Monday, April 30, 2007

Round Two Preview

Well, I'm feelin' Hollinger: This series could pretty much go either way; if it's going to tip toward the Bulls, they'll probably need to take one of the first two; and I do expect that matchups will dictate that we see more Tyrus (although it may not be a good sign that Malik Allen got more minutes than Ty in Game Four.) Individually, here's my breakdown:

Point Guard: Chauncey vs. BenGo

At least according to my recollection, Skiles usually puts Ben on Chauncey on the defensive end. On the one hand, I feel like Rip is a lot less physically overpowering for Ben than Chauncey, but since Hinrich is better at chasing guys through screens, there's certainly some logic to putting him on Rip. Either way, this is a tough matchup for the Bulls defensively, but I think Ben can even it out on the offensive end while going against Rip. He averaged about 18 against them this year, 3 under his season average, but his shooting percentage was nearly 50 percent, and he was exactly 50 percent from ThreeLand. In fact, now that I think about it, if you take away the last game against them---where he got into early foul trouble and ended up with only 2 points in 11 minutes---he averaged 33 points against them. So yeah, he can score against Rip (or Chauncey), but he needs to stay out of foul trouble, which might be easier said than done.

Two Guard: Rip v. Hinrich

The Captain, you'll recall, went absolutely apeshit the last time these two teams met, which was probably his high point of the year. Offensively, Kirk was just mediocre against the Heat, but considering the clamp job he did on Wade, that can be overlooked. On that side of the ball as well, Hinrich gave Rip fits this year, holding him under his average, while forcing him to shoot just a hair over 33 percent. Rip did get to the line more than 7 times a game, though, so again, fouls could be an issue. One would hope that after making Second Team All Defense this year, Kirk might start getting the benefit of the doubt on some of the calls on the defensive end, but if the Miami series is anything to go by, I wouldn't hold your breath. On the other end, I feel like Kirk is going to have to be more of a force than he was against Miami for the Bulls to have a shot. Why?

Small Forward: Tayshaun v. Deng

If it weren't for Baron Davis (and True Hoop's right; you'd have to watch these games to believe just how nasty Davis has been), Luol Deng would be getting even more love from the media than he already is. (The same media, one might add, that thought Pax was nuts for not trading him for Pau "Never Won A Playoff Game" Gasol.) That said, Tayshaun is one of the few 3s who, physically, matches up pretty well against Deng. (The only other one who comes to mind is Josh Howard.) That didn't stop Deng from averaging 22 against the Pistons this year, and one of the greatest things about Deng's play against Miami is that there was an edge and cockiness to his demeanor that I'd never seen him exhibit before. It was slight, but perceptible, which was heartening to see because I sometimes felt that Deng's humility---a real admirable trait---nevertheless kept him from being the total bad ass he's capable of. Still, Tayshaun can be a great defender and I expect him to be salivating at the chance to shut (or at least slow) down the media's newest darling. It'll be hard for Deng to dominate him as thoroughly as he did everyone the Heat threw at him. (Although after the last series, I'm not discounting the possibility.)

Power Forward: Sheed v. PJ

Peej had an absolutely great series against the Heat, leading, at one point, to my old friend from S. Florida texting me: "Et tu, PJ?" On the offensive end, I'd say that, in addition to hitting the open baseline jumpers resulting from the drive and kick, he also has a chance to use his size to get some good looks in the post against Sheed. Defensively, though, I'm nervous about him covering Sheed out on the perimeter and, in particular, whether he'll be fast enough to get back to him after hedging on the pick and roll near the 3 point land. Whenever I caught snippets of the Pistons' romp over Orlando, it seemed like he and Chauncey were running that fricking two-man game to damn near perfection. It is this play, more than anything else about the Pistons, that scares me, and it's why I hope we'll see more of Ty, who has the speed (and the hops) to foil it somewhat.

Center: Webb v. Wallace

Well, if the last series didn't answer the $60 million question, it at least answered $15 mil. of it. With all the hype and shit surrounding Big Ben, I really see it going one of two ways for him (at least in Detroit): He either gets too amped up so that he's sloppier than he usually is on the offensive end and just a medium-factor on the defensive end, or he manages to harness that energy into a finely honed defensive, rebounding, stealing, tipping, shotblocking and foul-drawing tour de force, in which he puts up ludicrous numbers like he did against Cleveland. (By the way, make sure you click on that link. It's awesome.) Either way, I'm thinking it'll be fun to watch.

