It started with J.R. Smith fouling out. Then Carmelo was ejected. Then Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah were both tossed. Mike Woodsen got thrown out to add gas to the fire, and then the Knicks decided to make a comeback just a little too late.
The final score may have been a four point win for Chicago, but that wouldn't really do justice to a game where the Bulls absolutely annihilated the Knicks and allowed a comeback in the final minutes while playing prevent defense without any interior defenders left to call on.
With Joakim Noah out, Taj Gibson hobbled too much to play effectively, and Carlos Boozer yanked for Vladimir Radmanovic due to his inability to play defense, the Bulls ultimately ended up in an ultra small lineup to close the game [replacing Radman with Nate Robinson] that couldn't effectively patrol the paint allowing Raymond Felton to drive for what felt about 15 layups in three minutes.
That said, the Knicks started their run far too late to make a difference, and the Bulls effectively crushed the Knicks as much as any four point victory can be a crushing.
The refs completely lost control of the game T'ing up people left and right, ejecting people over and over, and calling a somewhat uneven game in which light contact occasionally drew fouls while virtual muggings went uncalled. At one point, Jason Kidd hacked Luol Deng bad enough to cause a shoulder injury forcing Deng to leave the game, only to see phantom fouls be called a play later.
Joakim Noah dominated Tyson Chandler
Chandler was limited to five points, eight boards, and three turnovers. Meanwhile, Noah scored 15 with 12 boards and six assists. Joakim Noah leads the NBA in 10/10/5 games with 10 with LeBron coming in second with eight.
The Bulls obviously feel comfortable running the offense through Chandler in the high post where he makes excellent decisions with the basketball and finds his teammates. Noah's improvement in his all-around offensive game has been dramatic this season. He's always been an excellent passer, but has added enough wrinkles to his own offensive game to really open up the possibilities and passing lanes.
Noah and Chandler got tangled up in the fourth period while battling for a rebound. Chandler seemed to lose it for no particular reason except that he was frustrated from being dominated all game. He threw Noah off of him, swung an elbow or two while Noah then got up in his grill and the two had to be separated. A one game suspension for each would not be surprising.
In a battle of potential all-stars, Joakim Noah looked the part, dominating Chandler on both ends of the court and getting into his head as well.
Luol Deng injures shoulder
Luol Deng injured his shoulder after Jason Kidd raked him across the arm pulling it down in at awkward angle. Deng immediately clutched his shoulder and had to be taken out of the game. He didn't leave the bench area though and later returned. Afterwards, he said the game was sore.
Deng will clearly be re-evaluated, and we'll find out more about his condition today. Given that Deng returned to action and played decently upon coming back, and the fact it was his left shoulder, my guess is that Deng will not miss further time due to this injury.
Outside of the injury, Deng had a fantastic game, matching Carmelo's 29 points and doing an outstanding job on Melo defensively [Melo scored more of his points when Deng was not matched up on him]. Deng drilled jumper after jumper and shot well from the three point line as well knocking down three of his five attempts from beyond the arc.
All in all, whenever the Bulls needed a basket, Luol Deng was there to provide it.
Kirk plays his best game in his second stint as a Bull
Kirk Hinrich fell just shy of triple double with 15 points, nine boards, and eight assists. Kirk took just eight shots, but sunk six of them including four three pointers. He played with an efficiency that the Bulls desperately need, but haven't seen much this season.
Marco Belinelli continues his strong play as a starter
Belinelli chipped in 22 points on a nice combination of drives and shooting. While clearly not an elite player, Belinelli's providing the all-around offense the Bulls hoped Rip Hamilton would provide at the SG position. It's a shame that the Bulls only locked up Belinelli for one season, because it will be difficult for them to bring him back next season.
He's as an ideal fit as the Bulls can possibly hope to find in the salary range they'll have to spend on a SG next summer, and it will be interesting if the Bulls re-up with Belinelli or look to pursue other options.
Big win for Chicago
Chicago has proved something to Bulls fans so far this season. After a shaky start where they didn't look like they could hang with quality teams, the Bulls have gelled and played much better basketball. In the midst of a 10 game trip against average to above average teams, I thought the Bulls might get annihilated.
Instead, they've gone 5-2 through the first seven games of that trip with wins over Philly, Boston, New York (x2), and Brooklyn. They lost narrow games to the Clippers and Grizzlies, but were in the Clippers game until the last 30 seconds and in the Grizzlies game until about two minutes to go.
All in all, Chicago has proven that they aren't a bottom feeder team without Derrick Rose. They've beaten some quality teams and have played well in every game. Tom Thibodeau has his team playing well, and the Bulls are well positioned for Rose to return without putting undue stress on him to carry the team to the playoffs all by himself.
Derrick Rose returned to (non contact) practice
Rose has been doing "pre practice" work for awhile, but his status seems to have improved somewhat as he's now participating in the non contact portions of practice according to Tom Thibodeau. I've long thought Rose was like to return in either mid to late January or after the all-star break.
Effectively if he's not ready by end of January, the Bulls won't bring him back in early February with the all-star break looming. We still don't know how far away Rose is, but I'd suspect that an end of January return seems quite possible at this stage with the post all-star break return likely representing the worst case scenario.
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