- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- With just two regular season games remaining, the Chicago Bulls offense remains in a state of transition.
Considering all the injuries the Bulls have dealt with throughout the year, it's obvious that they are still finding their way on the floor. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Bulls came into Saturday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks having won 28 consecutive games when scoring 100 points or more -- the longest streak in the league. The problem for the Bulls is that they've only scored 100 twice this month and are only averaging 91 points in those 11 games.
Derrick Rose, the leader of the Bulls' offense and the man usually in charge of making things go, understands the lack of scoring has been a problem. Rose has only played in four games over the past month and a half because of groin and ankle injuries, so the Bulls are hoping his presence gets things back on track soon. Rose doesn't sound too concerned. He believes the offense will be fine once the playoffs begin.
"We’re just missing shots," he said after Saturday night's win. "I think that we’re over-passing in certain situations where we should shoot the ball. We’re so unselfish that we’ll try to make the pass and teams are getting a hand on it and we just got to get a little bit selfish when we get to the lane. Where most of our turnovers are happening in the lane [is] where we should shoot the ball. And our bigs are looking to rebound, but we try and thread the needle and that’s creating turnovers."
Veteran guard Richard Hamilton shared that same point of view. He believes that with Rose back in the fold the Bulls will find their groove again soon.
"We had a lot of easy shots we just didn’t make," he said. "I thought that we’ll get those opportunities, 90 percent of the time we’ll make them, but the ball just hasn’t gone in. Lately we’ve been turning the ball over so we just wanted to be a little bit more careful with taking care of the ball and making the easy play."
That's why the Bulls think that their next two games are so important ... no matter what the Miami Heat does. With a Miami loss Sunday night to the Houston Rockets, the Bulls would clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. As far as the players are concerned, that doesn't make the final two contests meaningless. All that means is that it gives the starters another chance to figure out a way to play well together before the playoffs begin.
"It was tough," Bulls center Joakim Noah said regarding the fact that the Bulls' starters have only played together in a handful of games all season. "We haven’t been able to play a lot together, but this is why these next two games are really important. We just got to stay focused and understand that there’s a big picture and just get ready for the playoffs."
Bulls’ tough guys: The Bulls took some criticism from fans and media alike after Thursday's loss to the Heat because of the way it seemed they got out-muscled, especially after some perceived cheap shots from several Heat players. But when asked Saturday night, Tom Thibodeau brushed off the notion that his team is too nice and doesn't have any enforcers.
"When you look at the strength of the club, we’ve been a defensive team, we’ve been a rebounding team for a long time," Thibodeau said. "We’ve been a dominant rebounding team. You can’t be a dominant rebounding team being soft, I know that. I wouldn’t say we’re soft. Now were we disappointed with the end result in Miami? Yeah. And are we capable of playing a lot better? Yeah. We were disappointed in our fourth quarter, but we also did a lot of good things in that game, that game was very winnable in the fourth quarter. So we’re going to make the necessary corrections and move forward."
The last word: Deng, on the mentality the Bulls have heading into the last two games of the regular season:
"It’s really easy to get up for a playoff game. Right now at this time, you’ve got to challenge yourself and just coming in focused and just treating it like this is the start of it. Just getting your reps in, getting your rhythm in, and before you know it, we’re starting the playoffs."
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info