Drink: NB Rob Roy
Injuries are part of the game, and the Chicago Bulls are certainly realizing this factoid in this half-old season. Carlos Boozer, who sported a suit and tie on the bench for the first month of the season, was out with a swollen ankle. And Joakim Noah has had his cast sawed off, but is still over a month from returning. This translates to the Bulls going into this one without their starting front court. Honestly, I think Noah is the bigger of the two losses, but both are two of their three best players on the roster. Luckily, #1 – Ernst Sravro Bloefeld, if you will – took the court.
Derrick Rose began this game cold. Some of this had to do with the Grizzlies concentrating on his drives. With Noah and Boozer not starting, this is not a very surprising strategy. In fact, even with Boozer in the lineup, more teams have been focusing on Rose’s drives. This has led to even tougher shots for Rose, and more blocked shots to boot. What Rose was lacking early on, was made up for by a killer Bulls defense. Boozer being out means a huge defensive upgrade in Taj Gibson. With a very effective Zach Randolph on the floor for the Grizzleby’s, Taj was probably a better choice to start, even if Boozer was healthy. Add to all of this a Deng who was on, and the Bulls closed out the quarter up 11.
The second saw the Bulls extend their lead to 17, spearheaded by great play from Taj and Kyle Korver. The Gizz fought back, getting the Bulls lead under double digits, but Korver and Rose teamed up to close the half with the Bulls having the same lead they started the quarter with.
Luol “Don’t Call Me Lou” Deng – after not getting a point in the second – propelled the Bulls in the third. As the quarter progressed, the Bulls flirted with a 20 point lead. As with all of this game, most of their success was built on their defense that got out and contended Memphis’ shots.
The fourth was scary. The Grizzleby’s took advantage of the Bulls ice cold offense, forcing Thibs to call a timeout 3:16 into the fourth and the lead cut down to 11. The middle of this period had the Bulls scrapping with the Grizz. With Boozer and Noah out, it looked like a meltdown was very possible. Yet, the Bulls kept up their defensive pressure, while Rose, Deng, and Korver got it done on the other side of the court. The last few minutes offered a sigh of relief as the Bulls closed it out with a double digit lead.
This game marked the 41st game of the season, ergo, the halfway point of the season. Quick math will tell us that the Bulls will finish the season with 56 wins!
There were two stories to this contest. First, the Bulls defense was excellent, keeping up pressure and holding a potentially explosive offense at bay. Second, with the aforementioned thin front court, the Bulls were still able to find effective offense, primarily through Deng, Rose, and Korver. We have come to expect that Rose will get his, but it was a breath of fresh air to see Deng and Korver find their shot and excel. Both of these players were expected to be large offensive contributors before the season began. And while Deng has been consistent, both players have been a bit underwhelming thus far. It was great to see both of them step up, while the Bulls are wounded, and come up huge.