Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Heat Blow Out Bulls in Season Opener 107-95

By Sean Mackey

Chicago fell to the Miami Heat on ring night 107-95 after a complete first half collapse. Early foul trouble for Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng left the Bulls without any primary defenders for nearly the entire 2nd quarter. This lead to a complete onslaught of turnovers, bad shots and three pointers from the likes of Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Shane Battier. The Heat went on a 31-5 run before ending the half with a 21 point lead. The Bulls eventually came back in the 4th quarter to cut the lead to 8, however a three pointer from Miami put them back up by double digits permanently.

Derrick Rose looked decent but rusty throughout the whole contest. After the Bulls won the opening tip, Rose had the ball stolen by Mario Chalmers almost immediately which lead to an Udonis Haslem dunk. The Heat then proceeded to trap Rose near the sideline during the Bulls second possession. Rose shot a dismal 1-7 from the three point stripe and 4-15 overall finishing with 12 points, 4 assists and 5 turnovers.

The only bright spot for Chicago was the play of Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler. Boozer finished with 31 points on 13-18 shooting, 5-5 on free throws and 7 rebounds. While Butler got in early foul trouble, he picked things up in the 2nd half finishing with 20 points and 5 steals. Butler's defensive intensity was the only thing keeping the Bulls in the game towards the end.

Newcomer Mike Dunleavy looked awful and finished shooting 3-9 after getting some really good and not so good looks.  Dunleavy fumbled the ball on several passes which lead to Miami closing him out on the perimeter before he could shoot. Joakim Noah came back from a groin injury and finished with 2 points and 11 rebounds, being an almost non-factor on the defensive end. Noah seemed out of rhythm the entire game and his lack of playing time during the pre-season really showed. Kirk Hinrich fouled out during the 4th quarter finishing  with 6 points and 6 assists. Luol Deng was also a non-factor scoring 4 points in 29 minutes.  During the 2nd quarter scoring draught, Tom Thibodeau was so desperate for a spark that he put rookie, Tony Snell in the game. LeBron James then proceeded to run right around Snell for an easy lay up.

Overall this was just a bad game for the Bulls. 48 fouls were called throughout the contest and threw the whole game out of sync. Some of the fouls were just, some were questionable. During the 3rd quarter there was a sequence of 3 or 4 fouls in a row that all lead to free throws slowing the game down to an almost complete stop. The Bulls late run in 4th kept dragging my attention back to the game but every time a glimmer of hope happened, another 3 pointer at the other end did as well.  Jimmy Butler is going to be a great addition to this starting lineup however, the Bulls need to figure out a way for him and Deng to play together effectively. Butler will likely have several fouls every game due to his defensive steals but Deng is going to need to play more solid.  Deng's play this season is detrimental to him getting a $14 million per year salary like he wants. I doubt the Bulls will trade him but letting him go for nothing would be terrible.

The Bulls home opener is Thursday night when they host the New York Knicks at 8:00 p.m. on TNT.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bulls Go 8-0 in the Preseason + 2013-14 Season Predictions

By Sean Mackey

The one month drudgery of the pre season is finally complete. While the 8 games meant absolutely nothing, the Bulls looked focused on all levels and came out undefeated for only the 3rd time in franchise history. Derrick Rose is alive, well and looks hungrier than ever along with a Bulls team that has been marred by injuries over the past 3 years. In a season that will likely be the last together for the core roster, Chicago will look to make the most of every opportunity.

While Derrick Rose played in all but one pre season contest, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich missed several games. While it's nice to build some chemistry during the pre-season, it was also important not to rush any of these guys back (which thankfully they didn't). Here's some minor observations from the Bulls 8 game pre season.

5 Observations From the Bulls Pre Season

1. D-Rose is back, and possibly better than ever!

For a player being away from game for 18 months, Derrick Rose sure looked great. D-Rose shot a remarkable .444 from the 3-point stripe and was driving into traffic regularly on every play. I was a little concerned that he may have lost some of his speed but that surely wasn't the case. D-Rose drove at will into the much larger defenders, was occasionally fouled hard and got right back up to do it again. He's back to his all-star form and is ready to prove all doubters wrong.

2. Taj Gibson!

While it sucked to see Noah sit all but one game, the pre season gave Taj Gibson a chance to get his grove back after a lackluster 2012-13 campaign. Gibson led the team in rebounds and generally looked fantastic on both ends of the court. With injuries seemingly always lingering with Noah, I anticipate Gibson will play big minutes this season. If he comes out with the same energy we saw over the last month, watch for Thibs to rely on him a little more than in the past. Considering Nazr Mohammed's age, he'll likely be playing center in smaller lineups quite often.

3. Jimmy Butler is going to have another breakout season.

The weakest link from the Bulls playoff battles over the last few years has always been the shooting guard position. From Keith Bogans to the ghost of Richard Hamilton, as of late the Bulls haven't really had a shooting guard who can both shoot the ball and play defense. Jimmy Butler worked his way off the bench last season into some ridiculous playoff performances last season. Now with Jimmy Butler as a starter, the Bulls have a very talented back court that rivals the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

4. Mike Dunleavy is looking like a free agency steal.

I've never been much of a Dunleavy fan over the years. I know during a few dark seasons, he was the best player on Indiana's roster. After several injuries and a contract with the Bucks, Dunleavy turned down big money to come play in Chicago. He looked REALLY good in the pre season. The guy can shoot the lights out from the corners and is an underrated passer. He's going to fit this roster like a glove.

5. Kirk Hinrich is injured about every other game.

I love Kirk Hinrich. The year he was drafted was the year I started watching Bulls basketball again regularly after a 5 year hiatus. However, Hinrich seems to get injured at the wrong time on a regular basis. When he plays, he's great. He still shoots the three ball well and is ridiculously intense on defense (COUGH! LEBRON TACKLE) but this dude needs to be healthy for the playoffs. Hinrich bumped his head on Erik Murphy's knee in the pre season and was out the next few games with a concussion. It's always something! Look for rookie, Tony Snell to play his way into the rotation and take over some of Captain Kirk's minutes injuries continue (and they will).

2013-14 NBA Season Predictions

If Chicago is going to win a title, this is the year. They're really the only team that's equipped to take down the Heat. If they fall short again, Deng will likely be lost in free agency, Boozer will be amnestied and Euro stud Nikola Mirotic will finally be brought over. Honestly, that all may happen regardless of the team winning a title however, I'm confident barring another injury to a starting five player, this is the Bulls year.

Eastern Conference Standings

1. Chicago Bulls
2. Miami Heat
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Indiana Pacers
5. New York Knicks
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Detroit Pistons
8. Washington Wizards
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
10. Boston Celtics
11. Milwaukee Bucks
12. Toronto Raptors
13. Charlotte Bobcats
14. Orlando Magic
15. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference Standings

1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Golden State Warriors
4. Houston Rockets
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Los Angeles Lakers
7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
9. Portland Trail Blazers
10. Denver Nuggets
11. Dallas Mavericks
12. Sacramento Kings
13. New Orleans Pelicans
14. Utah Jazz
15. Phoenix Suns

Eastern Conference Finals
Bulls over Heat in 7 games

Western Conference Finals
LA Clippers over Houston Rockets in 6 games

NBA Finals
Bulls over LA Clippers in 6 games

Most Valuable Player
Derrick Rose

Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight Howard

6th Man of the Year
Andrei Kirilenko

Most Improved Player
Andre Drummond

Rookie of the Year
Victor Oladipo

Coach of the Year
Doc Rivers