Monday, April 26, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Rose/Deng Injuries; VDN/Pax; JoaNoah)

I have been crazy busy lately, with a rehearsal dinner/golf/wedding, "Loving it Live" yesterday at game 4, and now getting ready for my final exams. So needless to say, this will be a quick batch of links ...

Bulls' Rose, Deng expected to play

The Chicago Bulls' 121-98 loss in Game 4 to the Cleveland Cavaliers also took a physical toll, as Derrick Rose will have an MRI on his left ankle and Luol Deng sat out practice on Monday because of a sore right knee and calf.

Both players are expected to play in Game 5 on Tuesday in Cleveland.

Rose injured his ankle when he stepped on Shaquille O'Neal's foot in the beginning of the third quarter on Sunday.

"He was sore [Monday]," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said of Rose. "He jammed it on Shaq's foot. He was limping a little bit today, so hopefully he'll be better and see how he feels."

Deng missed 11 straight games near the end of the season because of calf trouble.

"Luol's knee and calf are a little bit sore today. It's that time of the year," Del Negro said. "Things are going to happen. You just got to get the guys out there that are healthy.

"Obviously, we need both those guys to play at a high level. I think they'll both be fine and ready to play. But who's 100 percent at this time of the year? Not many guys."

The Cavaliers lead the series 3-1.

Vinny's tactic makes you wonder

unday seemed ever so much the same. But was it coincidence -- or was it the most blatant instance yet of reportedly lame-duck Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro telling operations chief John Paxson to take this job and shove it?

First, franchise history recalled:

The most excruciating three minutes in Bulls playoff history came in the closing minutes of Game 7 of the 1973 Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

That was the dark California night when the third-seeded Bulls held a 90-83 lead with 2:58 to play over the top-seeded Lakers.

Pick-and-potatoes Bulls coach Dick Motta suddenly got clever with clock management, the Lakers closed with a 12-2 run and finished a 95-92 victory when Wilt Chamberlain came from nowhere to block a Norm Van Lier corner jumper and nailed a streaking Gail Goodrich for the concluding points.

For sheer, implosive, self-induced futility, the final three minutes of the first half of the Bulls' 121-98 loss to top-seeded Cleveland in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference series on Sunday was cut from the same dead-see scroll.

Biting and scratching on every possession, maximizing the energy drawn from a rabid home throng of 23,058, the overmatched Bulls had somehow hammered out a 45-44 lead on a Luol Deng jumper with 3:50 left in the half. Forty-five seconds later, LeBron James' three-pointer flipped it to 47-46 Cavs.

Still, the chances of the Bulls going in at the half close and hoping for the best in a competitive second half loomed large.

Then, in a substitution that will be questioned as long as basketballs bounce in Chicago, Del Negro inserted struggling rookie James Johnson for Brad Miller with 3:05 remaining. There were other options.

Johnson -- the team's No. 1 draft pick last June.

Johnson -- the extremely well-intended, athletic martial-arts ace from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Johnson -- the slow-to-develop playoff phantom who has been completely overshadowed by second-round choice Taj Gibson.

Even worse, in his first playing time of the game, Johnson was assigned to guard James.

Quietly, James licked his megastar inner chops.

''At that point in the game, they were in the penalty, so every time we were fouled, we were going to the free-throw line,'' James said. ''I think being aggressive no matter who's in front of you, whether it's Luol Deng or James Johnson or whoever, you want to be aggressive. And that's what we did as a team, and what I did as an individual. I was aggressive.''

That's a kind way to put it, like saying Tony Soprano and crew could smell a fish at a rigged poker game.

In the ensuing 1:32, Johnson drew three fouls. In that final 3:05, James scored six points and the Cavs closed with a 15-6 run to take a 62-52 halftime lead.

Though Johnson was back on the bench for the start of the third quarter, the Cleveland carnage continued. The Cavs opened with a 17-6 burst, extending their lead to 79-58 and effectively sucking the life out of the UC crowd.

James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. In nine minutes, Johnson finished with one assist and five fouls.

Asked about his decision, Del Negro replied: ''For the few minutes [Johnson's] played, he's guarded LeBron a little bit. He has a little bit more size, he moves his feet pretty well even though he's a rookie and his minutes have been inconsistent. That's what we are as a team right now in terms of our depth and things. I don't regret that at all. Guys have to be ready to play. And no one guy is going to stop LeBron.''

The post-game media was too merciful to ask the expressway question: Coach, to what degree were you trying to show up John Paxson and his questionable first-round draft pick?

Noah doesn't find solace in 21-20 effort

The lone bright spot for the Bulls in the second half was center Joakim Noah, who had 17 points after halftime.

He finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds to become the first Bull with a 20-20 game in the postseason.

Noah, though, took little satisfaction in the feat because it was accomplished while the Bulls were falling 121-98 Sunday to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 at the United Center.

''Not right now,'' Noah said. ''Maybe once it's all over, but right now it's all about winning ballgames. That's what makes this city happy; that's what makes us happy at the end of the day.''

Noah was 7-for-12 from the field, the only Bull to make at least half of his attempts other than Devin Brown, who was 1-for-1 in two garbage-time minutes.

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