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2009.10 Chicago Bulls | 82 games | March

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Game 74: Bulls cannot rise like a phoenix against Suns

Suns 111, Bulls 105 | 03.30.10: What’s that I’m seeing in the distance, very hazy, faint, just really a speck now?

Yes, that’s it. The Bulls’ playoff hopes.

The Bulls suffered a brutal, perhaps playoff fatal 111-105 loss at the United Center to the Phoenix Suns as Steve Nash carved up the Bulls down the stretch, and though the Bulls again were victimized by injury with Kirk Hinrich going out with an ankle sprain, the season long lack of a structured offense and limited use of the depth proved lethal.

“They hit big shots and made big plays and there was nothing we could do about it," indicted Derrick Rose, who tried valiantly and in vain to save the Bulls down the stretch. "We're still trying to make a push for the playoffs. But as I said, they executed their plays and that's why they won.”

It was a terrific, entertaining, playoff like game, and a Suns clinic in late game offense as the Suns won their eighth straight to go to 48-26 and clinch a playoff spot. Playoffs! The Bulls are on the verge of forgetting about them as they fell to 35-39 and one and one half games behind Toronto for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with Toronto having the tiebreaker. And now the Raptors Wednesday host the Clippers, who after being blown out by the Bucks are playing the second in a back to back on the road without injured Baron Davis.

The Bulls probably have to just about win out now to make the playoffs, perhaps with enough room to lose a game or two at the most and playing five teams with winning records not counting the Raptors on the road...

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Blogs.Bulls.com Bulls look to keep momentum going

Game 73: Bulls driving for playoffs past misfiring Pistons

Bulls 110, Pistons 103 | 03.28.10: Hey, folks, we’ve got a playoff race.

How the heck did that happen?

But here are the Bulls, riding this hot streak of 11 losses in the last 15 games to streak within a half game of eighth place Toronto after Sunday’s 110-103 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Ya gotta love the Eastern Conference. Hooray for geography.

“I’ve never, ever in my life gone through a season like this,” Brad Miller was saying. “The lows, the highs. This is unbelievable. You’re not supposed to lose 10 games in a row in March and have this chance.”

But yet here are the Bulls at 35-38 with their fourth win in the last five and right there with gagging, gasping Toronto, which coughed up a 17-point lead Sunday in Miami to lose their 13th in the last 17 with dysfunction overtaking their lack of function.

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Game 72: Bulls dominate Nets behind Pargo and Gibson

Bulls 106, Nets 83 | 03.27.10: I wrote Saturday I didn't believe, based on the way the Bulls collapsed Thursday at home against the Miami Heat, that they could beat the New Jersey Nets.

It looks like my plan worked.

The Bulls needed someone to call them out, and I decided it had to be me at this point.

Yes, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

"Last game was really tough for us," said Jannero Pargo, of all guys, who scored a season high 27 points to lead the Bulls 106-83 victory Saturday. "That was the biggest game. Really, any game this time of the year is the biggest game. And, it was a really big loss for us (Thursday). It was nice to bounce back tonight."

It was a super ball bounce backas the Bulls were on the right side of a laugher for a change, avoided the ignominy of being swept at home by the now 9-64 Nets, and suddenly can begin to dream of Cleveland and the playoffs as the Bulls pulled within a game and a half of the idle and slumping Toronto Raptors.

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More from Sam Smith at Blogs.Bulls.com: Are the Bulls good enough to beat the Nets?

Game 71: Bulls lose to Heat

Heat 103, Bulls 74 | 03.25.10: I was reminded of the classic comedy movie “Airplane” Thursday while watching the Bulls joke they called a big game Thursday in losing 103-74 to the Miami Heat.

It was as bad an effort and as poor a game as any Bulls team has played in three decades. See, it was something special, as advertised. The Bulls trailed at halftime by 30 points for the first time since 1980, the equivalent of a franchise in deep trouble and headed for disaster.

That was the theme of the famous 1980’s comedy that had the frantic controller played by Lloyd Bridges walking through scenes with the airplane headed for disaster, offering,

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.”

