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2012-13 Chicago Bulls | 82 games of coverage

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Game 82 | Bulls head for playoffs with win over Washington

Bulls 95, Wizards 92 | 04.17.2013 | Chicago 45-37 on the season

Playoff Central: Bulls taking on Nets in opening round

Sam Smith: The common refrain, actually a cliché about the NBA, is the playoffs begin a new season and nothing much matters before then. If so, the Bulls will sign onto that as they finished a difficult, irregular and probably their most injury plagued season ever Wednesday with a 95-92 victory over the Washington Wizards.

The Bulls will open the playoffs 7 p.m. Saturday in Brooklyn. Game 2 will be Monday with Games 3 and 4 back in the United Center Thursday and Saturday.

“I like having the problem of trying to decide on a rotation,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau as the Bulls will go into the playoffs as healthy as they have been all season with everyone playing but, you’d assume, Derrick Rose. “You’d like to have everyone completely healthy. But I’ll take what we have. I would prefer to have (Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson) for 30 plus minutes. But having them back is a big plus for us. Whatever they can give us I feel confident they will get better and better as time goes along. We’re just trying to figure out the best thing in terms of where his (Noah’s) minutes are. We may adjust them as we go. I want to think it through. He (Joakim) didn’t score (against Washington). But I like the way he was moving out there.”

Noah was in his second game back from nursing his plantar fasciitis and played a tentative 14 minutes with zero points and one rebound. He seems to be pacing himself more for conditioning and getting the feel of playing with his foot problem. Gibson was returning from his knee sprain and had eight points and four rebounds in 21 minutes and came on the longer he was in the game. Health, or the lack of it for many players, was the story of this 2012-13 Bulls season. The internal consensus seems to be, especially against a Nets team against whom they were 3-1 despite three to five regulars out in every game, if the Bulls can field a full team even without Rose they can make something of a playoff run.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 81 | Bulls get a magical win in Orlando

Bulls 102, Magic 84 | 04.15.2013 | Chicago 44-37 on the season

Sam Smith: This Bulls team never quite has been the fancy Ferrari or Lexus or Corvette, the dynamic machine that exudes grace and style with extraordinary speed.

It could motor, especially when Derrick Rose was at the controls. But it’s been mostly reliable and strong, perhaps a little lumbering like a Volvo or Buick. But effective, nonetheless, until lately with some sputtering finishes the last few weeks with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson out injured along with Richard Hamilton, Marco Belinelli and Kirk Hinrich at times.

But as the NBA Playoffs approach this week, the Bulls finally are riding out of the shop looking sleek, the latest Monday a 102-84 hard driving victory over the Orlando Magic in one of the team’s most complete games with its most complete roster in months.

“We’re a team that has people for certain reasons and that’s why our team works,” said Carlos Boozer, who led a runaway victory with 22 points on 11 of 15 shooting. “It’s like having a car that’s missing a couple of pieces. It’s not going to run as smooth. But once we’ve got everybody back out there, once you’ve got the parts on the car, it runs pretty good. It’s great to see Jo and Taj out there and healthy and hopefully we’ll go to the playoffs healthy.

“Our chemistry is amazing,” said Boozer. “We play really well all together. That’s one of our strengths. We’ve been depleted. We play hard and grind and we’re a good team. Healthy, we can be a great team. We’ve shown that with all the guys and all the pieces to the puzzle.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Discuss the game
Sam Smith: Noah and Gibson reappearing against Magic

Game 80 | A Miami loss most foul for the Bulls

Heat 105, Bulls 93 | 04.14.2013 | Chicago 43-37 on the season

Box score | Discuss the game | Blogs.Bulls.com

Sam Smith: We know there are no good losses or moral victories in ThibsWorld. So Sunday’s 105-93 Miami Heat win over Chicago went down as the Bulls’ fourth loss in the last five, dropping them to 43-37 and sixth in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Atlanta Hawks with two games remaining for each team.