Bench: Ty, Du, Thabo and Noce v. Delfino, Hunter, McDyess and Maxiell

I've already made my points about Ty and matchups, so let's move on to Du, who, I've gotta say, played very solidly against Miami. I can see why, in the Playoffs, Skiles tends toward he and Noce over Thabo and Ty: If not as spectacular, their play is a lot more steady and constant. It's really a hard call. The rooks add a level of athleticism that, potentially, makes the Bulls the most talented team in the East. But dumb mistakes and turnovers---which, let's face it, Ty and Thabo can make a lot of---can kill you in the playoffs, and thus far, it's hard to argue with the results (or Noce's Game Four, fourth quarter baseline jumper in Walker's eye). I can see why going with the vets makes sense, particularly on the road, and, in the case of the Miami series, particularly when the talent level of your vets overmatches that of your opponents. Will that be the case against Detroit? To some extent, you have to see how the series plays out, but I'm thinking some of the matchups will demand more playing time for the rooks, particularly Ty. Whether Skiles will accede to that demand, or stubbornly bang his head against the wall, remains to be seen.


My head says, heartbreakingly, Pistons in seven. But my heart, which doesn't want to break, says Bulls in six.

Fuck heartbreak. Bulls in six.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Biggest Win Since 1998

That's pretty much nuff said, but I'll add that I couldn't be happier for my namesake tonight. What a game. Went to the hole like a fucking champ, against the fucking champs. Watch your back, Rock City. We gunnin' for ya ass!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Winderman Tempts Fate, Gordon

I think Ira Winderman is great and I wish the Chicago papers had a similar beat writer who also blogged. (K.C, get on this please.) But his argument in this post--that Ben Gordon is not the fearsome scorer LeBron James is--is a little off.

Winderman points out that Gordon was only 19th in scoring this year, which is true enough. But, uh, Ira, in points per minute, my man Ben was 14th, only four spots and (and one point per 48) behind King James. Ira's argument is that the Heat can't afford to double Ben and thus give Luol and Kirk the chance to hit open shots.

I doubt Riles reads Winderman's blog, much less take the advice proffered there, but let's hope he does. Double-teamed, Ben's averaging 25 ppg this series. And you want to leave Eddie Jones on BenGo one-on-one? Cool. Just make sure that when Shaq gets in foul trouble covering for EJ's blown-by-ass, you don't put the blame for the loss--and BenGo's 40 point night--on Riles.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Motion Offense

I was watching the Spurs/Nuggets game last night and I felt deeply unsatisfied with the way both teams played offense. It was, frankly boring to watch. Basically they both run a lot of isolations (especially Denver) and try to go one on one with their best matchup and then crash a boards. It's not particularly beautiful basketball to watch. And it made me realize that as stagnant and aimless as the Bulls offense can look during in spells, particularly when they're not hitting their mid-range jumpshots, they play a basic motion offense that is, when it's clicking really quite extraordinary. Again, without a certifiable interior scorer, it hinges on them stroking their jumpers somewhat consistently, but as the players on our squad become more confident and consistent (Lu, most notably) the motion offense begins to become very, very difficult to stop. More than that, though, it makes for very entertaining basketball. My brother remarked to me this weekend that the Bulls play like an "All Star College Team," which I think is a pretty apt description. Aside from the reliance on the pick and roll (which you don't see as much of in college) they really don't play typical NBA style half court sets. I think that's part of what makes them hard to figure out both as a spectator and for the defenses.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MJ living it up

I wish I could say this was in celebration of the win last night, but sadly, it's just with a few University of Michigan students on a Mexican spring break trip. I think our man is enjoying his divorce, no?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Against Irrational Exuberance

It's a cliche, but it's true: A series doesn't start until the home team loses a game. As of now, the Bulls, the higher seed, haven't done anything they weren't supposed to do.

That said, they've looked good doing it. And-- contra me--neither of these victories came as a result from Kirk's play, much less Ty's. It's pretty much been the Luol and BenGo Show, with Mean Mr. Wallace adding some nice work on Shaq (and key offensive boards), along with Noce's key first half contributions.

However, there were some things, even in a rout, not to like. For starters, Ty's lack of minutes is distressing, particularly when the Heat went small in the fourth. P.J. played a great game, but---and I can't believe I'm about to write this---he's not equipped to handle Antoine Walker off the dribble. (Then again, a confident Antoine Walker is a dangerous the Heat.) If ever there was a time to put Ty in, it was then. There was a dangerous, turnover-laden stretch there in the fourth, and if not for the hot hand of Deng and the cold hand of Posey (who missed two wide open threes within 30 seconds), this could've been a nail biter instead of a blowout. Leave the door open like that in Miami, and don't be surprised if the Heat walk through.

