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Back, and unburdened by garbage time evidence. (a.k.a.: Game Preview #70: - Bulls vs. Houston Rockets)

Firstly, big thanks to Sports2 for filling in, I've received no complaints so I can only assume you guys were super nice to the substitute, which I appreciate. Check out and join his Bulls forum if you can't get enough talk here (and who can really get enough?), there's some good discussion there. There's also deposed BaB members who I loathe!

Ah, that was a good vacation from Bulls basketball. While we all expected a massive Bulls losing streak combining a tough schedule with key players being out (or being Hinrich*), it still sucked to see it actually happen. Between being out of town and not being interested in seeing the scrub squad even before then, I've barely seen a game in two weeks. So forgive me if I'm not on the Acie Law bandwagon (though if it's merely having him play over Pargo, I'm cool with that), or have not significantly raised my expectations for the career of James Johnson (and the KC 'won't actually report it but instead will casually mention it in a mailbag' special regarding JJ's " struggles with promptness this season" is worrisome), though it's good to read that he's looking better. Games without Rose simply aren't that valuable in terms of evaluation of the non-Roses, and games without Noah and Deng too are 48 minutes of garbage time.

Though my timing did come back to bite me in missing Saturday night's game, which was not only the Bulls first victory in 11 games, but the return of both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. So besides missing that one game, it's a perfect time to get back into it.

That Philadelphia win was actually quite big, as while Rose and Noah returned, and Philly has packed it in for the season, the Bulls were still on road in the second of a back-to-back. And they won quite comfortably. 'Huge win' is redundant at this juncture, with only 12 games remaining and the Bulls 2.5 games behind the Raptors (though the Raps already own the tiebreaker) for the 8th playoff spot. The Bobcats (3) and Heat (3.5) are also within reach, and passing either Wade or Bosh's team to have them out of the playoffs would be the best case scenario heading into free agency.

Tanking was never an option, and I prefer watching a team going for victories, and more importantly think it helps the players to be going for victories instead of early vacation plans, especially the young players who matter. But Noah's not completely back, Luol Deng's injury is a pretty huge blow (for more reasons than this season, but that's another topic), the Bulls defense post-deadline looks shaky even with a healthy squad, and thus the playoffs are still a reach. But at least it's within that reach, and thus giving some motivation to play, and me motivation to watch.

The rest of the season for me starts tonight, and I'll be in attendance at the UC (for what I believe is my last game of the year, a bit sad). The Rockets are a solid but unspectacular team, and played last night in New York (with tonight being their 3rd game in 4 nights). Shane Battier is hurt. While they're also the better team, it's certainly a winnable game, the type the Bulls will have to steal going forward in order to make up the ground they lost in the 2-weeks-that-shall-no-longer-be-mentioned.

*Did we waive him while I was away? No? It sort of makes the Acie Law talk illuminating over the need of the backup PG on this team, yet we're paying one $9m already. Sometimes I feel like my Bulls life can't go on until he's gone, I'm just so sick of arguing about him, and his face. I can't even enjoy his modest successes since it makes the glueguy-ers taunt (and that's just Gar Forman!). Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. I should know being so familiar with y'all.