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Chicago Bulls playoffs: Bulls extremely healthy heading into first round

remarkable, really

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

A couple of weeks ago, the Sun-Times had a brief blurb noticing that the Bulls had the same starting lineup for the previous 33 games. It was a record in the Thibodeau era, and actually the longest such streak since The Dynasty.

It hasn't changed since then, and so the Bulls wound up with the same starters (Hinrich/Butler/Dunleavy/Boozer/Noah) for the final 40 games of the season. They were 28-12 in that time.

The Magnificent(ly Healthy) 7

Looking at the entire Bulls rotation, it's even more staggering. The Bulls season really started anew after Luol Deng was traded (his final game was on 1/4) and Thibs went with essentially a 7-man rotation.

In those 50 games since (thanks, not a single one of them has missed significant time.

Dunleavy and Taj Gibson played in every single game. Noah and D.J. Augustin only missed one game apiece (and not even for injury, Noah was sick one night, Augustin had a personal absence).

Butler played in 47 (Rib bruise in February), Hinrich in 46 (his last trip down the well). Boozer coincidentally was the least important and played the least as well, but that still was a very substantial 45 out of 50 possible games (calf injury).

[If going deeper, neither Nazr Mohammed nor Tony Snell were hurt either, their missed games due to Thibs. But as we know, they only get a handful of second-quarter minutes lately (last 10 games they've both dipped below 8 mpg), a trend that will only continue in the playoffs.]

A point of emphasis

Of course, this Bulls squad still has a reputation for surviving great upheaval in part due to injuries to Derrick Rose (kind of a big caveat to all this) and an early Jimmy Butler turf toe injury that had circumstances similar to past performances by the Bulls training (and other) staff.

It was looking like yet another lost season. In part, because at this time last year things were a mess. Joakim Noah's foot problems re-surfaced before the playoffs began, and injuries to Hinrich and Luol Deng (not technically an on-court injury, to be fair) further depleted the team in addition to the spectre of Rose's non-return.

The Bulls then went into the offseason with player health as a point of emphasis, even creating a new position to help that effort. But offseason/preseason issues with both Gibson and Noah, followed by the Butler and (especially) Rose injuries, it looked like the same-old, same-old.

Did the Bulls really change their ways? Tough to say, they could've just been luckier this year than in years past (and unlucky in the time prior). We don't know the work their new strategy imposed on the roster, for all we do know Joakim Noah changing shoes could've made all the difference.

It doesn't seem like upper management and Tom Thibodeau really changed much. The Org. only seemed to handcuff Thibs more and more in terms of useable players in the pursuit of financial savings, and Thibodeau certainly didn't budge on his demands from his team. Since that Deng trade, Jimmy Butler's minutes is at 41.4mpg, Noah's at 37. Dunleavy at 33.7, his highest in 6 seasons. And these are ThibsBall minutes, mind you.

Peaking at the right time

No matter the reasons, the result is important: this Bulls team has had amazing continuity and has ridden that to a very good record in that time. They're healthy (don't even know of any minor issues...Noah's sprained thumb I guess?) and playing their best ball heading into the playoffs. There is going to be a completely seamless transition into this weekend, as the Bulls have been playing playoff-style for months.

The flipside is that it could also mean that the Bulls aren't quite as good as their record lately, as they've enjoyed an advantage (both the health but also an extremely small rotation) that not many other teams have had in that time. But it's better to be peaking now than worried about the potential to improve in this (second) new season.

For their part, the Wizards have been pretty healthy in this timeframe as well, outside of a glaring difference of  Nene missing 22 games. He's played in 4 games recently, but only at around 20 minutes per game.