Any Room For Bruisers At The Top?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Bad Boys era Pistons would have been proud of the effort from the Chicago Bulls Sunday in Miami. The intent was there.

But the execution and the results were not there as injury-plagued Bulls did their best to rough up the Miami Heat before falling 105-93 to the defending NBA champs on their home floor.

“Make ’em feel you,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said during one timeout huddle as he rallied his troops from an early deficit. And it worked for a while. The Bulls stayed in this game because they were willing to inflict as much legal but very physical pain as allowed in order to neutralize the Heat.

When it works, it’s a thing of brutal beauty, sort of like the Bulls’ streak-busting win over the Heat on March 27. You might remember that game from the LeBron JamesKirk Hinrich floor scrubbing incident, one of the plays that prompted James to groan about the way the Bulls were allowed to muscle up on the Heat.

It appears we have reached a crossroads, of sorts, in regards to whether or not those sort of, let’s call them “chippy” tactics really work anymore. They certainly haven’t produced any championship hardware recently. The last team to play bruising defense that leaves opponents black and blue from the experience was the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, a team Thibodeau served as its defensive coordinator under Doc Rivers.

That Celtics team would qualify as the last team to utilize that brutal, throwback defensive style on its ride to a title. That’s not to say that you don’t have to be an elite defensive team to win a title, because you absolutely do.

All four teams to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy since then — the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010, the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and the Heat last year — have finished among the league’s elite in defensive rating. In fact, the last championship team to finish outside the top eight in defensive rating was the 2001 Lakers, who finished 18th.

There is only one non-playoff team in the top 10 this season, the Washington Wizards. So again, you have to play defense at an elite level to even get into the championship conversation.

But that doesn’t mean a team will be able to bully its way to the title the way the 2004 Pistons did. We might not see another team built on that sort of rugged defensive bedrock the way that Pistons team was or the 2008 Celtics were when they won it all.

The Bulls have tried it in recent years and seen it go up in smoke in the playoffs.

They had the best record and defensive rating in the league in each of the past two seasons, and lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago and in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers last season, after losing 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose to a knee injury that has sidelined him this entire season.

It makes you wonder, if and when we might see another bruiser riding down the street during a championship parade?


  1. sleeplessbull says:

    Instead of producing trash… Lose some pound dude!!!

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  3. Luke says:

    Come on man. You can’t say the Bulls style of play doesn’t work just because they haven’t won a championship recently. Last year and this year got trashed by Rose’s injury. They would have won the championship last year if it weren’t for that. I don’t care what Heat fan-boys say. I know basketball and I could see that the Bulls were better.

    • Pakyaw says:

      Right, u know basketball,but never played the game…lol..another denial fans

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      @DRoseIsKing please scroll up to look at the attached video …… enough said

      Im a D.Rose fan, but his return is not going to be the 2nd coming of jesus, it may seem highly anticipated because he is missed, but D.Rose & the bulls will have just as hard of a time as NYK & IND … close but not gunna happen …. please watch the video attached above 🙂

  4. DRoseIsKing says:

    The fact that this is considered “bruiser basketball” is a testament to how soft the NBA has become. You pretty much lose all your credibility as a basketball expert by comparing the 2013 Bulls to the Bad Boy Pistons. Stop searching for a story that isn’t there friend.

  5. Dig says:

    The Bulls can beat Heat without Rose with 3 conditions:
    Referees stop favor Heat (especially LeBron & Wade). Only Butler received 3 fouls (#2, #3, & #4) for nothing, what actually ABC commentators confirmed.
    Thibodeau give Boozer a rest. He played too much recently. Other players shouldn’t play more than 30 minutes in the last 2 games.
    Noah will able to play in full strength.

  6. reynol pers says:

    I like how the Chicago fans like to dream. Miami would of beat you with Rose or without Rose. The Miami team is built to win many championships and we all in the NBA should just look to building another team to beat this one. Get use to it they are the best and the simple fact is the funnest to watch. And I am not a Heat fan but a Celtics fan.

  7. Ed G says:

    My goodness, the premise that the Bulls even resemble a bruising, throwback, in your face team of the 80’s or 90’s is ludicrous.
    This team is comprised of not only the hardest working guys in the NBA, but many of the best citizens, You don’t see them getting in other players faces but they certainly do not back down. They work hard, seldom take plays off, and do not shy from a challenge. Jimmy Butler is fast becoming the face of this team while Derrick is on the road to recovery. What DRose will experience when he returns next fall is a resilient powerhouse, probably with an extra piece or two, ready to thwart Lebron, athletic enough to keep up with the west, and hungry and mature enough to take it to the next level.

  8. LA bound says:

    The rest of the NBA is so lucky the bulls are hurt. @Sean were not the spurs and we havent been healthy all year…. and i’ll say this again last year finals should have been OKC vs Bulls had it not been for Drose ACL injury

    • Pakyaw says:

      Excuses is one of the ingredient of a LOSSER…

    • nba is back!!! says:

      wat was your excuse the year before that??

