Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Bulls enjoying well-deserved good fortune
By Jon Greenberg
In a season that started with heartbreak, the Bulls are enjoying some late good fortune.
In a video that has gone deservedly viral, Joakim Noah was crestfallen about the late-season fallen snow Monday night after the Bulls disposed of the Magic in their home regular-season finale.
I feel you, Jo. I was scraping ice off my car at 5:30 a.m.
But later on Tuesday morning, the sun was shining on Chicago and the Bulls' playoff fortunes.
Thanks to Miami's lying down again, the Indiana Pacers clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Bulls, thanks to a timely loss to the Knicks on Sunday, seemed locked in on the fourth seed.
And the fourth seed is better than the third. In a season marred by "tanking" talk, it's amusing that the Bulls lucked into a perfect situation sans chicanery.
Imagine thinking that in December.
In a season that saw the Bulls dealt the ultimate bust card in another knee injury to Derrick Rose, they've had some deserved good fortune. From the availability of season-saver D.J. Augustin to the (knock on wood) good health of the team, the Bulls have been living good for months.
The Bulls' first-round opponent isn't clear yet, and they could still get the third seed if they beat Charlotte in the finale and Toronto loses to New York. So they could still be playing Washington, but let's pretend we know they're facing Brooklyn in a four-five series, a rematch of last season's thrilling first-rounder, now with 100 percent more Kevin Garnett. The Nets did a 180 from their early-season struggles and look like a dark horse, but they're not going to get out of this series.
The Bulls went 2-1 against Brooklyn this season. In their only loss, last month, they had 28 turnovers and lost 96-80. In their two wins, both coming after Rose was hurt, they held Brooklyn to fewer than 80 points. Jason Kidd is a better coach than we thought, but he's no Tom Thibodeau. And Garnett can't bully Noah and Taj Gibson anymore.
After a six-game series, the Bulls face either Atlanta or Indiana. I say either because the Pacers look like they could be the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round since, well, the Bulls lost to Philadelphia in 2012. Of course, the Bulls had a good excuse that series.
And if Indiana wins, the Bulls will be a formidable opponent for a team breaking down at the wrong time. Where the Pacers have strife in the locker room, Chicago has unity. It would be a fun, physical series, but I think the Bulls could win it at home in six.
So what value do you place on a Rose-less Bulls' playoff run? Since the 2010 free-agent class remade this roster, Chicago has had a "championship or bust" mentality.
But what about a very nice season that ends in the East? What does that do for you?
To me, it's validation that this organization is on the right track. Despite the injuries and occasional turmoil, the arrow is pointing up for this team. I, for one, would like to see a long playoff run that inspires a lot of joy and a little hope.