Remember when the thoughts of this stretch of games in the Bulls schedule was thought to be a time to get our starters some rest? Well, of course that was before Joakim Noah went down with a wrist injury. The Bulls have indeed won 13 out of 15 games, but many of them have been much closer than most of us would expect, and even more of us would like.
Luckily for us, the Toronto Raptors came to the Madhouse tonight.
After a hotly contested 1st quarter in which the Raptors shot North of 52%, the Chicago Bulls extended their lead from two to 18 by halftime. Though the Raptors welcomed back Andrea Bargnani, who played very well despite having the worst +/- in the game at -21, they just did not have the size to match up with the Bulls’ bigs. Just imagine how ugly this game could have gotten if Noah was available…
After Kurt Thomas had two quick fouls called on him the Bulls had to bring in Taj Gibson, who has struggled of late. However on this day Taj looked more like the PF that started this season instead of the PF who has struggled mightily his last three weeks. Though he averaged a foul every five minutes, his production on the night was solid. But Taj was not the only Bulls Big who had a big night. Boozer put up big numbers, and Omer Asik had career highs in points (13) and blocks (five) while pulling down seven rebounds in only 20 minutes and change.
One of the best things to come out of this game was the rest our starters got. Rose, who has averaged almost 37 minutes/game, played less than 30. Boozer also played seven minutes under his season average (25) and while he had a rough start, he still contributed with a double double (12, 13).
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And for the 2nd installment in what hopes to become a regular feature, I present 3 & 2, where three Bulls will receive a game-ball, and two aspects of the game that need some work will be highlighted.
Game Ball #3 – Derrick Rose (2nd game ball)
Rose played within himself tonight, and was arguably the most efficient player on the floor. He finished 7-11 from the field, including 2-3 from three and 3-3 from the line. But the most impressive part of his game (as well as one of his most improved areas) was the assist/turnover rate. Rose finished the night with only six assist, but also had just a single turnover.
Game Ball #2 – Luol Deng (1st)
Deng played like the player Bulls fans were once reluctant to give up for Kobe Bryant. He was the game leader in scoring (24) and FT attempts (nine). He needs to make more than five of those in the future, but showing his willingness to drive to the hoop is something this Bulls team is going to need to rely on in the future. Deng also lead all starters with a +/- of +17.
Game Ball #1 – The Bench (1st)
For those that got to watch this game in its entirety, you know the stats won’t tell the whole story. Taj Gibson came off the bench and posted 10 points and 12 rebounds in the first half! However, Taj wasn’t the only solid contributor off the bench. The seven reserves combined for a +/- of +85. Let me say that again for you. +85 while the reserves were on the floor. I have absolutely no idea what the Bulls season high is for a stat like that, but you’d have to imagine this would top it.
Strike #1 – Kurt Thomas (1st)
Though Thomas had a clear advantage in size throughout this game, he just doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the smaller players. He was assigned to Bargnani to start the game, who constantly got by him. The only thing Big Sexy could do to prevent it was foul, and his two quick fouls led to a short night. Kurt logged only 15 non-effective minutes.
Strike #2 – Coach Tom Thibodeau (1st)
Though he made several match-up decisions that resulted in very positive results (as told by the play of the reserves), the decision to let Deng play as long as he did is almost baffling. Deng played over 40 minutes for the Bulls tonight, even though he leads the team in minutes per game. I hate to discredit the coach for anything on a night where the Bulls played some of their best ball, but when one of your key starters with an injury history like Deng’s plays that many minutes in a game where the Bulls led comfortably throughout most the 2nd half, something needs to be done.
Final Thoughts: Irregardless of Deng’s minutes, this was a total team win in which very, very little went wrong. However, fans must not look too much into this win. We beat a depleted Raptors team who has lost 13 of their last 16 games. Props to the Bulls for doing work when it was needed, but the job is not yet over.
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