But as the Bulls finish their last back to back set of the season Monday in Orlando, they also came away from their final regular season game against the Heat with the sense that of every team in the Eastern Conference, the Heat would most like to avoid the Bulls.

Because even with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson still out along with Derrick Rose, and Richard Hamilton serving a one game suspension; with Jimmy Butler in the circle for the opening jump ball; with the Bulls in foul trouble to start with Miami shooting 15 first quarter free throws in the game after LeBron James complained about the Bulls physical tactics against him; and the Heat playing James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the final time this season, perhaps to make sure the Bulls slip to sixth and open the playoffs in the opposite bracket, the Bulls outrebounded Miami with Carlos Boozer getting 16 points and 20 rebounds and mostly stayed within range despite their almost all guard lineup that mostly left the basket unprotected.

“The thing is it was a winnable game for us,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “They’re a great team; you give them credit. I think that they got a lot of calls that went their way (41 free throws). That was to be expected. It’s still a winnable game down the stretch. We had a couple tough plays where we had poor body positioning. But even in the fourth quarter we’re right there. We got to come up with a way to get stops.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 79 | Bulls singing Oh No Canada once again

Raptors 97, Bulls 88 | 04.12.2013 | Chicago 43-36 on the season

Sam Smith: The Bulls’ 97-88 loss Friday to the Toronto Raptors, in a sense, celebrated a great American tradition. Some 200 years ago, Americans invaded Canada in the guise of liberation that even then former president Thomas Jefferson declared would be little more difficulty than “a matter or matching.”

So coming off one of their most impressive wins of the season Thursday in breaking the New York Knicks’ 13-game winning streak, the Bulls marched into Canada and found the same indifference, indecision and incompetence that U.S. generals experienced two centuries ago in a series of ignominious defeats and surrender.

Though it probably took those American troops less time to get home not having to go through Canadian customs.

“It is the nature of the league,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “What happened yesterday has no bearing on today. We started the game well (leading 19-8 as Carlos Boozer had 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter). But in the second quarter we struggled a bit. We got behind the eight ball. It was a combination of a soft defense and turning the ball over. We still had the opportunity to get back into it. But we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.”

Just like 1813 when the Americans couldn’t hit anything, either, even losing Fort Dearborn, later the city of Chicago, to Native American allies of the British and Canadians.

“We just didn’t play well tonight for whatever reason,” agreed Kirk Hinrich, who had one assist and four turnovers. “Everybody plays 82 (games), so you can’t blame it on the schedule. We just didn’t play well. Give them credit. They beat us pretty handily the last two times we played them (also Tuesday in the United Center). The whole game we just had trouble stopping them. They beat us on the boards, shot 50 percent (actually 47.2 but it felt like 60). We just seemed to be a step slow. We just didn’t have what it took to make a push in the fourth quarter to try and steal the game. The game was still within reach we just couldn’t put anything together or put strings of stops together to make it a close game.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 78 | Bulls sweep Knicks and solidify fifth seed

Bulls 118, Knicks 111 (OT) | 04.11.2013 | Chicago 43-35 on the season

Sam Smith: Carmelo Anthony is one of the elite players in the NBA, a top contender for league Most Valuable Player and one of the NBA’s highest paid players at almost $20 million annually. J.R. Smith is one of the league’s top athletes, a sometimes erratic personality who is considered a strong candidate to be the league’s top sixth man.

Nate Robinson had his non-guaranteed minimum contract finally picked up by the Bulls in January. Jimmy Butler was the last first round pick in the 2011 draft who played about 350 minutes all last season and three minutes in the playoffs.

But Thursday in the United Center on national TNT it was the little and little known guys outshooting and outplaying the big city guys as the Bulls ended the Knicks’ 13-game winning streak behind 35 points from Robinson and 22 points and a career best 14 rebounds from Butler in a 118-111 overtime win. It gave the Bulls a 4-0 season sweep of the Knicks and solidified the Bulls’ fifth seed in the Eastern Conference as they moved to 43-35.

