With a 113-86 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Chicago Bulls didn’t just complicate things for their rivals in their attempt to make the NBA playoffs, but also clinched at least one round of home court advantage for themselves in the postseason, although they still don’t know if they’ll be third or fourth in the Eastern conference.
The other big winners thanks to this result are the Boston Celtics, getting to clinch a postseason spot which leaves just one slot open for the Pacers, Nets and Heat to fight over for. While the Nets can still make it, their form over the last two games, losing twice by more than 20 points, suggests they’re hitting the wrong kind of form at the worst time, and who knows, maybe not actually trying to make the postseason.
Either way, it looked bad in the first quarter, a bit better in the second quarter and completely collapsed in the third quarter. For a second straight game they shot well under 40%, held to just 36.8% from the field by the Bulls. The Bulls shot well from pretty much everywhere, including 40% from beyond the arc, and enjoyed a very good performance from Nikola Mirotic off the bench.
The rookie big man has been quite a revelation this season, adjusting very quickly to life in the NBA and showed that he’s much more than a stretch four that many thought he’d be. He finished with 26 points, and is finishing the season on a high, averaging 18 points per game since March 1, with his minutes up to 27.8 per game. He’s combining especially well with Derrick Rose since the point guard’s return to action.
Rose himself scored 13 points and added 7 assists, not having too much trouble with Deron Williams. Once again the Nets’ lineup seemed at more than just a loss at how to generate points and good scoring opportunities, with just Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez scoring in double figures. The bench didn’t provide any timely relief, as the Nets now find themselves on the verge of missing out on a playoff spot that a week ago seemed to be quite close to being theirs.
Pau Gasol added another double double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, Taj Gibson played well in Noah’s absence with 15 points and Jimmy Butler scored 17. It was interesting to hear Tom Thibodeau speak about possible playoff rotations, suggesting it’ll come down to nine players: Rose, Butler, Noah, Gasol, Dunleavy, Brooks, Mirotic, Gibson and either Kirk Hinrich or Tony Snell at shooting guard.
Finishing third for the Bulls will mean playing the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, a team they’ve beaten three times in four games this season. Finishing fourth will mean a clash with the Washington Wizards, a team that knocked them out in the first round of the playoffs last season, and split the four game series with the Bulls this season.