2009.10 Chicago Bulls | 82 games | April
Game 82: Bulls beat Bobcats; look out Cavs, here they come
Bulls at Bobcats | 04.14.10: They beat Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats 98-89 to get into the playoffs, and now this improbable Bulls team gets LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bring ‘em on! Starting Saturday 2 p.m. to open the playoffs in Cleveland.
“To me what this is about is my team sacrificing everything they’ve got to get in order to make it to this stage,” said Joakim Noah, who with Derrick Rose combined to drag this Bulls team back to 41-41 and the playoffs. “Now we’re playing the Cleveland Cavaliers and everyone thinks we’re gonna get our (butts) whipped.
“You know what,” said Noah, sucking on his second bottle of celebratory beer in the loud post game locker room. “We’re going to shock the world. That’s pretty cool, right?”
Yes it is, however it goes, and it was one of the best finishes a Bulls team ever has had to a regular season, winning three straight they had to get, all against teams with better records, with no room for error. It’s hardly the best Bulls team, and one with long odds to advance beyond he first round of the playoffs against heavily favored Cleveland.
But it is a confident team that was accepting hand shakes and congratulations from new Bobcats owner Jordan, who graciously went around to every Bulls player in the locker room after the game to congratulate them.
It was a show of respect, and one well deserved, less so for finishing .500, but for the way the Bulls persevered through a troubling season of coaching uncertainty, major trades, disastrous blown leads and big losses, free agent player departures, crippling injuries and just lately management controversy with coach Vinny Del Negro...
Game 81: Bulls overcome Celts with Pax and Vinny a sidebar
Bulls 101, Celtics 93 | 04.13.10: This wasn’t Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich who combined for 69 points, including 27 of the team’s 34 in the fourth quarter, to beat the Boston Celtics 101-93 before a raucous, playoff like crowd at the United Center.
No, it was more like Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. Like Gail Goodrich and Jerry West. Like Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. Like Bob Cousy and Sam Jones.
This was a backcourt duo for the ages as the Bulls now will make the playoffs if they defeat Charlotte Wednesday or if the Toronto Raptors lose to the Knicks.
“We’re just having trust and confidence in one another and we’ve been playing good basketball,” said Rose, who scored a career high 39 points and drove All-Star and top defender Rajon Rondo from the game late. “It was one of those days. Some days it’s a whole bunch of turnovers. It was one of those days I hit almost everything. It’s my teammates who give me the confidence. I love playing here and being in tough situations, which makes me go out and perform. Kirk was huge knocking down shots, stepping up and making big plays. He’s one of our leaders. Everyone, the younger guys, look up to him.”
And the Bulls are a game from not having to look up at the eight playoff teams. Their destiny, as it were, is in their hands again after a second playoff style effort in which they outworked a Boston team playing its regulars with Paul Pierce with 28 points and Ray Allen with 25.
It should have been a heck of an uplifting night, and it was, especially in the wake of the equally big win in Toronto Sunday. But just prior to the game YahooSports published a story detailing an altercation between executive vice president John Paxson and coach Vinny Del Negro, allegedly over Noah’s limited minutes schedule from his plantar fasciitis...
Game 80: Bulls come up big and win in Toronto
Bulls 104, Raptors 88 | 04.11.10: It was clearly written for the Bulls on the board as soon as you walked into the locker room before Sunday’s potential playoff playin game with the Toronto Raptors.
“How bad do we want it?”
It might have needed an adverb, but the message was clear.
Joakim Noah got it, and everyone followed along for a 104-88 domination in which the Bulls led by double figures the entire second half and by 25 with seven minutes left, the Bulls best win in the season’s biggest game.
“I knew it was a really important game,” Noah was saying, his foot resting in a bucket of ice while the hot fever of the win resonated in a raucous locker room around him. “I was really focused. I wanted to go out there and impose my will as much as I could, be aggressive offensively and defensively. I wanted to make sure our team played harder than their team.”
Derrick Rose, who had a team high 26 points, seven assists and just one turnover, is the Bulls best player.
Noah is the MVP and leader.
Yes, finally, ponytail and all, the Bulls have a leader.
Game 79: Playoffs hang on facing Raptors as Bulls lose to Nets
Nets 127, Bulls 116 (2OT) | 04.09.10: It now comes down, as we probably always figured, to Sunday in Toronto.
With the Bulls' heartbreaking 127-116 double overtime loss to the New Jersey Nets in which they blew a seven-point lead with 1:09 left in the first overtime, the Bulls head for Toronto at 38-41 tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with the Raptors.
The Raptors own the tiebreaker no matter who wins Sunday. So the Bulls need to win Sunday. If they do not, the only way the Bulls can make the playoffs is if they sweep their last two over Boston and Charlotte and the Raptors lose both to the Pistons and Knicks.
“We had it in hand,” sighed Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “(Now) we’ve got a huge game against Toronto Sunday. You can’t hang your head. You don’t have time. There are no excuses. No one will feel sorry for you. We should have made some plays and didn’t and now we’ve got to go to Toronto and battle.
“All these (final) games, your season is on the line,” acknowledged Del Negro. “That’s the way it is set up. That’s the position you are in. Usually, you get what you deserve. We turned it over and didn’t make free throws. If we handled it a little bit better it would have been a different story. Now, we’ve got to stick together and get the energy back and go at it Sunday.”
