Injury-laden Bulls regaining health just in time

Injury-laden Bulls regaining health just in time

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Jack Sweeney, Staff Writer

 

The Chicago Bulls have now been without point guard Derrick Rose for four weeks. To make matters worse, they’ve been without guard/forward Jimmy Butler for over three weeks. In that time the Bulls have gone 6-8.

They have now dropped to fourth place in the East and only hold a one-and-a-half game lead over the Wizards and are half-game behind the Toronto Raptors. Rose is eyeing a return in early April, while Butler returned Monday, March 23 against the Charlotte Bobcats. He provided a huge lift with 19 points in 30 minutes.

With the absences of Rose and Butler, head coach Tom Thibodeau has looked to the bench for more consistent play. Second year forward Tony Snell has gotten much more playing time and is looking more confident every game he’s in.

The most exciting story emerging from Rose’s absence is that of Nikola Mirotic, the prized rookie who was a member of the Real Madrid team in Spain from 2008 to 2014. On Monday, Mar 23, he scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and helped the Bulls secure a playoff spot in the win against the Charlotte Hornets. He has shown wisdom far beyond his 24 years of age and even glimpses of Dirk Nowitzki-level of play.

The enigmatic Rose is expected back before the end of the season, and the Bulls will try to surpass a struggling Toronto in the East. With the emergence of Mirotic and Butler, the Bulls just may be able to avoid the “one and done” fate that has haunted them in the playoffs without their injury-plagued star.

Around the League

The Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting in the eight spot in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant has now been out for over four weeks with a foot injury, and is now out indefinitely after being “shut down” by coach Scott Brooks.  The team has gone 11-5 since Durant’s injury. A large part of that is due to the play of point guard Russell Westbrook, who is averaging 31.9 points per game, 11.2 assists per game and 9.7 rebounds per game in the last 10 games.

These monstrous numbers have helped the Thunder hang on to that eighth spot in the West. Golden State holds the top seed in the West by seven-and-a-half games, but facing the Thunder in the first round would be no easy task, especially if Durant comes back.

The Atlanta Hawks hold a commanding eight game lead in the Western Conference. In their last 10 games they have only gone 5-5 and are on a season high three-game losing streak. They also might face a tough match in the first round of the playoffs.

The Hawks are a good candidate for the Eastern Conference Finals, where they’re likely to meet the Bulls or the Lebron-led Cleveland Cavaliers.

Charlotte sits in the eighth spot in the East, but only holds a half-game lead over Boston and Indiana. Boson has been surging lately going 6-4 in their last ten games, but has lost the last three games.