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Bulls need to start fine-tuning for the playoffs

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Bulls need to start fine-tuning for the playoffs

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 10:01 a.m.
By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com
With less than a month left in the NBAs regular season, the competition is heating up for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It might come down to the Bulls-Celtics game at the United Center on April 7th, but then again, Boston coach Doc Rivers has already said he wont push his veteran starters just to get the number one seed. The Celtics have been to the NBA Finals in two of the last three seasons, and Rivers is confident they can win any series, even without home court advantage.

The Bulls, on the other hand, will go all out to get the top spot so they can avoid playing either Boston or Miami in the Conference semi-finals. Finishing 1st means an opening round match-up against a team with a losing record (either Indiana, Charlotte or Milwaukee), and a semi-final series against either Orlando or Atlanta. And, if the Bulls are fortunate enough to advance to the Conference finals, playing a potential Game 7 at home against either Boston or Miami would be extremely valuable.

READ: Bulls playoff tickets go on sale Friday

So, aside from finishing with the best record, what other goals should Tom Thibodeau and his staff have for the rest of the regular season? First off, getting some rest for Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. Those two players lead the team in minutes played, and theyre always on the court in crunch time. Knowing Thibodeaus desire to win every possession, its hard to picture him changing his rotation, unless the Bulls find a way to wrap up home court advantage before the final week. But any time off Rose and Deng can get down the stretch will certainly help them heading into the playoffs.

Secondly, the Bulls need to re-establish Carlos Boozer in the low post. Even before Boozer suffered that ankle sprain earlier this month, his offensive numbers had dropped significantly. The Bulls struggled to get the ball to Boozer on the block, and more and more of his shots became fallaway jumpers. With the emphasis on half-court execution in the playoffs, the Bulls need Boozer playing at peak efficiency again, so its important to use the final weeks of the regular season to get Carlos more touches so he can feel confident about his game going into the post-season. Over his career, Boozer has increased his production in the playoffs, which is a very encouraging sign for Bulls fans.

WATCH: Rose on Bulls' 41-point 2nd quarter in win over Hawks

Finally, we know Rose will play at an MVP level in the playoffs, but with opposing defenses geared to keeping him out of the paint, the Bulls need their perimeter shooters to play at a high level as well. Thibodeau is committed to Keith Bogans as his starting shooting guard, so forget about Rasual Butler becoming part of the rotation. That means the Bulls need to get more minutes for Kyle Korver, and more options for Deng to spot up at the three-point line. Ultimately, the Bulls prospects to advance in the playoffs will rest on their outstanding defense and their ability to knock down open shots created by Roses penetration.

So, what do you think? Is a number one seed crucial to the Bulls playoff prospects? Is Boozers low post offense another key to post-season success? And, are you confident Bogans will be able to knock down those wide-open 3s in the playoffs?

Feel free to post your comments in the section below. Were looking forward to a great stretch run with the Bulls, Celtics and Heat all chasing 60 wins, with the hope of earning home court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Jim Boylen takes positive approach to injuries, Bulls' disappointing season

Jim Boylen takes positive approach to injuries, Bulls' disappointing season

One thing that has stood out throughout this disappointing Bulls season is Jim Boylen’s positivity.

Following most every game, he has highlighted in-game moments that he feels are signs of progress, even if they’re as basic as winning a quarter. He has praised players for their care factor and development.

The approach, like many of Boylen’s, has bothered some fans and observers. Perhaps not to the degree that his late-game timeout usage or rotational decisions or systems have, but the trait has caused some angst nonetheless.

It also stands in contrast to when Boylen first took over for the fired Fred Hoiberg. You remember his “shock and awe” campaign, the one where he openly questioned his players’ conditioning, made them do push-ups and in general sounded like a drill sergeant.

But the approach has at least served Boylen well as the Bulls have endured yet another stretch of injuries that has bordered on ridiculous. Wendell Carter Jr. is aiming for a Saturday return, while Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen are trending in the right direction.

But the Bulls weren’t expecting to be playing two-way player Adam Mokoka rotational minutes in February, particularly alongside Cristiano Felicio and Shaq Harrison.

“What I’ve learned to do from people I’ve worked for and from being in this business is I take it as it comes,” Boylen said following Thursday’s practice at Advocate Center. “I try to stay in the moment, do the best I can to help this team get better and grow. I do not worry about tomorrow and I try to stay right in where we’re at. And where we’re at right now is banged up.

“I cannot wallow in that negativity or the things I can’t control. Otherwise, I don’t do as good a job on that floor teaching the guys that are practicing and are playing and staying positive and upbeat. And that’s what I get paid to do. I take a lot of pride in my attitude in these moments. That’s what this league is about to me. It’s easy when your team is healthy and you’re playing good and you’re winning games. But a lot of us in the league right now are going through these moments. And that’s part of it.”

So Boylen will continue stressing whatever he sees as positive, trying to set an example for his young team. On Thursday, that featured more talk of the Bulls’ shot profile. The Bulls rank second in shots from 5 feet or less and ninth in 3-point attempts.

“We have areas on the floor that we really value. A rim-2, which is right at the rim in the restricted area, or a corner 3, those are your highest-valued shots. Then you have a mid shot and an above-the-break 3. There are four distinct areas that we talk about,” Boylen said. “You would like more of the rim-twos and the corner 3s because those are the most valuable shots.”

The next step is converting them. The Bulls rank 26th in shots from 5 feet or less and 22nd in 3-point percentage.

“You hope to make those good looks you get. You hope to finish plays at the rim. And we’re working to do that,” Boylen said. “And that’s strength and youth and toughness and all those things we’re developing, You would say Coby White’s finishing has improved dramatically as he’s grown in the system. Our shot profile is very good.”

At 19 games under .500, that’s more positivity from Boylen.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: More injuries for the Bulls & storylines around the NBA

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Talk Podcast: More injuries for the Bulls & storylines around the NBA

Host Jason Goff is joined by those entire NBCS Chicago Bulls beat, including insider KC Johnson, sideline reporter Leila Rahimi, and writer Rob Schaefer. They discuss the mounting injuries the Bulls have and go into the main storylines around the association.

(2:07) - Covering a hurt Bulls team

(9:30) - What do you make of Lauri Markkanen so far?

(21:35) - Rockets small ball is working

(32:50) - The Sixers have issues

(42:42) - Do NBA fans care about the historic regular season the Bucks are having?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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