For Bulls, Big Acquisition is Continuity - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

For Bulls, Big Acquisition is Continuity

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CHICAGO (AP)- The Chicago Bulls are healthy and have a chance to build some continuity.

Consider that their big acquisition. The Bulls stood pat at Thursday's trade deadline and geared up for the stretch run with all their pieces in place.

"We feel good about our team," coach Tom Thibodeau said.

It hasn't been an easy season for the Bulls, who came in aiming high with the return of Derrick Rose from a second season-ending knee injury and the signing of All-Star Pau Gasol. They're 13-3 when they have their projected starting five on the floor. But they've been banged up, with players shuffling in and out of the rotation.

There have been some bad losses and one ugly stretch that left many wondering if the team was about to implode. But now, the Bulls appear to be steadying themselves.

They're third in the Eastern Conference at 34-20, trailing Atlanta by nine games and Toronto by 2 1/2, with Washington and Cleveland right on their tail. Chicago entered the All-Star break on a four-game win streak after dropping 10 of 15 and will try to keep that going Friday at Detroit.

"(We're) not only healthy, we're going to have a collective rhythm," Mike Dunleavy Jr. said. "I thought we had a good four-game stretch to finish the first half of the season."

The Bulls beat Cleveland by 15 before the break, with Rose (30 points, seven assists) having what might have been his best game of the season. Jimmy Butler missed that game because of a strained right shoulder. But the Bulls expect to have him back along with veteran reserve Kirk Hinrich (left turf toe) when they take on the Pistons.

All five starters have missed games. But when the Bulls meet Detroit, they will have their projected lineup of Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gasol and Joakim Noah for just the 17th time this season.

"It's good to have everyone back," Thibodeau said. "Hopefully, we can build on it. There's a chance to build some continuity. Ideally, that's what you'd like."

Rose has played in 16 straight games and is averaging 20.8 points and 7.3 assists over the past four. He has just seven turnovers during the winning streak, and he showed the sort of aggression against Cleveland, attacking the lane, that made him the MVP in 2011.

All that helps explain why the Bulls believe they are in position to finish strong, that they can develop the cohesion they need over the final 28 games.

"I don't see why not," said Dunleavy, who missed 19 games with a right ankle injury. "It's really the only option we have right now. We believe we can do it in that amount of time. Not all was lost in the first part of the season. We had some good moments and we built some chemistry. We've just got to grow a little bit more and stay healthy and sharpen things up."

Continuity, he said, "is huge." But the effort that has defined the Bulls under Thibodeau was also lacking at times. Opponents are averaging just over 99 points, although they are only shooting about 44 percent, and there have been some ugly losses.

"It's a lot of things," Dunleavy said. "It's hard to pinpoint just one thing. You can pick out a lot of different things. But the overall focus and intensity needs to pick up. If we can do that, I think we're capable of being a top-three, top-five defensive team and that'll take us a long way."

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