If a seasonal sweep over the New York Knicks isn’t all the proof you need, I’m not sure what will be. The Chicago Bulls are unpleasant on the eyes, but they get the job done, despite all of the injuries. Carlos Boozer does a better job than most would like to admit. Luol Deng does a little bit of everything all night, every night, while Jimmy Butler is one of the more pleasant surprised to find out about this season. And then there’s Nate Robinson, who forgets sometimes that he isn’t supposed to play like the best player in the NBA.
But there you have it – the Knicks took their winning streak into Chicago and just like the Heat, came out without it at the end of the night. Carmelo Anthony forgot to pass, finishing with a horrifying 13-34 from the field, scoring 36 points, as the Knicks’ defensive problems came back to bite them against a team that hardly ever gets praised for what it does on the offensive end.
The Bulls are going to finish either fifth or sixth in the playoffs, and even the Indiana Pacers, who are most likely going to finish third and handled the Bulls very well this season, don’t want to see them in a best of seven series. Certainly not the Knicks, losing all four times to Chicago, and not the Nets, who have the kind of basketball that usually gives Chicago their best chance of impressing on both ends of the floor.
Nate Robinson is a phenomenon. A player without any limits to what he can and can’t do on the court, and regardless of how many times he pulls off a big night, it’s always surprising. This time he finished with 35 points on 10-18 from the field, not even thinking about passing most of the time. Rip Hamilton, making his return with 26 minutes off the bench, did most of the passing, finishing with 8 assists.
Chicago have a front line that’s hard to handle, even without Joakim Noah, who’ll probably be carrying his injury problems into the playoffs. Luol Deng and his long long arms make life very problematic for any wing scorer, even if Anthony did score 36 points. When you take 34 shots, you better end up with at least the number of your field goal attempts, and yet Deng made him miserable on more than one possession.
Carlos Boozer isn’t the kind of guy who deserves the kind of money he’s being paid, but he is a smart offensive player, possibly the best passer the Bulls have not including Noah and Rose, who aren’t with them at the moment. He finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, and a bit more focus and aggression from him on defense can go a long way. We’re left with Jimmy Butler, playing 50 minutes, putting up 22 points and 14 rebounds. There’s still something raw about his offense, but he’s playing a lot bigger than his height, 6’7, suggests. With him playing like that and considering the form of other teams, the Bulls are favorites to win their first round series regardless of the opponent.