The Chicago Bulls kept their playoff hopes alive with a 105-102 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beating the best team in the conference is normally a good thing, but in this case it's not. The Bulls still need to win out and hope the Indiana Pacers lose out to make the playoffs. With Indiana playing some really easy teams in the Nets, Knicks and Bucks, that's not likely to happen. But a win is a win in the end.
Chicago got a great boost from their bench in this game as they outscored Cleveland in bench scoring 44-23. Cristiano Felicio led the way with 16 points, thanks to 7-7 shooting from the field, and grabbed five rebounds off the bench for the Bulls. Justin Holiday and Aaron Brooks pitched in 7 and 9 points, respectively, but in this matchup it was all about Felicio.
The Brazilian big man continued off his great performance against the Rockets last week and against the Heat on Thursday with another big game. He was great on both ends of the court and even gained the trust of Fred Hoiberg as he was played over Pau Gasol much of the 4th quarter.
Felicio was great on the pick and roll as he was able to roll correctly and finish near the rim. He was 7-7 from the field with many of his shots, if not all, coming in the paint area. He took advantage of his matchups against either Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson most of the night because of this. With Cleveland doubling the ball handler on the pick and rolls, Felicio was wide open inside the lane after setting the screen. In addition to being a really good screener, Felicio has gotten better and catching the ball off a double team and going straight to the basket.
Even though he doesn't even set the pick on that play, Felicio is able to find himself some space and go straight to the basket and attack Love, who isn't the best defensive big man you'll see. Credit should also be given to Felicio for the fancy finish.
He was also great on the defensive end as he was able to hold his own against Thompson. Felicio also had a great block on Kyrie Irving. Despite not having great jumping ability, the fact that Felicio is nearly seven feet tall bails him out in a way and allows him to alter shots at the rim as well. His defense against LeBron was pretty good as well when he was switched on James on a possession late in the 4th quarter.
Credit should be given to Fred Hoiberg for sticking with Felicio down the stretch. After subbing the big man for Pau Gasol early in the 4th quarter against Miami, it all went downhill for Chicago in that loss. Hoiberg did not make the same mistake again.
In a season where there has been little to no positives about this Bulls team. Felicio's play and his contract (he's set to make less than a million next year) has been a pretty good thing for the Bulls.
Two other takeaways
2. Struggling small forwards
Both Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Doug McDermott struggled in this game as both combined for 12 points on a combined 4-11 shooting. McDermott didn't have that great of a game as he only scored 6 points and only hit one three, the only one he attempted. He only played 10 minutes as Fred Hoiberg chose to go with more of Justin Holiday than McDermott.
Dunleavy shot 2 of 7 (28.6%) from the field, as he struggled from deep (1-5 shooting) as well. He hasn't been the same since getting that stomach virus and hasn't looked like the Dunleavy Bulls fans expected.
3. This has been one frustrating Bulls team
Chicago's record against the top teams in the East continues as they improved their record to 7-1 against the top two seeds in the East. Considering the team's current state, that stat is more annoying than impressive. In fact, the Bulls have a better winning percentage against the NBA's top 6 teams than they do against the bottom 8 teams of the league. Frustrating to say the least, only if this team could play consistently.
There's genuinely nothing I love more than the Bulls' meaningless regular season victories over LeBron— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) April 10, 2016