Also, we need to chill out on some of the loose talk that Sefolosha is some kind of dynamic defensive stopper. His efficient offensive game--which also included some big baskets in the fourth--overshadowed the fact that Wade pretty much abused him. When it comes to stopping Wade, Hinrich, who is more physical and quicker laterally than Thabo, remains the Bulls' best bet. (On the other hand, Thabo's mother is a far superior artist to Kirk's.) Kirk is going to have to make sure he stays out of foul trouble early, so that he can stay on the floor in the fourth.

This stuff might seem like nit-picking, but to my mind, if the Bulls are to win this series, they still must take one of the next two games in Miami.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Who is glad . . .

that we didn't trade Deng for Pau? I was in Detroit for the Tigers-White Sox game, so I missed most of the Bulls, (Weak, right? Well I bought these tickets months ago and they should be playing Washington tomorrow anyway), but all signs point to Lu taking over.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Against I

I wish I shared Matt's confidence, but, uh, I don't. I imagine this series will be a lot like the Bulls' year thus far. They will play some very good games, and even blowout the Heat once or twice; the Heat will probably blow the Bulls out once; and then there will be the close games, and I have no confidence that the Bulls can pull those out. I see the series going all seven games, and that's what worries me the most, a replay of what we just saw this week, with the Bulls failing to close the deal when it matters most. But let's hope I'm wrong.

In the meantime, here are my brief takes on the individual matchups.

Point Guard: Kirk v. J-Wil
Easily the Bulls' biggest advantage, and if they do pull out the series, it will be because Kirk stepped his game up another notch. Even working his ass off on the defensive end shadowing Wade, Kirk should be able to get whatever he wants on the offensive end, whenever he wants it.

Shooting Guard: Ben v. Eddie Jones
Technically, Jones plays the 3, but word on the street is that he'll be guarding Ben. The logic is that Ben struggles against bigger guards and that EJ did a nice job on him last time out, but I still give the advantage to Ben. It was actually a Miami-Chicago game in Ben's rookie year when I knew that he was going to be a star, when he absolutely torched the Heat in the fourth quarter. Not having an answer for him, Riles put EJ on him by the end of that game too. It didn't work and that was two years ago: EJ's not getting any younger. Yeah, he's been rejuvenated since re-joining Miami, but Ben should be too quick for him.

Small Forward: Deng v. D-Wade
Again, this matchup is only on the Bulls' offensive end, and it's a smart move by Riles. Deng isn't very physical on offense and it seems like the Bulls mostly run screens for Ben and Kirk. I'm sure he's going to wait and see how it plays out, but Skiles may need to adjust and make Deng more of a focal point on the offense by calling a lot of plays for him on isos, hard cuts, screens, whatever. Deng is certainly capable of putting up huge numbers and if EJ ends up doing a good job on Ben, then he's going to have to.

On the other end, we all know that Kirk does as good a job on Wade as anybody in the league. It's an open question as to whether that will be enough. Wade looked sick in the last five minutes against Indiana last weekend.

Power Forward: PJ Brown v. Udonis Haslem
A slight edge to the Heat here, just because Udonis is basically a younger version of PJ, a good rebounder and defender who can hit the open jump shot.

Center: Wallace v. Shaq
One way or another, we'll have the answer to a $60 million question.

Bench: Ty, Noce and Du v. Posey, Kapono and Zo
The linked Miami Herald story above has it as Posey, Zo and Walker, but after this season, I can't see Riles playing Toine much in this series, particularly since Posey can play the four against the Bulls without being overmatched physically. According to Ira Winderman a few weeks back, Zo was basically running on fumes by the end of the season, so it will be interesting to see what he has left. I wouldn't count him out.

Basically, I agree with my namesake: Ty Thomas is the X-factor in this series, and hopefully I'm just not talking about the number of minutes Skiles gives him. We all know how good he was in the final stretch run. If he can consistently bring that type of production every game in this series, then I may be wrong, and instead of having our hearts broken in Game Seven, we could be feeling elated in six games or under.

Trib preview gone wrong ...

I've finally recovered from Wed. night. Took a day, but I'm ready to start thinking about how we match up against the Heat. I was happy to see the Trib's NBA Playoff Preview when I opened up the paper this morning. Sam Smith gets all wacky and has the Warriors beating the Mavericks and the Suns; in the East he has the Nets taking out the Rapts and the Cavs. I guess you have pick some upsets, but I think Bosh and Bargnani destroy the Nets.

