This game only makes me more frustrated that the Bulls aren't up for the 4th or 5th seed instead of 'surging' their way to a tie for 7th after tonight's win. The Heat are really not that good. The Bulls don't have Dwayne Wade (and that certainly means something, especially in the first quarter when he was doing everything including offensive rebounding, getting 31 points before pulled for garbage time) but they have a roster that's relatively stacked next to Miami's.
They're still not a coached roster, but they have nights like tonight where it doesn't matter: Miami was on the second of a back to back, packed it in when down in the 4th (real 'toughness' by Jamaal Maggloire with the flagrant foul while down 17. Veteran presence.), and did I mention they're not that good?
And the Bulls, especially (only?) at home, can capitalize on that. With Ben Gordon having an awful game (until some blowout-sealing 3s late), and the banged-up Derrick Rose coming off the bench and doing nothing in the first half, Kirk Hinrich made some big shots in the 1st. And then John Salmons was fantastic, 27 points with a stretch in the 3rd quarter that gave the Bulls the lead for good.
Thomas and Noah were good, but that's old hat at this point. Tim Thomas didn't play, so hopefully it's Vinny trusting the Thomas/Noah/Miller frontcourt rotation. It works enough to the point where it's not worth trying Tim Thomas or 4-guard lineups anymore to 'change things up'. It'd be yet another something I'd be way more excited about if Vinny wasn't coaching. But I know Vinny likes to try...things, so I'm not figuring this means we have a settled rotation. (looks like Tim Thomas was listed as out pre-game, so even less reason to feel like Vinny's finally totally invested in Thomas/Noah)
Not to mention crunch time lineups. But tonight was a blowout so it didn't matter. A blowout against the playoff-bound Heat. That should mean more, right?
Meh, doesn't mean the Bulls are good. They're playing better than bad as the season comes to a close (and against an easier home-laden schedule), and that's certainly better than the alternative. I enjoyed it tonight. Even have a free Big Mac waiting for me.
And they look like they're playing for eachother, even if they're not playing with eachother. And their team defense still smells.
It's fitting that John Salmons had a huge night, I feel towards him like I do about this team. He's having a good season, even better as a Bull, and fantastic tonight. But he's 29, having a career-year, and though he has good one-on-one skills (especially compared to his teammates...heck any Bull of the past 5 years), he's one of the biggest culprits of the my-turn offense. He only had 2 rebounds in 43 minutes, which is pretty hard to do (not meant as a cherry-pick: he's never been a good rebounder). It's still a great trade and I like keeping him on the roster, but am not sold on his long-term future (as in: permanently replacing Deng or Gordon), just like I'm not sold on the Bulls doing anything in the playoffs.
But at least in the 3rd quarter tonight the Bulls looked like they belonged. Certainly good enough to beat the sorry-ass Heat in a series.
Getting to that seed (er...one above them would be the 5th, even better) would've been an exciting close to the season, this still looks like a very talented roster that underachieved their way to the slaughtering-end of the playoffs. But it's better than dogging it towards the lottery like last year.