Game Preview: Are the Bulls ready?
|03.16.09 at 11:59 pm ET|
At this point in the season, every game is critical for the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. A win on Tuesday in Chicago would inch the Celtics closer to first place in the Eastern Conference. A victory for the Bulls could put them back in the eighth seed. Both teams are hungry for the postseason. The question is, would be Bulls be ready if they made it to the playoffs?
“Right now, no,” said Kirk Hinrich. “We’ve definitely had our moments, but we need to play much more consistently and bring it every night. At times we’ve taken nights off and it’s kind of hurt us, so we have to make everything count from here on out.”
The Bulls (30-37) lost their footing in the East when the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Celtics (50-17) on Sunday to reclaim possession of the final spot. After getting blown out by the Orlando Magic last week, the Bulls must face both the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers in the next five days.
“[We have to] play defense and be aggressive throughout the whole game,” said Derrick Rose. “[Those teams are] real consistent in everything they do – defense and offense. We’ve just got to stay a little more consistent and play hard.”
The Celtics have beat the Bulls by an average of 17 points in their first two meetings of the season. In their first game, the Celtics held the Bulls to less than 30% from the field. In their second game, Rajon Rondo dished 15 of the Celtics’ 40 assists. Both games were lessons for the Bulls to learn from.
“I think every night we have to come in with a certain urgency,” said Hinrich. “Consistently, we just need to start playing better basketball for longer stretches of time and we have to hang on. It’s going to be a tight race. People are jockeying for position and we definitely want to be in there.”
An eighth seed in the playoffs would mean a match up with a team like the Celtics, Cavaliers, or Magic, who are currently vying for the top spot in the East. Veteran point guard Lindsey Hunter faced the Celtics in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the Detroit Pistons. He understands firsthand the level of competition the Bulls would be up against.
“I think the first thing that stands out with Boston and with Cleveland is clear cut – their identity is defense,” he said. “They totally take away what you like to do and they make you go to your second, third option. And teams that can do that on a consistent basis are teams that are tough, because that’s tough to do.
“You have to really be on the same page and really be to the point where guys trust each other no matter what. And when I watch those guys play, I see it. Defensively, I see the rotations that guys aren’t second guessing. And if there is a missed rotation, then guys are talking to each other and communicating. And I’ve been on teams like that so I know what that’s like, and it takes a lot of growth to get there. It takes a lot of growth. And with a young team like ours, I definitely think we can. It just takes some time.”
The Bulls admit they will have work to do if they advance to the playoffs — “We’ve still got some kinks,” said Rose. But with 15 games left to go in the regular season, they are staying optimistic about clinching a postseason berth.
“Our goal is getting the playoffs,” Hinrich said. “I don’t think anyone is thinking about next year right now. We’re focused on the task at hand and just trying to get into the playoffs and see what happens.”
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