Bulls-Hawks Preview

Update: Kirk Hinrich (elbow) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Carlos Boozer (hamstring) are all out again tonight. Hinrich is expected to be out at least a week with this injury. Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, Rip Hamilton and Nate Robinson are starting for the Bulls, which means extended minutes for Gibson, Deng and Butler (Nazr Mohammed continues to fall in Tom Thibodeau’s eyes).

Atlanta Hawks Status Check:
Record: 29-16
Division: 9-3
Conference: 17-11
Home Record: 16-7
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 93-92 win over Toronto
PPG: 96.7 (14th)
Opponents PPG: 96.0 (9th)
Offensive Rating: 104.3 (16th)
Defensive Rating: 103.5 (9th)
Pace: 91.4 (16th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .515 (5th)
Turnover Percentage: .145 (28th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .731 (17th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .233 (26th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .165 (28th)
Opp. eFG%: .491 (13th)
Opp. TO%: .147 (5th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .187 (6th)
Leading scorer: Josh Smith (16.8)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Atlanta Injury Report:
Anthony Morrow: out (strained hip/sore back)
Zaza Pachulia: questionable (sore Achilles)
Lou Williams: out (torn ACL)

Overview:
Chicago lost their first game of a five game road trip, but that isn’t the bad news. They may have lost Joakim Noah for an extended period of time with plantar fasciitis. The last time Noah dealt with this injury, it was in his other foot, and it kept him out for 18 games. The fact that Noah has been through this before could help his return, but it’s still too early to know.

“I know it’s hard to come back from,” Noah said. “But I’m on it a lot earlier than I was last time and I think the difference was that last time I just tried to keep fighting through it and keep fighting through it. And I’m just trying to be smart about it, because I just know that if I would have kept playing on it, even just today, I would probably have been out for a lot longer. I’m just trying to be smart.”

Being smart is the key. There is no reason to rush Noah back. If we are being honest, there is no reason he was playing nearly 39 minutes a night to begin with, but that’s a different story. Right now, Noah is the most important Bull. Chicago needs to take the same care with Noah as it is with Derrick Rose. If that means Noah misses 15 to 20 games, then so be it. It’s just unfortunate that the Bulls don’t have a Turkish center as Noah’s backup that just so happens to be an elite rebounder and elite defender. I mean, that would be really hard to find and if a team does have something like that, they probably wouldn’t just give it up.

Not only was Noah out, but Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer and obviously Derrick Rose were missing as well. The Bulls put in a great effort, even led going into the fourth quarter, but eventually—and not surprisingly—ran out of gas down the stretch. Taj Gibson (16 points, nine rebounds) played the entire game and Luol Deng (18 points) sat for just four seconds, when he went out with an injury.

Four guys—Gibson, Deng, Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson—played more than 40 minutes.

Tom Thibodeau will surely say the Bulls have “more than enough to win with.” But that “more than enough” he is referring to keeps shrinking. Gibson and Deng playing 48 minutes in a game is a bad idea. The fact that the game also happens to be the first night of a back-to-back makes it worse.

It’s clear Thibs doesn’t trust many of the guys on this team. Nazr Mohammed started but played only eight minutes, Marquis Teague played just seven minutes, while Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic didn’t see the floor. It’s understandable that the guys at the end of the bench aren’t Thibodeau’s top choices, but he has to play them at this point. One of these days, he is going to have to realize that what’s causing these injuries are the high minutes. Deng has, knock on wood, stayed relatively healthy even with the extra load for the past three seasons. But as a center, Noah breaking down was more likely to happen.

Right now, the Bulls have ten healthy bodies. All of those bodies need to get in the game. Rip Hamilton needs to play more than 17 minutes like he did on Friday night. The minutes need to be spread out, and if Tom Thibodeau doesn’t understand that, he needs to be told. Killing Deng and Taj isn’t the answer to these injuries, it’s the start of more injuries.

The Bulls got crushed the last time they met Atlanta on the second night of a back-to-back, falling 92-75. Chicago got revenge the next time, holding the Hawks to 58 points in a 39-point shellacking.

While the few healthy Bulls were logging big minutes, the Hawks were resting, as they’ve been doing for some time now.

Atlanta hasn’t played since a Wednesday night win over the Raptors. Al Horford scored 22 points on 15 shots and also grabbed ten boards, Josh Smith posted 20 points and eleven rebounds and Kyle Korver hit 5-9 three pointers. Korver is averaging 18.4 points over his last five games, while shooting 59.0 percent from deep.

The Bulls had an uphill battle to begin with, playing a rested team on the second night of a back-to-back. Chicago is 4-6 playing on no rest, and that is when they were a much healthier team.

As for who is playing tonight, that’s still up in the air. Noah shouldn’t play; he needs to rest. Hinrich was sent back to Chicago, which doesn’t bode well for him playing tonight. Boozer said he is still stiff. No matter what the Bulls have, they’re going to give it their all. It’s just my hope that the minutes are spread out, because this situation is already bad, it shouldn’t be made worse.

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3 Responses to Bulls-Hawks Preview

  1. bob.edwards47@yahoo.com'
    BoppinBob February 4, 2013 at 3:16 am #

    Breadan, your snide comment about not having a “Turkish center” shows your total lack of understanding of the economics of professional basketball. It is a good thing you are not the GM.

    Thibs handling of Butler seems to have worked out so I can’t critize the way he is handling Teague.

    As far as Cook and the Rad man getting playing time, what little I have seen of them they were lost on the defensive end of the court. Bulls b-ball starts with defense. They will get PT when they learn the defense.

    Injuries happen. Teams have to fight through them as best they can. I am writing after the Bulls beat the Hawks, so now they are 5-6 playing on no rest and not being healthy. Noah will always be dealing with ankle or knee problems because of his size and build. Gibson is there to back him up. As long as the Bulls don’t rush players back from injuries I have no problem with the way Thibs and his staff are handling the players.

  2. Jimbo February 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Bob, perhaps you don’t understand the truth. The Bulls cheaped out and let a great back-up center leave the team. All because they didn’t want to spend any money. The “economics” of Bulls ownership is confusing you.

  3. Braedan Ritter February 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    BoppinBob I understand basketball economics. I also understand that Asik would have cost just $5 million for the first two years, a low price for a center of his talent. I also know that the Bulls have always been an organizational afraid to spend money. But you’re right, it’s good I’m not the GM…I mean the Bulls don’t need another elite defensive player and rebounder, right?

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