    • theholyspectator says:

      @la bound you must have forgotten about this series?

      drose was healthy as was many of the other players that are not this year and they had a better bench back then too…so with all that fire power the bulls only won 1 game that series against the heat?? so your statement doesnt have much logic to it…good attempt though

      • LBJKIN6JAMES says:


      • The Worm 91 says:

        they won 1 game but by 21 points…all other games were so close…and yes…they lost all 4…the Heat lost in the FINALS too.

      • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

        Bottom line is that the bulls are not a threat to the heat, just some good competition, just like IND & NYK, but not a threat @ all

  9. Efrain says:

    It’s interesting that The Heat won by just 12 points in thier home floor with the bulls playing without 4 top players, Noah, Rose, Hamilton, Gibson. So I really don’t know how can somebody belibe the Heat can repeat if they can’t dominate 1/2 Bulls. So the Sunday’s game was the Miami Heat against Th Chic Bul.

    Don’t under estimate the power of belive. The Heat know that the only team in the east that they really fear to face in tha playoff are The Bulls. That’s a statement of fact!

    • Sean says:

      Please, the same was said when Pop rested his stars and Miami beat them by “just” four points and yet Miami managed to beat them again without Wade and James

      • Alain says:

        What happen in ECF 2011 the heat doesnt fear anybody. You can beat us all you want in the regular season playoffs are a different animal

  10. sportsfan says:

    Ted, handchecking isn’t exaggerated. Every nba player & ex-nba player have talked about the difference it makes. If you’ve played any level of basketball (from recreation leagues all the way up to the pros ) and experience someone playing handcheck defense on you then you’d know. Handchecking by nature is already more physical than playing defense without it. Having that extra room to operate makes a difference.

  11. MJfromOKC says:

    The term “fairly close” that I used in my post implies that its not close or near what it was. Simply that its fairly close. As in more beefed up what it was 10-12 years ago but not as rough as it was 12 years before that.

  12. sportsfan says:

    The physicality is not near to what it was in the late 80’s & early 90’s. Handchecking was tossed & it then went to only allowing the use of the forearm, then that got tossed. Players on offense have so much more of an advantage now than players of the past. Jordan (& the rest of the league) had to fight through all of that handchecking. The reason handchecking was taken out because scores were getting lower, largely due to the Bad Boys & Riley’s Knicks and the rest of the league follwed. The great players today would still be great players if handchecking was allowed but I think their ppg would be slightly lower. Sekou is wrong for saying that the ’04 Pistons bully’d its way to the finals, that team had great chemistry & was well balanced. And I don’t know why he’s comparing the defense fo the ’07-’08 Celtics to the Bad Boys, it’s not close. But if Thibodeau had handchecking allowed then his defenses would fit right in the late 80’s & early 90’s.

    • Ted says:

      People are exaggerating this handcheck thing. It affected the NBA but not that significantly. Zone defense affected it far significantly. Plus, the Bad Boys weren’t called the Bad Boys for nothing. They intended to hurt players. Ask anyone who faced Bill Laimbeer down low and he’ll prove to you that Laimbeer aims only to hurt you. Teams these days don’t have that mentality. And I’m not saying it’s good to have that mentality, cause once you have that mentality of hurting your opponents over just plain physical defense, you should just go to wrestling.

  13. Gary Payton says:

    Heat is a machine on offense and defense! I am not a fan but I was rooting for them last year because they are very good and play team ball! HEAT REPEAT FOR SURE!

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:


  14. MJfromOKC says:

    Im old enough to remember the end of late 80s early 90s basketball before it was toned down, I had Bill Laimbeers Combat Basketball for Nintendo. I think basketball is getting fairly close back to that level of physicality again. The bad boy Pistons had certain personalities on it that will not be replicated. However, that style of play is already being replicated and it works. Now it isn’t on the level it was back then because people are smarter about the methods of employing such strategies but its definitely on the rise and basketball is as physical now as it has been in 20 years. I think people exaggerate a bit because it makes for a good read. The bad boy Pistons had some damn good offensive players on it who would much rather play than bang around, from reading some of these articles you might not ever know that.

    • Gary Payton says:

      MJfromOkeville does not know what he is talking about 90% of the time! Facts and do your homework…

  15. Najeh Davenpoop says:

    It’s not that the bruising style doesn’t work. It’s that regardless of the era, you can’t win without elite talent and multiple shot creators. The Bad Boys had a Hall of Fame back court that propelled them to titles. The Celtics had three HOF players when they won. The Bulls without Rose don’t have a player of that caliber, and with Rose are overly reliant on him. They can win with their style, but they have to get Rose a teammate who can carry close to an equal share of the offensive load. Deng and Boozer ain’t going to cut it in that regard.