The Chicago Bulls improved to a four and two record with a sloppy win over an injury plagued Timberwolves team. Unfortunately, Kirk Hinrich may be shelves for awhile after leaving the game with a strained hip/hamstring in the second quarter. Hinrich is scheduled for an MRI today and just the scheduling of the MRI implies some missed time.
Joakim Noah continues his amazing play
Joakim Noah's always been easy to love for his hustle, energy, and help defense and Bulls fans would talk him up as a top five center despite a lack of offense because of those other strengths. So far this season, Joakim Noah has become an offensive force. He's knocking down the mid range jumper with consistency. He's averaging over three assists per game, but frequently gets assists that generate dunks and easy shots.
Noah's flashed a nice hook shot in the lane and overall, has served as one of the Bulls best offensive creators.
Defensively, he's gone from a quick center who plays help defense and can defend the pick and roll to a complete terror. He's averaging a career high 2.3 blocks per game so far, and the Bulls interior defense looks unstoppable when he and Taj play together. Noah's also playing a career high in minutes and seems to play even better with the extra time.
Nate Robinson was the good, bad, and ugly all by himself
He started off bad missing his first four shots. He then ignited a Bulls 11-0 run by making his next four shots. He then went ugly with five turnovers before the end of the second period, most of them unforced where he simply made poor decisions or bad passes.
That said, the good outweighed the bad, as Robinson finished with 18 points on just 8/14 shots and gave the Bulls the offensive creation they needed to stay in the game.
Kirk Hinrich hurt his hamstring/hip and needs an MRI
There was no discernible moment where Hinrich was injured. He left the game after missing a mid range jumper that didn't appear to have an awkward landing or contact on the play and did not return. The team initially called it a hip strain, but Hinrich said it was a hamstring problem after the game.
Kirk's scheduled for an MRI today. The good news is that he didn't look like he was in obvious pain walking off the floor, there wasn't a big limp or anything else, so the injury just on the surface didn't look particularly debilitating. That said, any time you get an MRI, the assumption has to be that some time is likely going to be missed.
Nate Robinson will need to step up while Hinrich is out, but thus far, Robinson has vastly outplayed Hinrich anyway, so that's not a particularly huge fear. What is a big fear is Teague stepping up to play Robinson's minutes. If Hinrich were to miss significant time, the Bulls still would not be able to sign a replacement until November 17th.
Marco Belinelli provided the spark
Marco finally provided the three point shooting spark the Bulls have looked for out of him all season. He knocked down three triples in just over two minutes to start the fourth period giving the Bulls the efficient offense they've been missing for much of the season.
Belinelli's obviously not going to shoot 60% from the three point line every game, but they need more games like this mixed in with the ones where he's off to get value out of him and have the defenses honor his presence on the court.
Carlos Boozer still missing in action
Tom Thibodeau discussed how he's unconcerned with Boozer's poor offensive start. I guess that makes one of us. The problem with Boozer going through an abysmal cold stretch on offense is that he kills you in all other aspects of the game.
We all know Boozer's overpaid, but he's playing at a minimum salary player type of level now. He's giving the team some rebounding but absolutely nothing else. His defense is amongst the worst in the NBA at his position and his offense has been terrible. The Bulls really don't need a one dimensional rebounder in there, and Taj Gibson's minutes should be on the rise if Boozer can't find a way to contribute.
What makes it worse is that the Bulls desperately need his scoring ability right now with Derrick Rose out, but like always, when you need Boozer the most is when he comes up the smallest.
Taj Gibson has been a defensive beast
Taj Gibson's flashed inconsistent offense. He displayed a huge array of spins and fancy footwork last night but was unable to finish many of the shots. Bulls fans have hoped to see greater consistency from Taj on that side of the floor since he entered the league as the fundamental tools are there.
That said, Taj's defense has been unbelievable and warranting of all defensive team votes. As noted above, when Joakim and Taj are in the game together the paint is simply shut down. One underrated aspect of Taj's game is how well he defends players in isolation. We know Taj as a great help defender, but he simply shuts down whomever he's guarding one on one as well.
Luol Deng had a relatively quiet 16 points
Luol Deng did what we simply expect of Luol Deng. He hung around all game, collected a bunch of boards, some assists, scored in the teens and played great defense all game long. He scored six in the fourth to keep the Bulls in front during a long stretch where neither team could get anything done on offense.
Marquis Teague struggled with some meaningful minutes
With Kirk Hinrich out, Teague gave Nate Robinson a breather in the late third and early fourth quarter and generally struggled. He hit a driving layup nearly immediately upon entering the game, but that was the end of his highlights.
He lost his man on his first defensive possession to allow a score, was backcut later for a score, got away with fouling a player with the quarter clock winding down and almost put the Bulls in a position to give up three free throws.
The Bulls actually didn't have the ball in Teague's hands all that frequently while he was on the floor limiting his opportunities, but he didn't impress with the few he had.
At 4-2, it's hard to complain about the Bulls start this season. Their defense is still humming along at a very high level while the offense has largely struggled and come in bursts of scoring amongst long droughts. The Bulls welcome a struggling Celtics team to the United Center Monday before heading out on the five game road trip.
The circus trip this season is much less daunting than in the past. My hope is the Bulls can take three of the next six games and come out of the trip at 7-5.