Bucks Slip a Bit in the Central; Pacers, Bulls Lead the Way
The Milwaukee Bucks slipped a bit last week in the three-team race that is the NBA’s Central Division. While the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers each had ten game stretches of 6-4, the Bucks were 4-6 and have fallen to five games behind current leader Indiana who has just a half-game lead on the Bulls.
The team that I still think makes a run at the final playoff spot, the Detroit Pistons, went 4-6 last week but has won two straight. One of those victories was a shocking victory over league-leading San Antonio who saw their 12-game winning streak snapped.
Cellar-dweller Cleveland went 6-4 over their last ten games but remains 16 games out of first place. After winning three straight, one of which was over Oklahoma City, the Cavs fell to a hot Denver Nuggets team.
When will the Rose bloom in Chicago?
It was late April that Bulls’ All-Star Derrick Rose blew out his knee and as we approach Spring, many are starting to wonder when he returns. It doesn’t help that the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,000 plus yards just nine months off his ACL surgery either.
With the Bulls fighting it out with Indiana and Milwaukee, Rose’s return could be seen as the difference between being a possible three seed to being a seventh or eighth seed.
Chicago is third overall in defense in the league but is 26th in scoring with just 93.7 points per game. Realistically speaking, one cannot expect Rose to be in ‘game-shape’ right away and will need time to get there. I think the Bulls can hang on long enough to have him get them over the top, but time is ticking rapidly.
Granger Back for Indiana?
The Bulls aren’t the only team waiting for an important player to return as Indiana could possibly. Danny Granger has not played at all this season while nursing a left knee injury. Reports are that he could see action before the All-Star break begins later this week.
Popular opinion has him not coming back until after the break however.
Both the Pacers and the Bulls are very similar. Indiana is second in the league in scoring defense but is 28th in the league in scoring offense. Like Rose and the Bulls, Granger’s return should help the scoring situation significantly.
News From the Central… With the trade deadline about ten days away, I have to believe all five teams in the division are in play for potential moves. Don’t be surprised a bit if both Indiana and Chicago pull the trigger for more scoring… The Bucks currently have the 8th seed in the East by three full games over Philadelphia. That of course would mean a first round date with the Miami Heat… The Pacers would play Atlanta in a 3-6 match-up and Chicago would take on Brooklyn in a 4-5 series… Kyrie Irving, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are the only guys from the Central in the top 20 in league scoring.
Games in the Central this week
Chicago at Boston – The Bulls travel to Beantown where the Celtics have refused to die in the wake of Rajon Rondo’s knee injury. They have won seven-straight including a triple overtime thriller over a hot Denver team. If Joakim Noah were playing, I’d like Chicago, but not now. Go with the Celts.
Washington at Detroit – The Pistons are going to be without Center Andre Drummond who will miss four-to-six weeks with a back injury. I really liked the direction they had him going in especially in recent weeks. It’s a tough break but shouldn’t hurt their chances against the Wizards.