The Bulls notched two impressive feats with a victory last night. Chicago set the record for fewest points allowed while Tom Thibodeau became the fastest coach to 100 wins. I'm sure the partying is still going on today, or more than likely, they're simply thinking about the Raptors.
With the win, the Bulls maintain their one game lead in the loss column over Miami and finish out a light week with a home and home against the Raptors on Wednesday and Saturday. Hopefully Derrick will be ready to go soon, but the Bulls shouldn't (and won't) rush him back. Not with the team playing as well as it is without him [and hopefully even not if it was struggling].
Chicago's got an eight game lead in the loss column on Orlando, so the rest of the season is squarely about the Bulls winning the #1 seed against Miami as only the most improbable of finishes would put them at the #3 seed or worse.
How did the Bulls set a franchise record for fewest points allowed?
It starts with great defense. Chicago did all the little things right. They forced turnovers, kept Orlando off the offensive glass, ran the Magic off the three point line (7 fewer attempts than normal), and forced them into difficult shots.
They played well enough defensively to win this game regardless, but the record was also set by some horrific shooting. Dwight Howard did a nice job on offense, but the rest of the team couldn't throw the ball in the ocean. The Bulls did a nice job limiting Orlando's three point attempts, but the Magic had plenty of open threes that simply didn't go down [though worth noting even if they hit 10/20, they'd have still lost by eight].
It was an impressive display for Chicago on the glass as well, limiting the Magic to a mere 10 offensive rebounds on 44 misses despite Dwight Howard manning the paint. Chicago also got a little help when Dwight needed to take an extended early rest due to foul trouble [though he still ended up playing 41 minutes, so it didn't ultimately do much to his playing time].
How does Dwight feel now?
After a couple of big emotional wins over their biggest rivals (Chicago and Miami) leading up to his decision to opt in next year and thus remove himself from the trading block, the Magic have now fallen to pieces a bit. They lost to Miami two nights ago only to fall to Chicago without Rose the next night.
Orlando still has the inside track on the three seed though as Philadelphia is falling apart just as fast, and Orlando can take some solace in the fact that Chicago also just beat Miami and Philly without Rose as well.
Who'd have thought this for John Lucas?
I remember thinking after the missed free throws against Denver last season that it would be Lucas's lone contribution to the Bulls. I didn't think he'd ever get the opportunity to redeem himself, nor did I think he was capable of grasping it if he did. I figure if Lucas played we'd simply be hoping not to get destroyed while he's on the court.
Yeah, not so much.
John Lucas has flat out won the Bulls three games this season, two of which came against Chicago's biggest rivals in the Eastern conference. He can be up and down like all shooters, but he's playing with what Bill Simmons calls "irrational confidence".
I was never too hung up on whether we brought Lucas back or Mike James or some other third string point guard, but I figured we kept Lucas around due to his familiarity with the system and strong practice habits. Apparently, we also kept him around because he can play bad ass point guard in small stretches as well.
I'd say Lucas is channeling good Pargo, but he's doing it at a high enough rate that it's an insult to make the comparison. Sure, every other game you probably get something lousy from Lucas right now, but he's shining in the big moments when Chicago needs him most. He's knocking down his threes at a 41% clip while taking a bunch of pretty tough threes.
I feel good for Lucas, because he's earned himself a roster spot next season. For a guy who came into the season as an emergency 12th or 13th man who's never had significant playing time in the NBA, that's among the best things that can happen.
Don't rip C.J. too much
Watson has struggled with his shooting (and in general) the past few games, but I'm not too down on his play going forward. He's been fighting through an ankle sprain that he probably wouldn't play through if Rose were healthy. When a guy plays hurt, we applaud his toughness, but when he plays bad hurt we often throw him under the bus.
Well, when you're hurt, it's really, really tough to play as well as when you're not. Despite a fairly horrific night by Watson [an 0-8 I'm sure he'd like to forget], I'm happy that he's out there giving Chicago effort and playing through pain while Chicago tries to keep up the pace with Rose out.
No, I don't think he's lost the backup PG role when everyone is healthy either.
Carlos Boozer would love to play Orlando every night
Carlos Boozer simply shredded the Magic again. When the game was still in doubt [like the first 8 minutes or so], Boozer made shot after shot for Chicago and kept it up all night long. He also ended the scoring drought in the third quarter where Orlando appeared on the cusp of making a run.
Boozer stepped up tonight and gave the Bulls the scoring they need while Rose is on the bench. Great job by the most criticized Bulls player.
I've heard the question asked if Boozer plays better with Rose out of the game. I haven't looked up the stats, but my speculative guess is no. He's had plenty of lousy games with Rose out, and the types of shots he's taking aren't a whole lot different. Even if he was better with more consistent touches, the amount better is no where near enough to change the Bulls style of play to accommodate him when Rose is healthy.
Bigs playing big
Dwight Howard scored efficiently, but Noah and Asik limited his volume to a mere 18 points and many of those came from offensive boards or broken plays. Dwight simply wasn't a big factor in the low post this game.
Noah struggled through a four of 12 shooting night but still managed to get the six shooters out once, and continued his trend of making quality decisions passing the basketball. You know who has the second most assists on the Bulls this year? Joakim Noah. I wonder if there's another center in the NBA who can say that, but I suspect not.
Asik didn't play huge minutes, but I felt he was very effective when he was in the game, particularly on the glass. I love the way Asik plays Howard as he never backs down on the guy and plays him physically.
Avoid the let down game
Last time the Bulls had a big win against a rival, they came out flat, especially defensively, the next game against a weaker team. The Bulls face the Raptors on Wednesday in a game which should be relatively easy as long as they don't fall into the same trap again.