I said in the pre-game thread that this was the type of game C.J. Could step up and play well in. When he is called on to score, will get big minutes, and can dominate the ball, he's a different player.
He came through and proved it tonight, but it wasn't enough. The Bulls lost this game on the decision to put John Lucas in the game on the final offensive possession. Then when Kyle Korver had the ball with 14 seconds left, he elected to pass to Lucas rather than accept the foul..
The Bulls were fortunate to get bailed out when it looked like Lucas turned the ball over, but Lucas misses both free throws anyway. On the Nuggets final possession, the Bulls play good defense but fail to get the rebound which rolls out of bounds off them, and then they fail to double team Carmelo who fakes a drive and gets a wide open 20 footer for the win.
It was a great effort, but mental mistakes at the end of the game cost the Bulls on both ends.
Watson topped my 30 point upside scenario and hit the Bulls last three field goals. C.J. Watson knocked down some threes to help the Bulls back into the game, got to the line (largely off of perimeter fouls that were terrible plays by Denver), and then carried the Bulls down the stretch. It was really a phenomenal day for Watson who hit 11-22 shots.
Joakim Noah had another big night. He had 17 points and 16 boards, but more importantly he played excellent help defense down the stretch to help limit the Nuggets chances and control Melo in the paint. If it weren't for the bailout call Melo got (which didn't look like a foul), then the Bulls would have won the game. Noah had big rebounds in traffic all night and did a nice job knocking down all seven of his free throws.
Luol Deng shook off a terrible start to have a nice game. If memory serves me correctly, he was 2-8 in the first half. However, he had an excellent second half, and played solid defensively on Melo throughout the second half as well. He hit the glass hard, knocked down his foul shots, and did a nice job redeeming himself.
Taj Gibson barely played and struggled when he did. Presumably the foot was an issue, but Taj didn't play well while on the court, and didn't play very much, especially given that the Bulls were already short handed.
Keith Bogans chews up minutes to little effect. You don't see him making any huge mistakes, but you don't see him doing much positive out there. For an end of rotation role player, that's okay, and even though Bogans is starting, he's playing minutes like the 8th man.
Kyle Korver shot us out of this game and made a critically bad decision to pass the ball at the end. He did hit the big three to give the Bulls the lead in the fourth, but he also shot just 2-12 on the night, largely with good looks. At the end of the game, he should have let the Nuggets foul him the first time he got the ball, and after passing it off, he darn well shouldn't have passed it off again when he got it back. Kyle, you will knock down both free throws, make them foul you.
Ronnie Brewer was largely invisible tonight. About the only thing I remember him doing was getting called for an iffy goal tend.
Omer Asik was somehow a +20 tonight despite playing pretty dicey. Omer was really good in the first half, where he had multiple blocks and played strong defense, but in the second half he seemed to have a hard time with the three second rule and after getting buzzed for it once, he kept dancing in and out of the paint and got too concerned with it, and gave up some plays. He also failed to convert on any of his shot attempts at the basket.
James Johnson had a great first half, but was sloppy in the second half. After playing with a lot of energy and helping the Bulls early, in the second half he just straight threw the ball away on two possessions early in the third quarter and ended up riding the pine afterwards. The positives are there, but he needs to minimize the mistakes.
John Lucas is the goat of the night. I'm not going to rag too much on a guy who was just signed in off the street, but you have to wonder about the philosophy of putting him in the game during a critical stretch. He almost turned the ball over and wasn't even close on the free throws. I think I'd have gone with Bogans in that situation. Still, the blame really falls on Korver for passing him the ball rather than just taking the foul.
Though I hated his call of Lucas at the end, Thibodeau coached pretty well. He called his timeouts at just the right points to stop the runs and get the Bulls back in the game, and he had the team playing well out of the timeouts. He did a nice job managing the rotation given the limited players at our disposal, and the Bulls almost pulled off a big upset. I hated the Lucas thing (have you picked up on that?), but overall it was a well coached game, and I don't want that to get lost in the hate over putting Lucas out there in a critical situation.
Most of the stuff I'd put in the final thoughts I threw into the intro, but one other interesting note is that there were clearly .2 seconds on the clock after the shot passed through. Are you at all annoyed the Bulls didn't get a final play? .2 is only time for a tip, so they almost certainly would have lost anyway (2-3% chance of winning in that scenario), but given that they replay everything at the end, I was surprised the Bulls didn't get a shot.
The game definitely lacked buzz without Derrick Rose in it, but the team played tough and clearly wanted it more than Denver as they outhustled Denver all night long. I liked the effort if not the result.