Things couldn’t be much simpler for the Bulls. They flew to New Jersey late Thursday night for a make-or-break two-game road trip.
The Bulls (38-40) and Toronto are tied for eighth place in the East with four games remaining. The Raptors have already clinched the season series, so the Bulls need to finish ahead of Toronto to make the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
The Bulls definitely have a schedule advantage on Friday, even if they are playing the second leg of back-to-back games. The Bulls get 11-67 New Jersey at the Izod Center, while the Raptors face a tall order in Atlanta.
Then the Bulls and Toronto square off Sunday at the Air Canada Centre. For those outside the Chicago area, the game will air on NBA TV.
Toronto will finish the regular season without all-star forward Chris Bosh, who suffered facial fractures when taking an accidental elbow from Cleveland’s Antawn Jamison on Tuesday. Raptors forward Hedo Turkoglu broke his nose during Wednesday’s loss to Boston and his status is uncertain.
Still, the Raptors hung around for most of the night against the Celtics, so they’ll be no pushover. Already this week, the Bulls lost to Milwaukee without Andrew Bogut and barely beat Cleveland while LeBron James served as a well-dressed cheerleader from the sideline.
Win the next two games and the Bulls should be able to clinch the playoffs with one more victory, either Tuesday at home against Boston or at Charlotte on Wednesday. Both those teams have already clinched postseason berths and might be resting key players.
Toronto finishes with Detroit on the road Monday and New York at home Wednesday. Who knows which version of those teams will show up?
The Bulls have taken care of business on the road lately, winning at Detroit and Washington. But they haven’t played very well since getting all their players back. They’re not in synch on either end of the floor and the Bulls are getting few contributions from the bench.
NOAH BECOMES CLUTCH SCORER
Center Joakim Noah carried the Bulls with 17 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks in Thursday’s 1-point win over Cleveland. He also scored his team’s final 4 points of the game.
One overlooked play was Noah’s 17-foot jumper that broke a 105-105 tie with 1:45 left. As he lined up the shot, the crowd seemed to gasp, knowing that Noah’s sideways-spinning jumper is one of the ugliest in all of basketball. But he’s been knocking it down lately.
“I’m really proud of that jump shot right there,” Noah said after the game. “Because a lot of times people always tell you what you can’t do. It just feels good because I know I work really hard on my game. It feels good to hit jump shots like that.”
Noah played 33 ½ minutes against the Cavs, his highest total since returning from 10 games off to rest his sore left foot.
“I get really tired out there,” he said. “But even when I’m really tired, I get mad at coach when he takes me out.”
WADE TAKES A BATH
Here’s an interesting item from the Miami Herald: Heat star Dwyane Wade recently sold his 9,000-square foot Miami-area mansion at a big loss.
According to the story, Wade originally purchased the home for $3.9 million in 2005, then asked $8.9 million when it went back on the market in 2007.
The asking price dropped significantly and Wade finally unloaded the property for just $2.5 million.
This news, combined with Wade’s purchase of a Chicago condo last year, is bound to stir speculation about what he plans to do in free-agency this summer.
Most signs point to Wade staying in Miami and trying to lure a top-notch power forward to South Florida. But Wade recently asked for custody of his children, who live with his ex-wife in the Chicago area. So there could be factors beyond basketball that steer his decision.