Tom Thibodeau becomes the third Bull to make it to the all-star game as the Bulls clinch the top coaching record for the Eastern Conference over the Miami Heat. Miami would hold the tie breaker against the Bulls except that Chicago has played one more game and though Miami will almost certainly win their next game, the cut off is today.
See, playing a league high 31 games [no one else is even tied] has it's advantages. Okay, one advantage, and it's not a particularly big one.
Will Tom Thibodeau start pulling players for defense until Luol Deng ends up playing 40 minutes as the only guy going full bore on both ends?
Will he have a 48 hour film session marathon dissecting the offensive game of every player on the West?
Over/Under on the number of times he screams "ICE" during the game?
It wasn't easy to earn this one for Thibs
This was one of the rare games where the Bulls offense carried them to victory. They shot 52.4% from the field, 9/19 from the three point line and 24/26 from the charity stripe. They won by six, but they chipped in four free throws during intentional foul time after the Kings cut the lead to two.
Thinking about how close this game was, the Bulls could have trivially seen a comeback reminiscent of the 35 point come from behind victory the Kings posted at the United Center two years ago. The Bulls had a 19 point lead in the fourth quarter of this game as well just to see the Kings come charging back at them.
However, the Bulls found a way to get it done and did a nice job closing the game by knocking down free throws and responding with big shot after big shot when Sacramento's offense would not be denied.
DeMarcus Cousins and Noah played to a draw
I said prior to the game that Joakim Noah's one of my favorite big man defenders in the NBA. He's an elite help defensive player, one of the best I've ever seen. He can pick up Chris Paul on a pick and roll and guard him in isolation better than most guards in this league. However, DeMarcus Cousins fits the "worst nightmare" scenario for Noah defensively.
He doesn't have the bulk to bang with Cousins and adding that Bulk would ruin the rest of his game. He's always going to struggle with guys like Bynum, Cousins, and Howard, but you live with it, because when you go against Miami there's no center in the NBA you'd rather have hedging your LeBron or Wade pick and roll than Joakim Noah.
DeMarcus overpowered Noah on offense all night long, dominating the glass and scoring at will. The good news for Chicago is that Noah had just as big of a night on Cousins. He used his speed to beat him down the court, his tenacity to pull down some offensive boards, and his quickness to get inside for layup after layup. He was also the beneficiary of wide open looks under the basket when Sacramento's defense randomly roamed around the court.
All in all, if I had to take 10/20 + 6 turnovers for 28 points or 7/11 + 1 turnover for 22 points, I'd go with Noah's numbers. It was great to see him get so much done on offense for Chicago because they clearly needed the points.
Luol Deng fell three rebounds shy of his first triple double
Deng didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but he got to the foul line repeatedly and did the most important thing against this Kings defense, he moved the ball quickly to the open man generating high quality looks for his teammates. The Kings lack discipline on defense, and the Bulls found quality looks all night long.
It would have been a great story of Deng could have notched the triple double heading into the all-star game, I don't know if he'll ever get another reasonable chance at 10+ assists in his career as his typical game and role don't provide him those types of opportunities.
Kyle Korver was at his best
Korver knocked down four of five from the three point line and displayed no hesitation whatsoever in launching his shot. He had a couple threes where the Kings foolishly left him, but he also knocked down a couple more where I was surprised he was able to get off the shot because he looked covered upon receiving the ball.
Overall, Korver threw in 18 points on just seven shot attempts and when you're in an offensive shoot out, you need that kind of firepower.
Taj Gibson rolled em
Taj would get strong consideration for player of the game. Outside of a travel where he switched his pivot foot before a drive, he was nearly flawless on offense [and he probably had a dunk if not for that call].
He knocked down his jumper all night long and did a nice job cutting to the basket and getting easy finishes at the rim. We won't get as much offense out of Taj most nights, but the Bulls needed it and got it tonight.
Watson didn't play particularly well but hit a key three
It wasn't C.J. Watson's best game, but give the man some credit. When the Kings simply couldn't miss at the end of the game Watson knocked down a big three to build the lead back up to nine and previously had hit another two to help add some padding to the lead.
The Kings widdled down the lead to two points eventually, but Watson gave the Bulls five in the final five minutes to help keep Chicago ahead.
All in all, about as much fun as you can have without Derrick Rose
While it was a game without Derrick Rose, and it featured the Bulls barely hanging on against a fairly pedestrian squad, I found it one of the more enjoyable Bulls games this season.
We had a true offensive shootout with both teams going on scoring binges [sometimes back and forth, sometimes separately]. We had some drama at the end, but the Bulls made enough plays to hang on.
While I'll always appreciate the Bulls tremendous defense, it was fun to see them go Phoenix Suns style on a team and gut out a win that way. It was also nice to hear Thibs say he was pleased with the win and acknowledge that you have to win games in all different styles in this league.
The Kings played with a super high tempo, and the Bulls matched them rather than trying to grind it out.
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