Kirk Hinrich missed the game with a knee injury he suffered against the Clippers forcing the Bulls to give Marquis Teague some extended burn. Teague came through in a way that transcended his pedestrian box score numbers.
He wasn't the best or most important player of the game. Joakim scored 21 on 7/10 shooting to get some revenge after the Philly crowd cheered when he was hurt in the playoffs (stay classy Philadelphia) while Luol had a strong game scoring 19. However, with Marquis, we haven't really seen him play well for more than a play or two at a time.
Teague came into this game with around 10 minutes left with the Bulls down one and closed it out. Jrue Holiday, who had torched Nate Robinson, struggled the rest of the way shooting 1/4 over the rest of the game with two turnovers. Teague scored all six of his points in the fourth on 2/3 shooting and 2/2 from the free throw line and showed signs of becoming the player the Bulls hoped for when he was drafted.
We often compare Teague's situation to Jimmy Butler in how the players may need to sit for a year, however Teague's in a tougher spot than Jimmy Butler. Butler was near NBA ready when he entered the league, and Thibodeau could simply insert him to get him some run and count on bringing him in this year for a bigger role.
Teague's got a much higher ceiling but also is further away from reaching it, and the Bulls need to make sure they're supplying him all the individual coaching in practice to develop him while he doesn't get run during games whereas Jimmy really just needed to work on his jumper.
This was a nice opportunity for Marquis to get significant burn against a good team, matched up against a good player, in crunch time of a road game. He came through. Hopefully he continues to prove himself in the opportunities he does get even if they are justifiably limited.
Chicago won at the charity stripe
The Bulls shot 24/26 from the free throw line while the 76ers shot just 5/11. Chicago's massive amount of extra attempts combined with their significantly better percentage pushed them ahead in a game where the 76ers did a better job shooting the ball and attacking the glass. If both teams shoot 80% from the foul line the 76ers probably win this game even without balancing out the attempts.
The Bulls didn't have their three point shooting going on like against the Clippers but still knocked down a respectable percentage of their attempts shooting 4/11. They controlled their turnovers and played their familiar solid, grimey style of basketball to wear the 76ers out.
I love you Joakim Noah
Noah's been so impressive to me as a player this season. He's frequently taking the mid range jumper now even if he's off and on when doing it. I love how much more aggressive he's become offensively this season. It's going to pay off significantly when the Bulls are at full strength.
Statistically, Noah's not quite as strong this season as last, but the versatility he's added to his game has been truly impressive this season. He's no longer living on offensive tip ins and open dunks, but generating his own hooks off the dribble, knocking down jumpers, and making himself a threat on offense.
Beyond that though, how awesome is it to not have to worry about whether your defensive oriented rebounding center can knock down his free throws? It didn't come up against the 76ers, but I was sitting there watching the Bulls in the end game, and they're doing the whole offense/defense substitution thing and you never have to sub out Noah because it's perfectly fine if the opponents foul him in the clutch.
Marco continues to make the case to start
Marco Belinelli continues to light it up as a starter with another 16 point game on just 13 shots. He and Hamilton are both in there to provide some volume scoring, but Belinelli's doing it with more efficiency than Hamilton was. He's far more threatening as a long range shooter and similarly threatening as a curl shooter.
Rip provides a bit better ability in the post, but as I've noted before, posting up opposing guards with your guards is typically a losing strategy. As such, Belinelli's strengths are more useful for this Bulls team. Sometimes it's about role and opportunity. With a better role and more opportunity we've seen Belinelli thrive.
This is the player I thought we were going to get in the summer when I said he could be better than Kyle Korver for this team. Since starting for the Bulls he has been.
Strong performance by most of the team
Jimmy Butler did a nice job coming off the bench and even hit a three. He's only shot 10 on the season (making two), but I think we're going to start seeing Jimmy shoot that corner three more frequently. Taj Gibson played better than his box score would indicate and helped shut down the 76ers with his defense.
Pretty much everyone played well except Carlos Boozer who struggled through a 1/6 performance from the field after having his best game of the season against the Clippers. A bit disappointing Carlos couldn't follow up that great game with another great performance, but for all of the hate Boozer gets, he's been decent recently and better than Taj.
So on the stretch of 10 stronger opponents, I asked the Bulls to win 4/10 (which would leave them at .500 coming out of the stretch) and so far they're 2-1. They caught a break with Melo out for the first game against the Knicks and took advantage. They came into Philly tired and short handed and came out with a win.
This team which looked so poor as it limped around earlier looks pedestrian on talent but high on toughness right now. They're coming ready to play and grinding out wins. Nice job Chicago, it may not be pretty, but I'm proud of you.