Emotion, energy keys to Bulls’ last 10 games

Written By BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter Posted: 05/01/2014, 07:22am

Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler is only in his third NBA season, but he’s well aware of what time of the year it is.

With 10 regular-season games left and a playoff seed to grab, it’s time for the Bulls to flip the switch.

‘‘We are a team that’s built on emotion,’’ Butler said. ‘‘It’s huge for us. We do a lot of different things, but emotion goes into a lot of that. I feel like we’re a team that whenever we get riled up, get to that level, the game changes for us.’’

Coming off a 91-74 home loss Friday to the Trail Blazers, it needs to change. Luckily for the Bulls, they don’t merely have an ordinary ball of energy to feed off; they have one who stands 6-11.

‘‘Joakim [Noah] is our leader, and he brings the energy,’’ guard D.J. Augustin said. ‘‘Especially this time of year, when so much matters. That’s very important for this team, more than any team I can remember playing on.’’

Not only does Noah bring inten-sity to the locker room and the court, but he brings the ‘‘hatred’’ he often talks about. There’s a reason the Bulls play some of their best basketball against the Pacers and Heat, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference: Noah can’t stand either team.

That also might be why the Bulls have struggled against the Western Conference this season, going only 12-17. Maybe there are too many handshakes before games with players they see only twice a season.

‘‘That mentality Jo brings can be the difference in a game,’’ Augustin said. ‘‘Just that energy, that emotion to get to the loose ball, blocking a shot. It not only gets the fans into the game, but it gives us that energy that we need to bring out. It’s very important for this group.’’

With a playoff spot locked up thanks to the Knicks’ loss Friday, there’s still more work to do if the Bulls want to keep home-court advantage in the first round. Good thing there are plenty of teams left on the schedule to hate:

 Sunday at Celtics: No one loves returning home and beating his former team like coach Tom Thibodeau. Despite winning a ring as an assistant with the Celtics, Thibodeau always gets up for them. More important, he gets his players up for them.

 Monday vs. Celtics: Call it a chance for Thibodeau to make a second statement.

 Wednesday at Hawks: The Hawks have been on playoff life support for the last month, and the disciplined Bulls are a horrible matchup for them.

 Friday vs. Bucks: Next.

 Saturday at Wizards: The Bulls have lost twice this season to the Wizards, a team they might see in the first round of the playoffs. Very little will need to be said by Noah — or anyone else — for this game.

 April 9 at Timberwolves: The Timberwolves are the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde team. Who knows which one will show up?

 April 11 vs. Pistons: The Pistons still suffer from the dumb gene late in games.

 April 13 at Knicks: Getting up for this game is right in Noah’s wheelhouse. He and Taj Gibson would love to return home and spoil the Knicks’ playoff chances.

 April 14 vs. Magic: Call it a bye night.

 April 16 at Bobcats: This game might mean a lot more for the Bobcats than it does for the Bulls on the last night of the regular season.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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