This season has been full of “first time since the Michael Jordan era” moments, and last night was no exception, as the Bulls locked up the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1997-98.
I’m not sure what to say about the game. The Bulls controlled the action without going all out the way they did against at home against Boston on Thursday night. Derrick Rose, in particular, seemed content to play within the flow of the game and defer to his teammates throughout. He never asserted himself — finishing with 11 points, 8 assists and a rebound — but he never had to. The Bulls shot better than the Cavs (48.8 percent to 43.9), won the rebounding battle (41-39), built a 17-point lead and just sort of held on for the victory.
One guy who did assert himself was Carlos Boozer, who dispelled the notion that he can’t have a big game when Joakim Noah plays. Boozington finished with a game-high 24 points (12-for-18) to go along with 11 rebounds. One of those boards was a huge offensive rebound-and-putback with 1:58 left after Cleveland had cut the lead to nine. Booz also scored Chicago’s final points (of an assist from Rose) with 22 seconds left.
By the way, Noah had 11 points (4-for-7), 8 rebounds, 6 blocked shots [!!] and 2 assists in only 24 minutes despite some lingering ankle woes. So, yeah, I think he and Boozer can play together.
The team played unselfish basketball — 30 assists on 39 made field goals — and the Bench Mob was strong as always: 34 points (15-for-31), 12 rebounds, 9 assists and 6 steals. Ronnie Brewer (12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) had a game-best plus-minus score of +12.
Now, no matter what happens over the next three games, the Bulls will have homecourt advantage in every playoff series unless the Spurs hang on to their one-game lead and the two teams meet in the NBA Finals.
Said Noah: “Last year we qualified on the last day and now we are the No. 1 seed. That feels pretty good.”
Everything fell together this season. Rose took his game to an MVP level. Tom Thibodeau proved he should have been a head coach years and years ago. Management — after enduring years of questions about their decision makng and conservative fiscal stance — put together a fantastic ensemble cast around their superstar. Not just in terms of talent. Indeed, there are areas in which the Bulls could definitely improve (specifically, upgrading the starting shooting guard position and bringing in more shooters). But everybody knows their role, works hard, and, most importantly, is dedicated to winning.
Said Boozer: “The good thing about our team is that we have all good guys. We don’t have any jerks on the team, and in the NBA that’s rare.”