To win the Bulls have to clog the post and make the Heat win with jump shots, with the exception of Kapono, I think that's the poison to pick. So as I was looking at three point shooting percentages in the Trib I see that Walker is shooting 0% from 3 and 43% from the line. I said both of these have to be hosed up, and of course, 'Toine has been jacking 3's, 305 of them, at 2 27.5% clip. But the 43% percent from the line was correct. Can I suggest hack-a-'toine?

So the Trib goofed on a bunch of the Heat's stats from 3. Can we get Sweets a copy editing gig over there?

The correct figures are -

Wade - 26.6%
Kapono- 51.4%
J- Will - 33.9%
Jones - 37.8
Walker - 27.5%
Posey - 37.5%
Payton - 26.0%

With Shaq at 59%, Mourning at 56% and Haslem at 49% from the field I hope Big Ben is ready to play some D.

On offense we ran to run Shaq in the full court and make him come out on the pick and pop, he's awfully slow these days to show and get back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Quote The Immortal Q-Tip:

"You made your bed, so now you lay in it/
There's your shit there on the floor, so go and play in it."

The Bulls shit all over the floor tonight and there's a part of me that thinks if you can't beat New Jersey with the No. 2 seed on the line (and a relative cake walk to the Conference Finals), there's not a chance in hell you're going to knock off the defending champs in the playoffs. But this team has been a rollercoaster all season long, so who the hell knows?

And Sweets, you think you're conflicted? How bout having the team from your current hometown go up against the team from your original hometown?

On the plus side, the Cubs blew another game, this time after heroically rallying to take the lead in the top of the 7th, only to have Eyre give it away in the bottom half. (Oh, and just to rub some salt in that wound, they also loaded the bases with one out in the 8th, only to hit into a double play.) So there was no conflict for me on that end, just more depression.

Oh yeah, the Knicks won by one point too, putting them ahead of Minnesota (and most likely Portland and Charlotte).


Just as the Bulls let the two seed escape in a horrible effort, I'm glued to my gamecast watching Buehrle complete a no-no. That couldn't have made for a stranger emotional experience.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So you're telling me there's a chance

A Truehoop reader figures out the draft lottery percentages, which thanks to the Knicks complete tank job down the stretch, look much better for the Bulls. As if the second half of the season couldn't get any better.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Your Game of the Night

The New Jersey Nets vs. the New York Knicks"

Washington is falling tantalizingly close to the 7th seed. They go 0-2 and the Nets win tonight, then lose to us and we face the Wiz, who I (almost) felt sorry for on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Knicks are in a three-way tie with Minnesota and Portland for the sixth worst record in the league. Apparently the Wolves have shut down KG's minutes, so this might go down to the wire, but the Knicks did get swept by Minnesota this year, so I'm thinking that means they're lower. They split against the Blazers, and I have no idea what the tiebreaker is after that.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Yglesias Sees The Light

When he's right, he's right.

This prediction, of course, rests solely on the Bulls nabbing the two seed. Two more, boys. Two more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Can't we play six at a time?

With full disclosure that I am unabashedly biased towards the leagues/conferences/divisions that my teams play in, I largely agree with Dr. Lawyer IndianChiefs' post over at Free Darko. While his case against the West isn't that convincing (Denver is far from a mess and Golden State has had the Mavs' number this whole season, for example) he lists a few compelling story lines east of Ole Muddy.

A potential Dwight Howard/Shaquille O'Neal matchup at some point.


The Raptors.

LeBron James playing the part of Carmelo in the 2003 NCAA tourney.

The Pistons actually becoming a pleasure to watch, as a result of Webber's passing.

Not to mention, "Chris Webber: REDEMPTION" as he leads the Pistons to the finals.

The Gilbert-less Wizards flailing around the court.

At least one huge scoring night from Antawn Jamison.

Jason Kidd in the playoffs.

Tyrus Thomas in the playoffs. TYRUS THOMAS IN THE PLAYOFFS.
For any Bulls fan, Tyrus in the playoffs is clearly the topper. Which brings us to Matt's post over at BlogaBull.

"Tyrus Thomas: 20min +10
Andres Nocioni: 8min -12

Ah well, can't win 'em all. But I did find it strange when the game was spiraling out of control at the end of the 3rd quarter that Tyrus wasn't put back in. Maybe he (and the other returnees) weren't fully up to speed yet."

Noce coming back so shortly before the playoffs presents an issue. It seemed that Skiles had finally settled on a moderately steady rotation, allowing Ty some tick in the clutch, which he relished on more than a few occasions. His presence also got us away from the dreaded three-guard line-up -- which proved to be horrifying -- and the current group is playing great ball (17-7 since the break if I'm not mistaken).

