The Chicago Bulls defeated the Charlotte Hornets 98-86 Monday night at the United Center to clinch a playoff berth. Whoopee! In the world of inevitability, this one ranked toward the upper portion. How inevitable? Well, first the Hornets would have had to beat the Bulls, the Bulls would have had to lose their 10 subsequent games and one of the teams not in the top eight of the Eastern Conference that has 40 or fewer losses would have to win all the rest of its games and edge the Bulls on a tiebreaker. That inevitable. Whew!
* Speaking of inevitability, one has to wonder whether the next time anyone sees the Bulls’ supposed starting five on the court at the same time will be next season.
* Speaking of the Bulls’ “regular” starters, Jimmy Butler returned from an elbow injury after missing 11 games. Derrick Rose continues to rehab from knee surgery. Joakim Noah sat out Monday because of general soreness (not to be confused with major discomfort or corporal punishment). On the bright (?) side, the Bulls’ first-round opponent — probably Washington, Milwaukee or Miami, depending whether the Bulls are the No. 4 or 3 seed — won’t have much in the way of recent video of coach Tom Thibodeau’s “regular” starting five.
* Speaking of Butler (6-of-20 from the field, 19 points), Thibodeau told media at the game: “It was great to have him back. Great. He had a bunch of bunnies that he always makes, so his timing was not quite there. But I thought as the game went on, he started to get into a rhythm.” And, yes, Butler led the Bulls in minutes played (40). So there’s that to make Thibs happy.
* Speaking of the Bulls’ starting five, Nikola Mirotic — who led the Bulls’ scoring with 28 points — is not among the quintet. Meaning opposing teams will need to deal with the latter-day Toni Kukoc coming off the bench. If there is a Rookie of the Year award for the second half of the season, Mirotic is a prime candidate.
* Among the Bulls’ starters, Pau Gasol led with 27 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Maybe if he leads the league in double-doubles (and he is in first place in that catergory) someone can come up with an award for him.
* Something says the Bulls will win at least 98 percent of their games in which they have six or fewer turnovers (hint: They had six against Charlotte).
* Speaking of Chicago basketball, the WNBA Sky signed recent trade acquisition/Chicago native Cappie Pondexter to a multi-year contract extension. “It always feels good to be wanted,” said Pondexter, obtained in a Feb. 16 deal with New York for Epiphanny Prince. “Chicago really wanted me here, and I am glad I am here. At this point and stage in my career, I have done a lot of great things and just to be a part of an organization where their No. 1 priority is winning a championship is everything I asked for.”
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