Monday, 14 March 2011

Bulls move within a half of Boston

With their win Saturday night, Chicago moved to percentage points behind the Celtics for a share of the East's #1 seed.

Boston won a record-setting match over the Bucks on Sunday evening to maintain their half-game lead over Chicago in an increasingly tight Eastern Conference. Boston are now 47-17 with Chicago 47-18.

Saturday night's win should has been assured at half-time with the Bulls up 68-41, a franchise record 13 first-half 3's seeing them streak out to a 27-point lead after 2. The Jazz were scoreless for nearly 4 minutes of the game until they got onto the board at 12-2. Chicago continued to knock in triples for fun and ended with a team-best 8 for the quarter, ending it 37-17 up. Rose alone hit 5 of 6 with Deng and Korver hitting the mark from downtown.

Into the second and Chicago kept up the pressure with the second unit joining in the party from behind the arc, Watson was 2 of 2 in the quarter, with Korver, Deng and Rose adding 1 more each. Noah came in and grabbed a number of offensive boards, Kurt Thomas showed he still has the jump shot that makes him a danger out to 15 feet.

The Bulls came into the locker room with 68 on the board, another record for the team.

An extra-long halftime was taken as Chi-town honoured the 20th anniversary of the 1990-91 title winning season, the team's first. Scottie Pippen and now team-owner Michael Jordan made a brief address to the capacity crowd, in which Jordan delivered a message of optimism.
"You guys are in for a lot of other championships," he said of the onlooking current squad. "Don't be surprised if you have six more coming."

High praise indeed, from a man who rarely hands out compliments. Joakim was particularly respectful of 'Those' Bulls and the legacy they created in the 90's. "When you have a player like Michael giving us love like that it feels great." Noah kept sight of the present by offering that despite this praise, they still have their faults. These faults were laid bare, Chicago got stuck in a familiar rut as they couldn't get a shot to fall or a stop on defense.

Whether the long break drained the momentum from Chicago, they came out firing blanks, the Jazz finally functioning in defence, holding the Bulls to just 27% shooting in the quarter. Al Jefferson came to life to lead the Jazz to 54% shooting as they cut and held the lead to under 20.

Although Kyle Korver stopped the rot with a key 3-pointer, the Jazz scented blood and closed to 102-90 midway through the final period, but a nice run buy a mix of bench and starters closed out the game. So much damage was done by half time that Rose was without a score in the 4th. He finished with 26pts, 7 assists. Deng also had 26 with 4 rebounds as Chicago out-rebounded the opposition yet again for their 6th W in a row and 9th win in 10.

Tuesday sees the visit of the Wizards, the first of many games against sub .500 teams. Chicago must be feel confident that the top see is within reach as Boston have 7 of their next 9 on the road, including a trip to New Orleans. Boston's road record is not the best, so dropping a game or two is a possibility.

Currently, the Celtics have a 2-1 series lead of Chicago with one to play, at the United Center in April. Splitting the series would mean the tiebreaker is decided over the pair's record vs the other Eastern teams.

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