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.”

The Bulls certainly picked the wrong week for a game like this.

It was a special, national TV game on TNT with the famous studio crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson calling the game from the United Center...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Blogs.Bulls.com: Noah’s workload continues upward ascent
More from Sam Smith at Blogs.Bulls.com: Bulls face Heat with free agency implications
Also: Bulls host Latin Night at the United Center on Thursday

Game 70: Bulls don't flop this time and beat Rockets 98-88

Bulls 98, Rockets 88 | 03.22.10: Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro storming onto the court and ejected for the first time in his coaching career. Derrick Rose furious at an offensive foul call and slicing the air with disgust. Taj Gibson battling three Rockets while getting two offensive rebounds and dunking the second, getting fouled and letting out a scream of accomplishment. Kirk Hinrich with the big, clinching three down the stretch worthy of a Neil Funk “ka, ka, ka, ka boom!”

The Bulls are back? Well, at least breathing again and in a race of for the playoffs with their second straight win and exuberant defensive effort, 98-88 over the Houston Rockets.

“Every game has to be like our last game and we have to steal a game along the line,” said Del Negro, who was chased by referee Bob Delaney, a former undercover state trooper, late in the third quarter. “We’ve got a difficult task ahead of us. We know it, but guys are working and getting a little healthier, which is positive. There are no easy games for us. We cannot afford a lapse. Hopefully, we’ll stay focused.

“There’s enough basketball to be played,” said Del Negro. “We play Charlotte (twice), Milwaukee, at Toronto. We have to go one at a time. Miami (on TNT) Thursday is a big game. You’ve got to focus on what you can control and get out and perform, play defense like we did tonight and usually good things happen.”

So the Bulls moved to 33-37, though still two and a half games behind eighth place Toronto. But they finally are showing life after that hideous 10-game losing streak. They outrebounded an opponent, and a good one with the Rockets now 36-33, for the first time in eight games. They held Houston to 33.7 percent shooting, low for an opponent in ending a five-game home losing streak...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Bulls' Rose scores two wins in one day

Sam Smith of Bulls.com on the importance of each game down the stretch and what the Bulls need to do to get in the playoffs (03.22.10):

Game 69: Bulls beat 76ers to end 10-game losing streak

Bulls 98, 76ers 84 | 03.20.10: Sure, there’s the numbers for Derrick Rose in the Bulls' 98-84 win—yes, finally after 10 consecutive losses—with a game high 23 points and a career best four three pointers in six attempts.

But the impact of the return of Rose, and to a lesser extent Joakim Noah in just nine minutes, lies well beyond the simple numbers. Sorry, sabermetricians. Stay in baseball. This is what happens when you bring in a star, or, conversely when you don’t have one.

The Bulls jumped on the dispirited 76ers immediately for a 21-17 first quarter lead as Rose, who was supposed to be only a mid range jump shooter, at best, effortlessly hit a pair of threes in the first quarter on the way to a dozen.

The Bulls began to stretch it out in the second quarter as Noah made his first appearance in almost a month. Hakim Warrick, who has come back to life and had 13 off the bench, had a highlight, in-your-face dunk on Samuel Dalembert and the Bulls were out to a rare big lead of late, 40-28, Warrick’s first of two slamma jammas like that on the night.

So there was Rose and now the defense, when the 76ers are captivated enough to offer some, was following Rose, Dalembert sliding off the screen to double.

Sure, you are supposed to get rotation and back side help, but it’s not easy. Brad Miller edged toward the basket, scored and was fouled for a three point play, the Bulls off to a 43-28 lead and leading by at least double digits the rest of the way...

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Bulls guard Acie Law talks about his extended playing time as of late and his NBA future (03.20.10):

Game 68: LeBron came and he conquered the Bulls

Cavaliers 92, Bulls 85 | 03.19.10: Veni, vidi, vici. Yup, same old LeBron James.

He came to Chicago, he saw a city he liked, as he would concede afterward to reporters, and he conquered a Bulls team once again without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, though this time by a more pedestrian 92-85.