“Super fun game,” said the always upbeat Butler, who also helped push Anthony into 13 of 34 shooting as Luol Deng was back from his hip injury but in foul trouble. “We dig ourselves a hole (down 23-6 midway through the first quarter). But it was fun competing against players of such high quality who can do so much on the offensive end.

“It was a team effort,” said Butler, deflecting attention from himself as he always does. “Not about any of my individual effort. We never give up. I feel we play to the last buzzer, 48 minutes or overtime we keep fighting. We wanted this win. It was a playoff atmosphere against a playoff team so we feel that helps us going into the playoffs.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 77 | Raptors take a big bite out of the Bulls

Raptors 101, Bulls 98 | 04.09.2013 | Chicago 42-35 on the season

Sam Smith: Not that the Bulls should have won Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors with their three best front court defenders, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng, all out injured and the Raptors leading by double digits every quarter and by 16 points with 8:22 left in the game.

But when Nate Robinson fired up a desperation three pointer from 40 feet at the buzzer that could have tied the game after Robinson let a pass slip through his hands for a good look for a three just seconds before, Robinson dropped his head into his hands in something of a statement about this dying Bulls season.

“We’ve got to get it right fast, fast,” repeated coach Tom Thibodeau after the Bulls’ 101-98 loss that dropped them to 42-35. “We went from playing pretty good basketball to struggling. We’ve got to get it right.”

With the obvious that the regular season ends in a week, and forget Derrick Rose, though as he’s said he hasn’t ruled anything out. Richard Hamilton did return from his back problems and had four points off the bench in 14 minutes. But you don’t go into the playoffs with half a team not having played the last weeks of the season. Injuries, as it’s always said, are part of the game. But you also don’t walk right back into the NBA after not playing for awhile and have playoff success. As it was clear with Hamilton and Marco Belinelli, the latter back as a starter with a quiet eight points.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room with Malcolm Thomas | Discuss the game

Game 76 | Bulls finally break down against Pistons

Pistons 99, Bulls 85 | 04.07.2013 | Chicago 42-34 on the season

Sam Smith: If this Bulls/Detroit Pistons series of recent years becomes a TV show, perhaps they can call it “Eighteen is Enough” as the Pistons Sunday finally ended the Bulls 18-game winning streak with a mostly unremarkable 99-85 victory.

And if this Bulls regular season should get TV treatment, perhaps it becomes “Thirteen is Enough,” which is the number of different starting lineups the Bulls have used this season with Luol Deng going out Sunday mostly to rest a mild hip injury and Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli returning in limited minutes from their latest eight-game absences with injuries. Though that still left Taj Gibson and Richard Hamilton out, probably the rest of this week as well, and, of course, Derrick Rose, who told reporters at the team’s shootaround earlier in the day he still could return, maybe even once the playoffs begin.

“I’ll play whenever I’m ready to play,” Rose repeated in a replay of the same comments he’s made in most every media interview the last six weeks. “Right now all I can do is just cheer on my teammates. Of course I want to play more (than limited time). I’m going to play whenever I’m ready. I don’t care if it’s 15 or 40. I just love the game too much. I’m just waiting, just praying about it. Hopefully I’ll be out there soon.”

Though that also raises the question about working players in as with Noah and Belinelli on limited minutes Sunday, the Bulls looked a mess with uncertainty about who was covering whom, who should be in the game when and what to do when you were. Noah indicated his plantar fasciitis will remain an issue the rest of the season and Belinelli took a hard hit, though he said he shook it off. And with a recurrence of his previous knee injury injury and Gibson saying he won’t be fully recovered this season, either, another question may be hanging over the Bulls: Whether these returns on limited minutes help or hurt.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 75 | Bulls use some Robinson magic to defeat Orlando

Bulls 87, Magic 86 | 04.05.2013 | Chicago 42-33 on the season

Sam Smith: The Bulls very much enjoyed their trip to Brooklyn the other night with a last minute win over the Brooklyn Nets. And with Friday’s 87-86 victory against the Orlando Magic, it looks like the Bulls could be going back very soon to America’s favorite community where the answer to “Do you have the time?” is, “So what are you lookin’ at?”

