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Bulls Sun Apr 14 2013

Luckily The Bulls Won't Play sub-500 Teams In The Playoffs

Bulls_200.pngThe Bulls have played this month just like April itself: a few pleasing days, but not enough to ignore the cold (shooting) and slippery (falling to sixth in the East) ones. This week, they've bolstered their reputation of being streak-enders and punching bags for teams whose fan bases just want this season to be over, like the losses they suffered Tuesday and Friday to Toronto. It's apparent that the Bulls want this season to be over too -- well at least the regular season. This team won't back down against opponents with championship aspirations. Mental fatigue is more evident than physical for this squad, so what can fans expect from the Bulls come playoff time? Exhausting displays of will and grit, with outcomes none can predict. Not just yet anyways.

Now while the Bulls don't necessarily have voiced goals of reaching the NBA Finals, they will enter each playoff series buying that they could, in spite of offensive limitations, win three out of six games with defense, and then hopefully stealing one on the road if Marco Belinelli, the point guards and, yes, even Rip Hamilton all get hot. Well, this is plausible against any Eastern Conference foe besides the Miami Heat, who even if the Bulls play the perfect game, LeBron James could still single-handedly decide the outcome of the games... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

So with three games left in regular season hoops, sports bars are dusting off Chicago Bulls flags that they only pull out in late April in preparation of slowed-down, every possession counts, defensive playoff basketball. Can this better serve any team in the East more than the Bulls? It sounds ridiculous but the Bulls are starting to get healthy, and just might have enough depth to win a playoff series or two. I haven't been day-drinking in Wicker Park, or coming off a runner's high with the beginning of "fun-k's" season either, I'm serious. With Taj Gibson close, and Joakim Noah being purposely rested, they team should be at full strength (minus medically cleared for two months now Derrick Rose.)

The playoffs are an eight-man rotation slugfest. In six April games, Nazr Mohammed has averaged seven points, and nine rebounds in 31 minutes of actions. Not any of those feats could even the looniest soothsayer have predicted before this run. Mohammed has done a nice job filling in, but he'll barely sniff the court if all are healthy come round one. Jimmy Butler has presented his case for 30 minutes a night, even with healthy two-guards such as Hamilton and Belinelli. The luxury of Butler is that he can also give Luol Deng a breather. When look at his game splits on basketball-reference, Deng shoots a little better and does more when playing 40 plus minutes versus games he doesn't, but come crunch time he's going to need breaks when potentially guarding Paul George, Joe Johnson and other small forwards.

Seeing the big man rotation trio of Carlos Boozer, Gibson and Noah, which the Bulls used before the All-Star break, seems like a distant memory. The three have only played in the same game once since the March 21 loss to the Portland Trailblazers. In the last 24 games since Feb. 24, the three have only dressed in two games together. If these three can get into the same rotations, the Bulls can do some damage; Gibson started the season off slowly but started playing better, you know how great Noah has been, and Boozer is still on a tear, so it's tough to argue that the three isn't the best set of power-forwards and centers in the East.

You know who has the team's second highest PER? Nate Robinson. Robinson, who has a flare for the dramatic and an Instagram account that has more inspirational quotes than my girlfriend's Pinterest board, has been oddly steady for the Bulls. He's the team's only player shooting over 40% from three. He actually only turns the ball over the 1.7 times a game, which ties him for fourth on the team. When you breakdown some win-loss splits, it's clear when he shoots at a higher percentage from the field in less minutes, the team wins; with that said, he has shot his team out of games in extended playing time. The happy medium would be if you can get 25 efficient minutes with Robinson, and a healthy Bulls front-court to grab his bad shot rebounds, again, the Bulls can win some games.

So the Bulls will be mentally ready for the playoffs, and quite possibly physically too. All these games are going to matter which might be just what the doctor ordered for a team, that seems to takes less-than opponents lightly. There's really only one key to the playoffs, total team effort each night. And save for Rose, who no one is planning on showing up, the team will be total enough to put forth the effort to win at least four games come round one.

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