The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks are making a habit of this. The Bulls built up a 21 point half time lead which expanded to 25 in the third and was over 20 in the fourth. The game effectively looked like a laugher until midway through the fourth when the Bulls lost their offense, the Knicks found their three and pulled things close.
Much like last time [Bulls hung on to win by four], the Knicks run was simply too little too late. Chicago was never in serious danger of losing the game as the Knicks widdled the lead down to five at one point but got no closer.
Luol Deng destroyed Carmelo Anthony's lazy defense for most of the night scoring 33 on 13 of 18 from the field. Deng frequently had open looks behind the three point line and knocked them down and as his confidence built he started knocking down tough contested jumpers. By the time Carmelo could be bothered to play defense, the game was already out of reach.
Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli combined to give the Bulls a big scoring lift at SG as the combo scored 26 on nine of 15 shooting, and fans got another glimpse of how good the Bulls offense can play when it gets efficient scoring out of the two guard position.
The Bulls were beat up on the glass and while the rebound differential was only two, that doesn't really do justice to how many offensive rebounds Chicago allowed. All in all, the Knicks had around 17 more possessions than Chicago when you account for turnovers, offensive boards, and trips to the free throw line.
That type of advantage is one which typically spells doom for the Bulls, but Chicago shot 57% from the field compared to New York's 41%. This was a rare win where the Bulls offense carried the day despite not taking care of the ball or winning the rebound battle. It remains to be seen how frequently Chicago can put together similar offensive performances, but it's nice to see the Bulls win some games in this fashion.
Derrick Rose mini-update
Derrick Rose is dunking according to Jimmy Butler and is "approaching" full contact practice. The news around Derrick's recovery seems much like it always has. Everything leaking out is positive, but when people start talking return dates it's suddenly not even close or "we're optimistic he'll play this season".
Derrick's seems on schedule to return around 9-10 months after ACL surgery which is more or less the status quo.
Home court disadvantage?
One thing which scared me about Chicago early in the year was they played a very home heavy schedule and performed pedestrianly. I thought they'd struggle even more so on the road. However, a funny thing happened. The Bulls went out and played big on the road repeatedly. After their three early losses on the west coast trip, the Bulls have only dropped two more on the road and now sit at 10-5 away from the UC with two wins against the Knicks and one against the Heat.
Meanwhile, at home, they're just a game over .500 at 10-9 with some really depressing losses (New Orleans without Anthony Davis/Eric Gordon, Charlotte, Milwaukee twice). The UC lacks the volume and excitement of some of the elite home courts in the NBA and without Derrick Rose there's even less juice than normal.
Still, the lack of success is surprising, and if the Bulls had pulled off a similar home record to their road one (say 12-7), they'd be tied for the #2 seed and only a game out of the #1 seed right now. Hopefully the Bulls can start to turn the UC into a tough place to play again.
Avoid the let down game
The Bulls and Suns meet tonight with both teams traveling from the New York area to Chicago (the Suns were blown out last night by the Nets). There's no excuse for the Bulls to not pick up this game. The Suns are awful, have no offensive focal point and feature a bunch of pedestrian defenders.
As long as the Bulls play with high effort, they should beat the Suns in all phases of the game and come home with a win. The Suns lack three point shooting and slashers. They do get some post play out of Scola, but overally, this is a team that will jack up tons of inefficient mid range jumpers.
They also feature one of the worst defenses in the NBA and lack good individual defensive players as well as team defensive fundamentals. The Bulls should pick apart the Suns with their passing and find plenty of opportunities at the rim.
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