Hail, LeBron, which a sellout crowd of Bulls fans mostly did as James had 29 points, 13 in the fourth, when he won the game after the Bulls led by two with six minutes left. He also had 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks, converting 11 of 12 free throws.

The guy is really good, though we’re not sure yet whether good enough that they’ll name a salad after him as they did with Caesar.

Though I’m sure he can get a deep dish pizza named after him if he decides to leave the Cavs as a free agent after this season and come to Chicago.

“I am well respected here,” James acknowledged. “They like their basketball here and the way I play. For these fans to see what they've seen, going back to 1984, when Jordan was doing what he was doing all the way to 1998, they've seen the top of the tier. It is very humbling for me for them to respect my game as well. Chicago is a great city and one of the best in America. From lifestyle to sports town it’s a great city. I know that. You (media) guys know that. Everyone knows that.”

OK, but tell everyone something we don’t know, like what you’ll do after the season.

It’s the biggest question of the NBA season, much more so than who will win the NBA title or when the Nets will win again...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Blogs.Bulls.com: Deng to miss 2-3 weeks with strained calf
Also: LeBron James is coming to Chicago

Sam Smith of Bulls.com on the first half against the Cavs, comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan and whether the Bulls can make a final push for the playoffs (03.19.10):

Game 67: Bulls make soft comeback again in 9th straight loss

Mavericks 113, Bulls 106 | 03.17.10: So I’m hearing now despite the Bulls losing again, 113-106 to the Dallas Mavericks, that there were a lot of positive signs.

Like Acie Law with 22 points on just eight field goal attempts as he got to the line with seven free throws. Like James Johnson back in the starting lineup and running the wing aggressively for 11 points and several dunks. Like Hakim Warrick off the bench for 13 points and the Bulls again fighting back with a big fourth quarter to get within striking distance of a win with plenty of time left in the game.

Nonsense! The Bulls once again in losing their ninth straight were uncompetitive and had the opponents effectively laughing at them. They gagged as soon as the game became relatively close and for the second straight game fell behind by 25 points.

And not exactly to the ’96 Bulls or ’86 Celtics.

This was a Mavs team blown out by the Knicks at home in their last game. The Grizzlies, who wrecked the Bulls Tuesday, aren’t even a playoff team and lost badly Wednesday to another non playoff team, Houston. The Mavs didn’t even play Jason Kidd in the fourth quarter...

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Game 66: Bulls lose 8th straight to Grizzlies without top 4 scorers

Grizzlies 104, Bulls 97 | 03.16.10: Eight is enough. But the losses look like they will keep coming for the Bulls.

The losing streak reached eight in Memphis in a curious 104-97 defeat to the Grizzlies without the Bulls’ four top scorers. Yet, the Bulls came back from 25 down to get within four with 3:39 left and twice had chances to cut the lead to one or two.

The first time Brad Miller came out of a timeout with a corner three that was off, and after the Grizzlies missed underneath, Jannero Pargo lost the ball dribbling down the middle for one of the Bulls seven fourth quarter turnovers, three by Pargo.

But Pargo was playing point guard because Derrick Rose was out with a sprained wrist, Kirk Hinrich was suspended from bumping a referee in Friday’s Miami game and Acie Law, who was two off a career high with 18 points, was out late because of cramps in his legs. Overall, the Bulls were without their top four scorers with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah also injured.

“A lot of guys haven’t played together,” understated Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “I was pleased with the effort, but I was disappointed with the outcome. We will just try to get guys healthy. Acie was cramping up a lot. I would have liked to have gotten him back there in the end, but he was cramping up and couldn’t go.”So the Bulls stumbled to 31-35, though Miami and Charlotte also lost in the scramble for the final Eastern Conference playoff spots. No, it ain’t over...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Do the Bulls have a plan to make the playoffs?

Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago talks about the first half, the injuries the Bulls are facing and the final run to the playoffs (03.16.10):

Game 65: Bulls get hot but lose to Heat

Heat 108, Bulls 95 | 03.12.10: Forget fighting their adversity. Better, the Bulls fought back this time. Now, they just need to turn that into a victory. A baby step, if you will.

