[Thanks to wjb1942 for today's game preview -ed.]
With 9 games to go in the regular season, the Bulls (35-38, 23-12 home) are back within sight of .500 and have actually climbed to the 7th seed (on percentage points) in the current playoff standings. With the division bottom-dwelling Indiana Pacers (30-42, 10-28 road) in town, the Bulls should be able to climb even closer to a winning season. (Please, please, please!!!!!!) It's an early one - 1:00 pm CDT - so let's hope that doesn't throw the team off. I have no statistical evidence to back this up, but my teams always seem to play poorly in early games.
While there are those who continue to be unimpressed with the Bulls, personally I've been really enjoying them lately. In the month of March so far, the Bulls are scoring 104.3 on average and giving up 101.3, for a +3.0 margin of victory. While the defense has obviously been suspect, the offense generally seems to be clicking pretty well right now. Vinny has tightened up to a mainly 7-man rotation, and each of those guys has been playing well.
Player splits for March:
Minutes Points Shooting% Misc.
John Salmons 41.3 22.2 .500 5.0 reb
Derrick Rose 38.8 15.8 .448 5.5 ast
Ben Gordon 37.8 19.6 .457 .414 3%
Tyrus Thomas 31.1 10.9 .434 8.3 reb
Joakim Noah 29.8 8.2 .500 9.5 reb
Brad Miller 28.5 12.9 .495 7.8 reb, 2.7 ast
Kirk Hinrich 26.7 11.0 .450 .511 3%
This is just my personal impression, but it seems to me that the team has had more good dominant stretches lately, like the 15-0 run over the final 4 minutes of the 3rd quarter against Miami last game. Now they just need to learn to keep the pressure on a little better, and not give up the matching run to the opposing team once they go up.
The Bulls have split 2 games with the Pacers this season, with each team winning at home. Both teams are a little beat up right now. The Bulls will be without Luol Deng (leg) again, as he continues trying to work back from a stress fracture. Tim Thomas (back) did not play in Thursday's game and is listed as questionable. Derrick Rose (wrist) and Tyrus Thomas (neck) both played and seemed Ok in the last game, and neither appears on the injury report. The Pacers have been playing without Mike Dunleavy (knee) much of the season, while Marquis Daniels (wrist) is doubtful and Troy Murphy (knee) day-to-day. Indiana has won 2 in a row, with wins over Miami and at Charlotte, so they certainly haven't packed it in and will be playing for the win in Chicago. For the Bulls, a win over the Pacers will give them their first 4-game winning streak since way back when they were the up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference, sweeping the Heat out of the 06/07 playoffs. You remember, right? Does it make you feel all melancholy, like it does me?
Around the NBA: Friday night, Charlotte won but still remains 2 1/2 back of both the Bulls and Detroit. It was a bit funny - I've been rooting against Charlotte for so long, as they were the Bulls' primary competition for the 8th spot for a while, that when I saw their win I was momentarily upset - only to realize that the Bobcats beat Philly, one of the teams in front of the Bulls that they could possibly catch for a better seed. After Charlotte, the next closest team is Milwaukee, 4 games back, so Chicago's playoff spot is becoming increasingly certain. Philly is now just 3 games ahead of the Bulls in the 6th spot, and Miami just 3 1/2 games ahead. A lot of things are still mathmatically possible, both for seeding at the bottom and seeding at the top, but if you'd like to start talking playoff matchups it's already in full swing. Saturday, in addition to the Bulls' game, the Pistons (virtually tied) visit Washington and the Bobcats (2 1/2 back) host the Knicks.
Indy Cornrows always has a fun take on the games, so pop on over for a visit.