Bulls clinch 5th seed in playoffs, will face Nets on Saturday
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com April 17, 2013 9:31PM
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls rebounds over teammates Joakim Noah #13 and Jimmy Butler #21 as well as Trevor Booker #35 of the Washington Wizards at the United Center on April 17, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: April 18, 2013 3:58PM
So Brooklyn it is.
Thanks to a 95-92 win by the Bulls over Washington in Wednesday’s regular-season finale, Tom Thibodeau’s team locked down the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and will face the Nets, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday in Brooklyn.
Privately, it was the opponent that the Bulls wanted, and not just because of the 3-1 record they recorded against the Nets in the regular season. The playoffs are about matchups, and the Bulls feel like their bigs up front – especially with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah playing a second-consecutive game after extended injuries – can cause some problems in the paint for Brooklyn.
And while the Nets have some talented players in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, they aren’t the most disciplined team, especially late in games. That plays right into the hands of a grind-it-out, defensive-minded coach like Thibodeau.
Just don’t remind him of the regular-season advantage the Bulls had over the Nets.
“I don’t put a lot of stock in that, they’re really good,’’ the coach said after the win over Washington. “They’re the higher seed and they earned that. We’re going to have to be ready. They play hard. We have to be ready for them.’’
And Thibodeau will also have to be ready to juggle minutes and his rotation. Gibson (sprained left MCL) played 21 minutes on Wednesday, while Noah (right foot plantar fasciitis) put in 14 minutes of work. Neither started, and neither may start, at least in Game 1.
“Whatever they can give us, and I’m sure that they can give us more and more as we go along,’’ Thibodeau said of the two players.
With Carlos Boozer scoring a team-high 19 points with 15 rebounds and veteran Nazr Mohammed having another solid showing with 17 points and seven rebounds, Noah has no problem coming off the bench to keep his minutes managed.
“I’m cool with whatever,’’ Noah said. “I can handle the bench. We’ll talk it over with Thibs. I was just happy I was able to play [the last two games] and feel good after. Now we’ll see what the game plan is.’’
The win in the finale gave the Bulls a 45-37 record, including a 24-17 mark at home. And all the while, they did it without Derrick Rose, who missed all 82 games with the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered last April in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia.
“It’s a season where it could have really gone downhill, but big credit to the guys that really stepped up when guys were hurt,’’ Luol Deng said. “I mean 82 games is a long season, and to get 45 wins with all these injuries, messing with different lineups, I thought we did a great job.’’