Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Thursday, June 30

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Hawks Begin Final Push to Playoffs White Sox Win Ugly After Early Bombardment »

Bulls Fri Apr 01 2011

Bulls Stay Focused Down the Stretch

derrick rose dunk.jpg

Derrick Rose / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo

It seems fitting that on Chicago baseball's Opening Day, I'm thinking about how long the NBA season feels. It shouldn't seem that way, and in fact, with the Bulls leading Boston by only two games for first in the Eastern Conference, this should feel like the closing weeks of a September pennant race.

Well, maybe it would if there weren't 16 teams in the playoffs. As it stands, the Bulls aren't putting too much emphasis on this final push for the No. 1 seed. They've been through a LOT of challenges this year, and maybe they feel they've seen about all that can be thrown at them. At this point, there's nothing left to surprise them, so they want to just get to the games that matter and see where they stand.

But if Tom Thibodeau heard that, he'd probably slap you. So let's put on our coachin' hat and take a look at the big questions facing the Bulls over the final week and a half.

Can Derrick Rose reduce his turnovers?

Call it blasphemy, but Derrick Rose has one sizable flaw in his game and he knows it. He tends to turn the ball over either late in the game, or occasionally, throughout the entire game. Very occasionally. He typically holds himself publicly accountable for his mistakes, but he was back at it again Monday night, losing the ball 10 times in the loss to Philadelphia.

Thibodeau came to his defense after that, saying "when you handle the ball as much as he does there's going to be [some turnovers]. ... I thought he was trying to make the right plays."

I understand that this can come off as nitpicking. He's only had five-plus turnovers in a game nine times all season. Point being, the kid's playing alright. But he's known to try to do too much occasionally, and that extends to his ball handling. I think he's learned throughout the season to accept a double or triple team and get rid of the ball, but it's certainly been a process.

Which Carlos Boozer will show up in the playoffs?

Boozer played a great game Wednesday night against the Timberwolves (but then again, lots of people play great games against the Timberwolves.) Posting 24 points and 14 rebounds in only 29 minutes, Boozer showed the type of skills that made him the Bulls' biggest off-season acquisition. Yet he hadn't scored 20 points since Feb. 23, and he had only six points at Atlanta on March 22.

Again, this is nitpicking. The big guy has scored in single digits only three times this season, so clearly, when he's healthy to play, he's usually good for at least 10-15. But the key word there is "healthy", and that's certainly not something you can say about him this year. I've never been one to want to hold someone's injury luck in a season against them. But I'd be lying if I said I'm not worried about the Bulls going through the entire postseason with Boozer available every game. It's a physical world under the rim, and ankles do roll. His seem to more often than others, unfortunately.

Should Thibodeau start resting his stars?

It's done often in the closing weeks of an NFL season, with playoff seeds secure: teams resting starters, both to recover from existing injuries and avoid risking future ones. The Bulls aren't there yet; not even close. A lot can happen in eight games, especially when one of them is against the very team you're fighting for first place.

But considering the Bulls are finally at a point with both Joakim Noah and Boozer healthy, and Rose undoubtedly feeling the effects of playing so many minutes this season, maybe it's time for Thibodeau to start checking their minutes. Yet you don't want to risk the momentum you've built to this point.

Evidently I'm not alone, as Thibodeau seems quite focused on keeping things rolling:

[D]on't expect the veteran coach to cut their big minutes any time soon.

"We all play the same amount of games," Thibodeau said. "Every team in this league is going through the same thing. And you look at the teams that are playing well right now and you've got guys playing big minutes. So that's part of managing the league, and preparing yourself for what you're going to be facing. You can find an excuse every night if that's what you choose to do. But I think the special teams continue to get better as the season goes along. And the teams that are playing their best and are the healthiest at the end usually perform well in the playoffs, so that's what we have to strive towards. And we can't stop concentrating on our improvement."

Fair enough, coach. Onward and upward.

GB store
GB store
GB store

Tailgate on Flickr

Join the Tailgate Flickr Pool.

About Tailgate

Tailgate is the sports section of Gapers Block, covering all Chicago sports. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Chad Ruter,
Tailgate staff inbox:



Tailgate Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15