With the latest unlikely win that had five players still out injured, coach Tom Thibodeau calling on Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic for a late defensive stand to hold off the Magic and Nate Robinson providing the offense again with a dozen fourth quarter points, the Bulls moved solidly into fifth in the Eastern Conference at 42-33.

The Nets remain a game ahead in fourth at 43-32. But sixth place Atlanta and seventh place Boston lost Saturday, both at home and to losing teams. That left Boston pretty much stuck in the seventh spot and Atlanta with two more losses than the Bulls and the Bulls holding the tiebreaker because of a 2-1 regular season edge.

The Bulls, like the Nets, finish the season with five of their final seven games against teams with losing records. Which hardly means anything the way the Bulls, though they were playing their fifth game in seven nights with a depleted roster, had to rally from a late third quarter eight-point deficit to defeat the also injury depleted and 19-58 Magic.

“I thought we had a lot of fight,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “It was a sluggish game (the Bulls were outshot and outrebounded and with fewer free throws). We found a way to win and held on at the end.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 74 | Bulls get a how did they do that win in Brooklyn

Bulls 92, Nets 90 | 04.04.2013 | Chicago 41-33 on the season

Sam Smith: Really, who are these guys, these Bulls who somehow Thursday on national TNT came back from a 16-point deficit to beat the Brooklyn Nets 92-90?

I know Nazr Mohammed, but he’s no Joakim Noah. Yet Mohammed, who had 20 DNPs by All-Star break, played 36 minutes for the injured Noah, almost doubled the rebounds of Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez, made a crucial defensive stand that forced Lopez into a turnover with 32.9 seconds left and the Bulls trailing 90-89 and then made the game saving block on Lopez with 6.6 seconds left and the Bulls ahead by one after Nate Robinson’s game winning floater.

“In the heat of the moment you can’t remember exactly,” offered the humble and soft spoken veteran from Kenwood High School. “What I remember may be wrong, but I saw D. Will (Deron Williams) penetrating, probing. What I wanted to do was keep a body on him, keep him in jail under the basket and then try to block him.”

Mohammed got the block on one of a series of Lopez pratfalls down the stretch that eventually doomed the Nets.

I know Jimmy Butler, yet he doesn’t have the championship like Richard Hamilton nor the shot of Marco Belinelli. But with those two also out, Butler came up with 16 points and 10 rebounds, an acrobatic driving reverse layup with 3:13 left that put the Bulls back ahead in a fourth quarter with eight lead changes and four ties and then put some fierce defense on a hot Williams that forced the ball out of his hands and into inevitable mistakes by other Nets players.

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

Game 73 | Bulls can’t get anything done in Washington either

Wizards 90, Bulls 86 | 04.02.2013 | Chicago 40-33 on the season

Sam Smith: There’s the luck of the Irish, and then there’s Murphy’s Law, which is basically what’s been happening to the Bulls of late, the latest in Tuesday’s 90-86 loss to the Washington Wizards.

You know, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

And what more appropriate place these days than the nation’s capital?

With Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and, of course, Derrick Rose still out injured, Taj Gibson rejoined them with perhaps another MCL strain that the last time last month had him out 10 games. Gibson was slated for an MRI in New York Wednesday. But the way he described the pain and injury it seemed doubtful he’d play again in the regular season.

“That’s what happens when you rush back to try to help your team win,” said Gibson, who left in the first half. “I tried to play through it. I got nicked up the last couple of games but kept playing. I (finally) told (coach Tom) Thibs to take me out. I couldn’t keep going. I didn’t want to hurt my teammates. It was real painful. Hopefully, it’s not as bad as before. I hope there’s no swelling. They said it’s the same injury, strained MCL. But I don’t know the severity yet. Just pushed the issue on this.”

Read Sam Smith's complete postgame analysis

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

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