By Mike McGraw
After a strong effort and disappointing finish against Denver on Monday, the Bulls decided to take the day off.
It seemed like a wise move, considering they stuck with six players for most of the 119-118 overtime loss. Marco Belinelli logged 51 minutes and Luol Deng 50.
So the downtime is a good time to assess and ask some relevant questions with 16 games remaining in the regular season.
Q. Should the Bulls stop complaining about Monday's inconsistent goaltending calls?
A. Well, it's over now and time to move on.
Joakim Noah's potential game-winning tip-in was technically goaltending. A defender wouldn't be allowed to jump up and swat away Belinelli's errant jumper, so neither could Noah.
Ex-NBA referee Steve Javie went on SportsCenter and tried to explain that Kosta Koufos' tip-in with 46.4 seconds left in overtime wasn't goaltending because the ball was headed out of the cylinder, but Javie also seemed to contradict himself.
The NBA rules say you can't touch a ball that's on the rim or above the cylinder, so it certainly appears that Koufos' basket shouldn't have counted, and the Bulls have a legitimate complaint. Not that it matters much.
Q. Will any injured Bulls take the floor Thursday against Portland?
A. It sounds like Taj Gibson is close to coming back from a sprained left knee, so he's probably the most likely candidate.
Kirk Hinrich is possible with the sore left foot, while there's no telling if or when Richard Hamilton might play again this season.
Q. Which player do the Bulls miss more -- Hinrich or Gibson?
A. It really depends on the opponent. Against Denver, there's no doubt they missed Gibson more. Noah had a nice defensive game, with 12 rebounds and 7 blocks. But when he sat with foul trouble, the Nuggets attacked the basket at will.
Gibson's value as a defender probably is underrated. He basically gives the Bulls a second big man who, like Noah, can block shots and is mobile enough to cut off lanes to the basket.
With Denver's freewheeling style, Nate Robinson had a field day, scoring 34 points and dishing out 7 assists Monday. He knocked down 6 of 8 shots from 3-point range.
Good Nate has the edge on most point guards. But when Robinson isn't scoring, the Bulls definitely miss having Hinrich run the offense.
Q. Will Derrick Rose return this season?
A. Probably. The Bulls' medical team believes it will be an advantage for Rose to play again this season, to gain confidence heading into next year.
So the idea that the Bulls won't beat Miami so why should he come back doesn't really apply.
Is Rose thinking along those lines? We're not sure, but it's reasonable to assume he's too great a competitor to sit out if he feels ready to play.
The return could realistically happen against the Blazers on Thursday or maybe not until next season. Rose himself may not be sure right now.
Q. Where will the Bulls finish in the East?
A. They're going to make the playoffs. That's practically guaranteed, since Philadelphia and Toronto are so far off the pace in ninth place.
Climbing into the No. 3 or No. 4 seed is a possibility, especially considering the Bulls face just five teams with a winning record in their last 16 games.
Dropping all the way to No. 7 or No. 8 is conceivable if they don't finish well.
As long as they can avoid Miami in the first round, they should have a decent chance of winning a first-round series.
Q. Will Miami break the legendary 33-game winning streak set by the 1971-72 Lakers?
A. The Heat certainly is capable of beating the next 11 opponents on its schedule, but there are some tough stops -- starting with next Wednesday at the United Center. Imagine if Derrick Rose is playing by then.
After hitting Chicago, Miami goes to New Orleans, which can be pesky, and San Antonio, with the league's second-best record. So getting through that road trip will be a challenge.
Injuries certainly have eased the Heat's path. Monday night it was Boston without Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce; next up is Cleveland without Kyrie Irving or rookie Dion Waiters.
Q. Which was the better dunk: LeBron vs. Jason Terry or DeAndre Jordan vs. Brandon Knight?
Neither. Dunking over someone 6 to 10 inches shorter than the dunker is not worth getting excited about. That's a reason Bulls fans rightfully point to Scottie Pippen vs. Patrick Ewing as the NBA's greatest in-game dunk.
Among recent examples, Blake Griffin's one-hand alley-oop against the New York Knicks on Sunday is worth checking out. Just because some shrimp didn't bounce off his chest in midjump doesn't make it less impressive.
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