Chicago looks to clinch at least the seventh seed with its 12th win in 15 games and relegate Detroit to the eighth when they meet Monday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
With Saturday's 113-106 victory over Charlotte, the seventh-place Bulls (40-40) moved a game ahead of the Pistons, 106-102 losers to Indiana earlier in the evening. While a playoff berth is somewhat unexpected for Chicago -- which was 12th in the Eastern Conference at the end of January -- the Bulls aren't satisfied with simply qualifying for the postseason.
"We know we're playing for more than just to make the playoffs," said John Salmons, who scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter Saturday. "We want to try to move up as far as we can."
Final Rookie Rankings -
#1 – Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls (40-40) – 16.7ppg, 6.2apg, 3.9rpg
At this point there's no way to argue against Rose being rookie of the year. He led all rookies in assists and finished second in scoring. Of all the players in this class he's got the greatest chance of being a superstar, and he's off to a great start in Chicago.
Wise hurt -
The White Sox suffered a significant loss today as centerfielder DeWayne Wise separated his right shoulder diving for a ball in the fifth inning in Detroit.
Wise is expected to miss at least several weeks while the Sox look to replace him, perhaps with Brian Anderson.
But the Sox beat up on the Tigers -
Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko reached 300 career homers with consecutive drives in the second inning and the Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 10-6 on Monday.
Carlos Quentin went 4-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs for the White Sox, who earned their third straight win. Dye went 3-for-5, and Konerko finished with four hits and three RBIs.
Dye and Konerko became the first teammates to hit century milestone home runs of at least 300 in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Pace makes a smart recommendation -
Finally, the new Bears left tackle stoked to flames of the Torry Holt rumors, saying he was trying to recruit the free agent WR to join the Bears. Pace said Holt told his friend, "tell Lovie to give me a call". We'll see if anything develops on that front. Holt is said to be receiving heavy interest from Tennessee and Jacksonville.
Big road test tonight? -
The Bulls leave their cocoon of the United Center, where they've won seven straight and 14 of 15, for the hostile, annoying environment that is the Palace of Auburn Hills. Monday night's road game against the Pistons has huge seeding implications for the Bulls' first-round playoff series that will start, well, on the road.
"It's definitely going to be tough," said Hinrich, ever the realist.
"We have to play with more toughness if we're going to have any success."
Indeed, those fourth-quarter comebacks that seem so natural now at home haven't happened on the road, where the Bulls are just 12-28 overall and 0-5 in overtime games. That's why Monday's game can serve as a litmus test.
"It seems like on the road sometimes we get down a little bit," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We start rushing things. When we get down at home, we have more toughness, grit and resiliency. On the road, we have to guard better. We can't always rely on our offense. And that's the next step for us."
If the Bulls win, they capture the season series 3-1 from the Pistons and are guaranteed to avoid finishing eighth and facing the Cleveland LeBrons in the first round.
Hate him or love him, you have to love JoaNoah's passion/excitement -
On draft day 2007, when Joakim Noah wore a seersucker suit and bow tie, the flamboyant rookie couldn't contain his excitement over joining a team coming off three straight playoff appearances.
Then the wheels fell off, and Noah endured a 33-win season that featured two coaching changes and a run-in with assistant coach Ron Adams that led to his teammates voting to extend a team suspension.
That makes this season's experience all the more rewarding for the starting center, who joked he might hyperventilate from excitement before Game 1.
"This means a lot to me," Noah said of the Bulls' playoff berth. "I feel I've gone through a lot of adversity here. The playoffs always have been my goal. I'm not taking winning for granted. I'm really enjoying it."
So hopefully the Bulls can continue the Detroit beatdown tonight. I would love to see the Bulls get the Celtics in the first round. We're playing great and the Celtics are not at 100% (Garnett is still coming back from an injury). I think they are a flawed team that peaked way too early (back before Christmas). Letting Posey leave was a huge mistake for their versatility, and a young, athletic team like the Bulls could do some damage against them.