Deng has been too good this season to sit for very long, which means Noce and Ty will battle for time at the four. It seems easy to forget Andres' brilliant play down the stretch last season, when he provided some grit and timely scoring. Hopefully, he will start to play at full strength, giving the Bulls even more depth, especially in the front court. I guess that is a good problem to have. But sitting Tyrus right at the time he is hitting his stride is problematic. Let's hope Skiles comes up with a good plan and sticks to it.

Huge game tonight, not only to get the taste out of our mouths from the weekend, but to stay ahead of Cleveland too. Ping pong balls are on the line, let's not forget, either. Also, it was nice to see Contreras bounce back last night after the opener. Enough worries; the top three starters will be fine. It's Danks that scares me.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Seems like Bargnani could play on Sunday, and thus will definitely be around for the playoffs. That just makes the 2nd seed all the more necessary.

Always Look On The Dark Side

A 30+ pt. win over our likely first round opponent, without three (Wallace, T-Time and Noce) of our top five frontcourt players. Our grasp on the East's second seed, if not solidified, then certainly not loosened. Another promising performance by Thabo (9 points, 9 boards). Kirk (20 pts., 6 boards, 5 assists) and Luol (24 pts., 12 boards) continued their run of truly excellent all-around play. And Ben Gordon bounced back from his recent mini-slump, shooting 50% from the floor en route to a game high 27. What's not to like?

How about the fact that Ben Gordon cannot get a call in this league to save his life? It's starting to get ridiculous. Guys, Violet: the kid averages 21.5 points a game. Per 48 min., Vince Carter averages 31.3; Ben averages 31.2, while shooting a better percentage. It's pretty simple, really. Ben Gordon is a star. It's damn well past time to start treating him like one and calling fouls when he gets mauled driving the lane.

That is all.

First is the worst, Second in the best

With Cleveland's OT loss to the Wade-less Heat last night, the Bulls are now tied with the Cavs for second place and they hold the tiebreaker. Especially with the Detroit W, the Bulls schedule looks MUCH easier than the Cavs down the stretch. Here's to staying in the two hole.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Not Really Bulls-Related...

...but everyone should read Dave Zirin on why hosting the Golden Games is like getting a Golden Shower.

h/t to Noce, who sounds about as pissed as he can possibly get about this.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Road Easiest Traveled

After tonight's game against the Pistons---and I suppose I should thank Rip, for teaching me that I can in fact hate that team even more---it seems to me the most propitious seeding configuration in the East for the Bulls would actually go something like this:

1) Detroit
2) Cleveland
3) Miami
4) Toronto
5) Bulls

My logic? I think playing with home court advantage against Toronto without Bargnani is as easy a first round matchup as Orlando (Dwight Howard scares me) and easier than New Jersey (Jason Kidd terrifies me). I think the easiest team to beat would be the Butler-less Wizards, but they seem locked into the 6 seed and it looks like it's either 2nd or 5th for the Bulls. But say they get the 2nd seed and knock off either Orlando or New Jersey; the next round's opponent would likely be the Heat. It's true the Bulls would have homecourt in such a scenario, but after tonight's game, I'd prefer our odds against the Pistons even without homecourt advantage over going up against a veteran Heat team that is a) really starting to jell and b) about to throw a freshly rested D-Wade back into the mix.

I guess it's possible Miami may not pass Toronto, in which case, this would be the ideal configuration:

1) Detroit
2) Bulls
3) Toronto
4) Miami
5) Cavs
6) Wiz
7) New Jersey/Orlando
8) New Jersey/Orlando

Actually, now that I think about it, this is probably the consummation devoutly to be wished. Like I said, I fear New Jersey, but this scenario would mean the Bulls would only have to face one of the three best teams in the East---Miami, Detroit or Cleveland---on their way to the Finals, and there'd be a decent chance of them having homecourt advantage in the Conference Finals (should they face either Miami or the Cavs). Yes Bulls fans, this is the scenario to cheer for. If we get stuck playing the Heat in the 1st Round, that's going to really suck.

Good night nurse

Just a dominating performance over the last 17 minutes, without either Ben. Kirk was disgusting, the defense was stifling, the offensive sets were crisp and both rookies played outstanding basketball. Thoroughly entertaining.

Speaking of Ty, I thought that was a horrific piece of officiating on the double technical. Rip threw an elbow, Tyrus didn't do much yet got T'ed, then walked away as Rip chased him barking the entire time. Suddenly, to keep order, you throw out both guys? Pretty bullshit.

You have no idea what I'm talking about ...

Big up to Cook, Florida and whoever the f is reading this blog in Ulaanbaater.

Everyone is poo-pooing the shit out of Noah. Could we see this in a Bulls uni next season?