There was an epic rest-off in New York tonight as both the Knicks and Hawks didn't seem to care much about winning their contest. The Hawks had less than not enough to lose with, so the Bulls had already clinched the #5 Eastern Conference seed before their 95-92 victory over the Wizards was completed. They will be facing off with the #4 seed Nets in Brooklyn on Saturday (time TBA).
And yes, tonight's score wound up being that close. The Bulls started the game on a 10-0 run and were up 31-15 after the first quarter, but from the middle of the second quarter onwards this turned out to be a tight regular season finale. The Wizards were resting nearly everyone themselves so this could be cause for concern, but meh. The Wiz actually went and achieved their first tie of the game with 3 minutes left, but the Bulls went on a quick 7-0 run and ultimately held on. Washington had a chance at the final buzzer but John Wall had to take a likely-longer-than-expected try over Jimmy Butler which was short. Butler spent a lot of the second half on Wall as Washington went to a two-pg lineup with he and AJ Price. Butler did ok in that role and it may be something to look for as a potential defensive look against Deron Williams in the first round.
To stay with the theme of PG defense, Kirk Hinrich had a second straight very good game in that category himself, and brought some offense as well. Hinrich had 18 points on only 9 shots in under 25 minutes. He and the rest of the limited-minuted starters (Mohammed and Deng) put up the best lineup performances of the night, all near +20. Nazr Mohammed had some improbable finishes on his way to 17 points (!) and 7 rebounds. It was the Wizards backups, after all...
Though maybe that's bad that then the Wizards backups' backups gave the Bulls so many fits. If there's cause for concern coming from this sorta-exhibition, it's that Joakim Noah did not look very good at all. In 14 minutes he missed the only shot he took, and had more turnovers (2) than rebounds (1). And one could observe that his usual lift wasn't there, not even attempting to catch a lob Nate Robinson threw in the second half. The fact that he's even playing is a good sign relative to what we've seen the plantar fasciitis do to him this season, but he certainly isn't near 100%. He reportedly felt ok the day-after the last game, and there will be a few off days between now and Saturday, but a limited Noah is a severe blow to the chances of the Bulls pulling off an upset.
His fellow injured frontcourt-mate Taj Gibson looked substantially better. Though he struggled to finished inside at points (and showed his consternation to the officials nearly every time), he looked enough like the old Taj to consider it a positive trend.
But overall with he and Noah on the court it was not a good look for the Bulls. Nate Robinson's poor effort trying to contain AJ Price (who had 17 of his 24 in the first half) didn't help either. Neither did Rip Hamilton doing whatever it was he was doing. Some of this game really was not great.
But it's over, and so is the regular season. The Bulls earned at least a relatively advantageous matchup in a team they can potentially overpower inside and exploit holes in their defense. A lot of that depends on the health of the team though, moreso than what we've seen in how the Bulls closed out their season against doormats.