The Bulls lost their seventh consecutive game, 108-95 to the Miami Heat with starters Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all out injured.

But they delivered their own blows this time as they were clawing back trailing 84-77 midway through the fourth quarter. At least until they blew as coach Vinny Del Negro, Brad Miller and Kirk Hinrich drew technicals, Miller also a flagrant foul against Dwyane Wade, and Hinrich eventually ejected with a second technical foul with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter, after which he charged referee Bennie Adams and appeared to bump Adams.

That would carry with it a suspension, which the Bulls hardly need now with Rose tending to a sprained left wrist, Deng a strained calf and Noah his plantar fasciitis, which Taj Gibson is painfully playing through, as most can see.

Though the Bulls said Hinrich merely was going to get an explanation for being ejected and was pushed into the referee. Taj Gibson said the referee merely flinched mistakenly thinking Hinrich was coming more quickly than he was. Hinrich declined to comment after the game...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: To foul or not foul, that is the question...

Game 64: Bulls lose to Magic as Rose injures wrist

Magic 111, Bulls 82 | 03.11.10: Let’s look at it this way, ever the optimist that I am: The Bulls did their job against the Orlando Magic. Hey, they held Dwight Howard to 12 points and six rebounds while forcing him into five turnovers.

Of course, there was the problem of trailing by a dozen in the first quarter when Derrick Rose was injured and left for the night, and then by as many as 32 by halftime as the rest of the players left, at least in spirit, in what would become a 111-82 Orlando victory.

The Bulls fell to 31-33 with their six straight loss and…

What! Rose hurt! Get me rewrite!

Actually, get him an MRI. Again. The Bulls should buy one of those machines for all the use they are getting this season with Joakim Noah out with plantar fasciitis, Luol Deng out with a calf strain and now Rose, at least it seems, certainly questionable for Friday’s game in Miami. And that’s if the MRI of Rose’s left wrist produces good news.

X-rays were negative, but Rose left the arena without speaking to reporters but wearing a soft cast on his wrist with some sort of electro-stim device attached.

“Derrick has a sprained wrist,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said afterward. “I have no idea how bad it is. He’s going to get an MRI tomorrow and see what the damage is and see how he feels.”

Asked whether Rose could play Friday, Del Negro sighed: “He had an x-ray. They didn’t tell me other than he’s going to have an MRI and he has a sprained wrist.”

Rose suffered the wrist injury in still another collison with Dwight Howard, whom Rose bumped up against last month in Chicago on a drive to the basket and took that ugly fall which injured Rose’s hip and limited him during All-Star weekend...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Bulls looking for some magic against Orlando
Also: Deng injury not serious; Bulls' situation is though

Lindsey Hunter talks about retirement, his memories in the NBA and what he would tell young players entering the league (03.11.10):

Game 63: Bulls defenseless again in loss to Jazz

Jazz 132, Bulls 108 | 03.09.10: There’s a famous story from the 1998 playoffs I was reminded of watching the Bulls submit and lose to the Utah Jazz, 132-108, the team’s fifth consecutive loss in falling to ninth place and, at least for now, out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

The Lakers were trailing 3-0 in the Western Conference finals and just finished up what everyone knew was their final practice of the season before Game 4. Players usually gather at the end of practice for some sort of unity exclamation. The Lakers was, “One, two, three, win.”

So the team huddled and all stretched their arms in and in unison began, “One, two, three…” when Nick Van Exel quickly added, “Cancun.”

Yes, the season was over and it was time for the beach.

And while the Bulls have 19 games remaining and are just a half game out of seventh at 31-32, they clearly are playing the poorest of all the bottom contenders for a playoff spot and are facing even more injuries with Luol Deng scheduled for an MRI Wednesday morning for a calf strain he suffered against the Jazz.