This has been a resilient Bulls team, but this one will be tough to come off the floor after as the Bulls appeared to have the game after a furious fourth quarter comeback when Brook Lopez slammed back a Courtney Lee miss that looked like offensive interference with one tenth of second left.
“I thought it was a goal tend,” said Derrick Rose, watching underneath. “I thought it was going to hit the rim one more time. But they called it in.”
Game 78: Noah saves Bulls from flood of defeats
Bulls 109, Cavaliers 108 | 04.08.10: Derrick Rose scored 24 points, Kirk Hinrich scored 23 points, Luol Deng scored 22 points. The Bulls defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, playing without a resting LeBron James, 109-108.
But it was Joakim Noah who loaded the Bulls on his ship of key plays and saved the Bulls season as they’re now tied with the Toronto Raptors at 38-40 for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Win their remaining four games and the Bulls are in.
“We learned a lesson (Tuesday),” said Noah, who finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. “On any given day anyone can beat you. (Andrew) Bogut got hurt and we lost that one. Just because a star isn’t playing doesn’t mean you can’t lose. Your natural reaction is to let your guard down and I don’t think we did.”
Although a Cavs guard, Mo Williams, almost took down the Bulls season with 35 points, including four three pointers in the last 5:24. But Noah saved the Bulls season, at least for now, with a series of offensive and defensive plays...
Sam Smith of Bulls.com breaks down the playoff picture for the Bulls -- Parts I & II (04.08.10):
Game 77: Bulls are deer in headlights in loss to Bucks
Bucks 79, Bulls 74 | 04.06.10: I know if you were a Bulls fan what you wanted to do if you were watching the awful, 79-74 Milwaukee Bucks victory over the Bulls, especially with Toronto losing in Cleveland with a chance to tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
After kicking in your TV screen.
Sign a shooter. Can’t anyone here make a shot? Hello, Joe Johnson?
Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose combined to shoot four for 15 in the fourth quarter with all playing 12 minutes as the Bulls recovered from a 12-point third quarter deficit to take a lead with 6:33 left and then miss 11 of their next 13 shots.
“Early in the game we were moving the ball (27-14 first quarter lead) and getting good looks,” said Hinrich. “They picked up their defensive pressure and we did a poor job of handling it. From the second quarter on, I felt like they outworked us. We kind of have a tendency when we struggle to go on our own (no pass and quick shot). We have to make the extra pass. We were not tonight. I felt like we missed some good, open looks. I don’t know if they wore us down or what. It seems like they were guarding the crap out of us.”
What the heck was Brad Miller doing driving the ball coming out of a timeout with 13.2 seconds left trailing 77-74? That was the play?
“We were trying to get a three over the top,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “If not, get the quick two and foul. Brad tried to dribble and slipped.”
Bulls EVP of Basketball Operations John Paxson talks about newly elected Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen (04.06.10):
Game 76: Bulls tighten race with win over Charlotte
Bulls 96, Bobcats 88 | 04.03.10: The Bulls players insisted they didn’t see it, but everyone else did. Eighth-place Toronto had won again earlier in the day. The seventh-place Bobcats had come off the floor from a dozen behind in the third quarter and trailing the first 36 minutes to stun the Bulls with an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter and take an 82-76 lead with six minutes left.
The Bulls season looked finally in the toilet with the water swirling counter clockwise. Talk about your unfortunate flushes.
“The season was on the line,” said Joakim Noah. “We understood the situation. We understood it is do or die right now.”
And it was a big time flush that got the Bulls poking their heads above playoff waters again with a terrific, well earned 96-88 victory over the Bobcats.
It brought the Bulls to 37-39, 1.5 games behind Toronto and three games behind Charlotte. The Bulls play Toronto next Sunday April 11 and close the season April 14 in Charlotte.
Sam Smith of Bulls.com talks about the team's playoff chances and the performance of rookie forward Taj Gibson (04.03.10):
Game 75: Bulls beat Wizards, but real tests now coming
Bulls 95, Wizards 87 | 04.02.10: The Bulls beat the Washington Wizards Friday 95-87. But make no mistake—they did not play very well, just well enough to beat a team that had just lost 16 straight games.
It took, in the end, a brilliant defensive sequence by Taj Gibson and then a Gibson jumper along with a Luol Deng three and a highlight Joakim Noah lob to Derrick Rose to finally pull away from a collection of D-League players and end of the bench reserves thrust into starting roles in the Wizards’ lost season.
Back home Saturday, the Bulls play the Charlotte Bobcats, who scratched out a rugged playoff style overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks Friday. If the Bulls want to seriously believe they have a chance to make the playoffs—and they have not beaten a playoff team since Feb. 26—then they have to start with Saturday’s game.
“I try to remind everybody that we are going to be in the playoffs,” said Rose, who led everyone with 24 points. “We just have to continue to win. Even though the task is going to be hard, we’re still going to fight, come together, and try to put some games together.”
Yes, it’s going to be very difficult, especially since the Bucks could not help out the Bulls with Friday’s loss. It leaves the Bulls at 36-39, a game and a half behind Toronto but without the tiebreaker, and four games behind Charlotte with two games remaining with the Bobcats and a chance to get that tiebreaker...