After beating the OKC Thunder (Pow!) at home and having a game against the LA Lakers lurking on Friday at the UC, this game was primed to be a “donut game” (a game that superior teams do not get up for, being in between two marquee games, and often lose). Therefore, I did not know what to expect from the Chicago Bulls. I was not getting the Chicago feed on the NBA League Pass, yet I did expect no surprises from the Cleveland broadcast team. Thus came the biggest shock of the night. Cleveland’s color commentator* sounds like an older Mr. T (ergo a current Mr. T), which is as awesome as it sounds. To put you in the proper perspective, he sounds like Mr. T when not excited. So while there was not any, “I pity the fool,” there was that wonderfully awkward cadence and odd stressing of words.
The Bulls got off to a great start in the first, scoring the game’s first ten points. Derrick Rose hit two threes in a row and Carlos Boozer continued his sweet rhythm that he found on Monday. It was at this point that Mr. T made the astute observation that “Carlos Boozer has been the Bulls biggest addition.” Thanks T! The Bulls did cool off and not get the skunk (I think it is 50-0 in the NBA). Oddly enough, the Bulls got lazy and settled for jumpers. Mr. T chalked this up to the Cavs not letting the Bulls drive, but there was not any indication that they were trying to do so. The quarter ended with the Bulls up 21-15.
The second quarter saw Unit: DJ Trainwreck more/less hold their own. When the starters filtered back in there was little energy and a donut game was looking very likely. Mr. T began cackling, implying that he was invoking the spirit of many great announcers of yore, and sporting a spiked beverage. The Bulls actually fell behind the Cavs, then Rose got pissed and started driving to the basket, towards the end of the half. After two consecutive layups, Rose drove a third time only to kick it out to a wide-open Deng, who promptly nailed a three. It was basically a capsule of what I think Rose – and this offense in general – should be all about. To put in another way: the Bulls were making the Cavs be somebody’s fool.
The Bulls lost their energy to start the third and reverted back to the donut. The third quarter can be summed up by: lackadaisical. The Bulls seemed to not care. The end of the quarter summed up the whole period. Rose drove to the basket and was fouled. He missed both free throws and then Mo Williams drove it to the other end and hit a buzzer-beating shot to give the Cavs an eight point lead.
Kyle Korver was awakened to bring the Bulls back into this one (not that an eight point deficit necessarily means that they were “out” of it). Korver started dropping buckets, while most of the starters came back onto the court. Noticeably absent, as Mr. T was sure to point out, was former Cavalier (on the court, as he is still quite cavalier off the court) Boozer. Seeing as how no report came and he was on the bench, I am hoping this was not for health reasons. Back to the game, the Bulls made a late charge (featuring Mr. T stammering over words) led by Rose and eventually eked out a win in which the talent scale was grossly weighed down by your Chicago Bulls.
The blatant observation that shoots to the forefront of this one is that the Bulls scored a mere 88 points against a team that opponents have had their way with on the offensive end. The key reason to this was their willingness to settle for the jumper. Derrick Rose started hot, and then relied on his jumper. I have said it before, regardless how much Rose has improved his shot (which is much+), his bread and butter is still his freakish ability to drive and score.
In addition to Rose settling for the jumper, Joakin Noah took far too many shots. Like Rose, Noah’s offensive game has improved. He has developed an “elbow” (the corner of the key) shot that is a great asset to his game. Hardly anyone respects it, and if they do, that means one less center in the paint. I have no problems with this elbow volleyball set shot. The problem I have is when Noah gets the ball down low and does not have a clear path to the basket. It is at this time when he forces way too many shots, with wild shot of choice being the crazy bank “layup.” It may just be a coincidence (hope, hope), but it seems like since Boozer’s return, Noah has been forcing his game on the offensive end.
I very much realize that I am complaining about, arguably, the Bulls two best players. And yes, Rose had 29 points and 8 assists, while Noah had 13 points and 14 rebounds. However, there is always room for improvement, and both Rose and Noah can improve by driving and kicking it out for a better shot. Anytime a team is able to spread the defense, it can only work in their favor.
With the grump fest aside, the Bulls are now carrying a three game winning streak to face the LA Lakers (who I am about to watch against my newest sweetheart, Blake Griffin), and winning streaks are a good thing. Another happy, happy note is that after said Lakers game, the Bulls close out December by playing ten teams that they will be favored to win against.
*Austin Carr – played the vast majority of his career with the Cavs, averaging 15.4 PPG and an 80% FT shooter (yes, he often mocked Noah’s shot)