It’s looking like an early vacation...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: No limitations for Deng as Bulls host Jazz

Michael Huff and Larry Stewart of the Bulls/Sox Training Academy talk about the various programs they have available (03.09.10):

Game 62: Rose's 34 not enough as Bulls lose to Mavs

Mavericks 122, Bulls 116 | 03.06.10: Sometimes your best isn’t good enough. Sometimes your best won’t do. And so it was Saturday as the Bulls lost 122-116 to the Dallas Mavericks to fall back to .500.

The Bulls shot 52 percent and pushed the ball, which they need to do to score. They had the game’s high scorer. They outrebounded the Mavs, who, by the way, are looking like a legitimate championship contender. They scored more points in the paint, shot threes about as well as they have all season at 44 percent at seven of 16 and outscored the Mavs off the bench 35-23 with six players in double figures to five for the Mavs.

Yes, the Bulls gave up a lot of points. But the Mavs played fast and without Joakim Noah, sorry, and, yes, Tyrus Thomas, too, it’s difficult to play great defense when you hardly have anyone to protect the basket and block shots.

So the Bulls did what they could and what they should, and much better than they did in their three previous consecutive losses.

“I guess we gave our all,” said Derrick Rose. “They were too good a team.”

Rose, by the way, was spectacular with that game high 34 points on 15 of 22 shooting, eight assists and just two turnovers, both in the last 25 seconds of the first half when the Bulls were trying to steal a quick basket in a frenetic conclusion.

He was almost perfect and it wasn’t good enough...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Bulls have hands full with Mavericks' size and ability

Chris Richard talks about staying in the NBA the rest of the season, life in the D-League and his role with the Bulls (03.06.10):

Game 61: Bulls and Rose suffer game most foul in loss to Grizzlies

Grizzlies 105, Bulls 96 | 03.04.10: OK, no more Mr. Nice Guy for Derrick Rose.

He tried. He thought being professional was the right way. He thought he’d be rewarded for showing respect, for revering the game, for appreciating authority, for simply not acting out like a brat.

So Rose attacked the defense and the basket over and over in the Bulls' 105-96 come-from-ahead loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and got just two free throws on one possession despite 21 shots.

Enough is enough.

“I don’t know what I’ve got to do to get a call,” Rose offered in a rare bout of open post game frustration. “I don’t know if I’m being too physical or whatever. I’m just going to go in and start making them make the call. Go in and go crazy like some of those other players in the league and hopefully they call it.

“You’ll see,” Rose promised. “Definitely, next game.”

It would be too bad if it has to come to that, a kid who wants to do it right, not complain and stop playing and yell at the referees after every drive like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. But this seems to be what the NBA always will be. The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Sadly...

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More from Sam Smith: Do the Bulls want to make the playoffs?
Also: Rose, Deng give it a go against the Grizzlies

Bulls rookie James Johnson on his first career start and what he has to improve on (03.04.10):

Game 60: Ailing Bulls can't get well against Atlanta

Hawks 116, Bulls 92 | 03.01.10: Now how did the lyrics to that old Broadway tune go? This could be the start of something bad?

I don’t think that’s it, exactly, but the Bulls began their “Uh oh” stretch Monday with a 116-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks as Joakim Noah sat out again with plantar fasciitis and could be out a week or longer, Luol Deng missed his first game of the season with a knee injury and hopes to play Thursday against Memphis and Derrick Rose for the second consecutive game had to leave after being hit in the knee.

James Johnson started and Acie Law and Joe Alexander finished, and over the next three weeks the only team the Bulls will face with a below .500 record is Miami, and that game in the second of a back to back on the road.

This could turn very ugly for the Bulls, who’ve now lost three of five to fall to 31-29 and were absolutely hammered by the Hawks, who held a rollicking 63-37 rebounding advantage, including 22 offensive rebounds.

So here was one of the most positive things I heard after the game in talking to Rose, who still had 24 points in 31 minutes. He said there’s no problem going home for treatment.

“I’ve got a lot of ice bags from the previous injuries I had,” Rose said...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Like it or not, Noah needs to rest

Dr. Brian Cole talks about winning the NBA Team Physician of the Year, whether footwear affects plantar fasciitis and the status of Joakim Noah (03.01.10):

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