disciplined defensive system that emphasizes unselfishness and sharing the ball with a star point guard, the Bulls with the injured Rose and the Spurs with MVP candidate Tony Parker.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Taj Gibson | Discuss the game

Game 50 | Boozer gets some payback as Bulls win in Utah

Bulls 93, Jazz 89 | 02.08.2013 | Chicago 30-20 on the season

Sam Smith: There are some rules in life and basketball that are important to live by. Of course, don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things. Vegetarians should not be eating animal crackers. If you are looking for the self help section in the book store don’t ask for directions, and don’t make Carlos Boozer mad.

It was the officials Friday in Salt Lake City, if not also the religiously booing Jazz fans who reigned verbal abuse throughout the game on their former All-Star forward.

But Boozer had the last laugh—actually also 11 of the Bulls’ last 16 points—and a team-high 19 points as the Bulls recovered from blowing a 13-point second quarter lead on 11 straight Boozer fourth quarter points for a 93-89 win over the Utah Jazz.

“It was a good win for us,” said Boozer as the Bulls return to the United Center Monday against the Spurs 3-3 on this road trip and 30-20 overall with two games left before the All-Star break. “Last night (32-point loss in Denver), we had a decent first half. But we got blown out in the third quarter. We all felt terrible. We came in today focused.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 49 | Bulls go to Denver and leave as an omelette

Nuggets 128, Bulls 96 | 02.07.2013 | Chicago 29-20 on the season

Sam Smith:It’s beginning to look more and more like the Bulls will get their shot at Miami in the second round of the playoffs, assuming, of course, they can get past the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.

No, I don’t have much interest in discussing Thursday’s Bulls 128-96 loss in Denver, the most ignominious defeat of the Tom Thibodeau Bulls coaching era as the Nuggets shot almost 60 percent with 14 dunks and 15 layups in as much as a surrender as this Bulls team has shown in three years.

“They came out and started the third quarter and just smoked us,” said Thibodeau of the Nuggets racing from a 63-58 halftime lead as they lured the Bulls into a fast game with a 21-6 third quarter start that effectively ended it. “They got a big cushion and that was the game. Until we change (defense with 239 points allowed the last two games), it’s not going to be good. We are not containing the ball, not keeping it out of the paint, not getting shots, not rebounding the balls. It is very difficult to win with that.”

Denver, 32-18, got his best game as as a Nugget from DePaul’s Wilson Chandler with 24 points and five threes. But it was pogo stick power forward Kenneth Faried who dominated the Bulls like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan did in two Clippers wins over the Bulls. The Bulls are efficient (usually), intelligent and relentless. But they tend to shrink against high flying, athletic teams, which leaves them at a disadvantage against Miami, perhaps the only athletic team in the Eastern Conference. Faried, called “the Manimal,” did seem to scare the Bulls. He constantly dunked over retreating Bulls players to the point the Bulls uncharacteristically stopped running in transition defense, having safe spots to watch the Nuggets fast break dunks in a 23-6 edge in fast breaks.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 48 | Pacers too much for Bulls in 111-101 victory

Pacers 111, Bulls 101 | 02.04.2013 | Chicago 29-19 on the season

Box score | Discuss the game |

Sam Smith: Forget the Miami Heat. Well, not completely. But the Bulls and Indiana Pacers could be a heck of a playoff series this spring the way this physical rivalry is developing between the two top defensive teams in the league.

Though it wasn’t quite that formula Monday in the snow day makeup game from December 26th as the Bulls still without Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich lost to the Pacers 111-101.

“We started off in a big hole,” noted Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau about the Pacers’ opening salvo 13-2 lead. “We had to get out and were scrambling from there. We were trying to give ourselves a chance. I thought we were in position with five minutes to go. I liked the way we fought back. It was very winnable.”

After coming into the fourth quarter trailing 87-76 and the Pacers soon adding a three to make it 14, the Bulls cut the Indiana lead to 96-92 with 4:06 left, and then again back to 98-94 with 1:59 left when it appeared a Marco Belinelli driving miss went off the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert. But the officials called it Indiana ball, and an agitated Thibodeau wondered aloud why the officials wouldn’t check replay, which is permitted in the last two minutes.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 47 | Bulls bounce back behind Deng and Gibson

Bulls 93, Hawks 76 | 02.02.2013 | Chicago 29-18 on the season

Sam Smith: Really, c’mon now. This is getting ridiculous. And I better not hear anyone in the NBA complain about the second of a back-to-back on the road ever again.

In fact, the Bulls’ relentless 93-76 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Saturday could be one of those seminal moments in NBA history, like the first morning shootaround.

Playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road, with three starters out including All-Star Joakim Noah and the East’s leader in double-doubles, Carlos Boozer, and coming off a loss in Brooklyn in which new 6-9 center Taj Gibson played all 48 minutes and new 6-8 power forward Luol Deng played 47 minutes and 56 seconds, the Bulls pulled away from Atlanta after halftime with Deng, Gibson and Jimmy Butler, the latter who played a restful 40 minutes Friday, all playing more than 45 minutes and Nate Robinson playing his second straight game of more than 40 minutes.

Yet, they were the anchors who steadied the Bulls seemingly decaying crew. Deng had 25 points and 14 rebounds, including two fourth quarters threes that gave the Bulls a 78-64 lead with about six minutes left that effectively ended it. Butler would add another about a minute later.

“I thought we played hard last night,” Deng said of the loss to the Nets in which the Bulls appeared to tire late with the surprise setbacks for Hinrich and Noah. “We spoke before the game about how hard we played. We were happy that we played hard. But we just told each other if we play hard and we don’t get the win we don’t get rewarded. So we definitely wanted to finish the whole game, the whole 48 minutes. (Being able to succeed like this is) the character of the guys on the team. We’re good guys. None of us is trying to demand or ask for the ball. It lets guys play freely, with confidence. We all encourage one another, which builds a bond where everyone can just play the game.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Game 46 | Bulls cannot conquer Brooklyn

Nets 93, Bulls 89 | 02.01.2013 | Chicago 28-18 on the season

Sam Smith: It would have been a heck of a victory.

It’s one thing to have a strong bench as the Bulls have had the past few years. It’s another to make them your starters and go to guys in order to carry you against one of the top teams in the conference, which the Bulls tried to do Friday in Brooklyn in surrendering a fourth quarter lead and eventually losing 93-89 to the Brooklyn Nets.

“This was our second unit,” said Taj Gibson, who played all 48 minutes with 16 points and a team-high nine rebounds. “We played hard with our second unit. It shows we have a shot of winning the East. We kept fighting and fighting. But no moral victories.”

Gibson had to go all the way even with a game coming up in Atlanta Saturday, and Luol Deng went all but four seconds because Kirk Hinrich suffered a recurrence of an elbow injury and left the team to return to Chicago for examination, Carlos Boozer remained out with a sore hamstring and Joakim Noah finally gave in to another developing case of plantar fasciitis and sat out and is now wearing a familiar walking boot.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game

Sam Smith: Bulls without Hinrich, Boozer and Noah
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