Depleted Bulls fall to Brooklyn, top the Hawks in a weekend back to back

With Joakim Noah resting a sore foot, Kirk Hinrich having his elbow examined, and Carlos Boozer still nursing a sore hamstring, the Chicago Bulls aren't in the best spot health wise to begin a long road trip. However, they've comported themselves well splitting the first two games since the injuries mounted to the Nets and Hawks.

The Brooklyn Nets were playing fairly well with Chicago heading into town and with the Bulls down three starters and a superstar on the road, the game didn't look too promising. As it turned out, the Bulls fought the Nets hard and actually held a small lead for much of the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Bulls got a big too much bad Nate and not enough good Nate to win the game, but they certainly gave Brooklyn all they could handle.

Chicago played Deng and Gibson the whole game while Butler and Robinson each logged over 40 minutes as well. Hamilton and Belinelli picked up nearly all the lose change minutes with Mohammed and Teague making brief appearances. It was a ton of energy spent to come up with a loss, especially with a game in Atlanta the next night.

My hopes weren't high for an exhausted Bulls team in Atlanta, but Chicago delivered. They leaned on virtually the same players though Radmanovic played a handful of minutes instead of Nazr (and the Bulls were throttled in those minutes, they really miss having a competent fourth big). Deng and Gibson each got short three minute rests, but otherwise the team played small most of the night with Nate, Jimmy, Deng, and Taj each logging 40+ minutes again.

Luol Deng provided scoring whenever the Bulls really needed a hoop or a bailout shot. He shot 10/21 and scored 25 on the night hitting numerous tough fall aways and off the dribble long twos. Nate Robinson chipped in plenty of efficient scoring himself notching 20 points on 8/16 from the field. The prime difference between Saturday and Friday was good Nate vs bad Nate, though Jeff Teague is a much easier match up than Deron Williams.

Taj Gibson had one of the best games of his career with a 19/19 game which gave him a new career high for rebounds and was just a shade off his personal best for points as well. Gibson seemed to dunk a ball once every two minutes largely due to horrible Hawks defense which would leave him alone at the basket over pursuing on help.

Jimmy Butler had a solid game adding 16 points for Chicago. He missed a number of tough finishes around the rim that he's hit recently or else he could have had a monster day. Butler also gave Kyle Korver too much space on the perimeter allowing him to get too many shots up, but otherwise played his typical brand of tremendous defense.

All in all, Deng, Gibson, and Butler all delivered double doubles, and Nate Robinson fell just two assists shy of adding one himself.

So how bad is Rip Hamilton?

With all the injuries, Rip Hamilton is logging just around 20 minutes a game still. Give the Bulls were willing to play really small, why not give Hamilton more burn over inserting Radmanovic in the game? Do we really believe Radmanovic's size was holding back anyone from doing anything or adding any real rebounding to the table?

If nothing else, you'd think you could slide him in at SF to give Deng a breather for a few extra minutes a night. I would think the Bulls could get away with a Nate, Belinelli, Hamilton, Butler, Gibson lineup much better than inserting Vlad or Nazr into that mix. The lineup would at least feature three perimeter threads on offense so have some scoring potential.

How awesome is Tom Thibodeau?

This team just wills its way to victory over and over. It does so against good teams, on the road, with tons of injured guys. It's incredible what Tom pulls out of these guys. Thibodeau won coach of they year in his rookie year was runner up in his second year, and he's deserving again this season. He's got a Bulls team without its superstar on pace to win 50-51 games.

They're third in the East and have the eighth best record overall in the NBA. If Derrick Rose comes back fully healthy after the all-star break it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where the Bulls go into the playoffs as the #1 seed for the third straight year. They're only two games out of first right now, and Miami doesn't look like they give a crap, and I think the Knicks are certainly catchable.

Gar Forman and John Paxson can count their blessings that they got Tom locked up this off-season. I can't imagine how much Brooklyn or the Lakers would offer him if he was a free agent at the end of the year, but I'm guessing it would have eight figure possibility if that's what it took to lure him from the Bulls.

It'd probably be worth it too.


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  • Tom Thibodeau is an incredible coach. One of the absolute best in the league, but a part of me kind of wonders if the Bulls' success has less to do with his coaching, and more with the fact that it's a perfect melding of players and coach.

    I have no doubt he would do well wherever he went, but I think a large reason why the Bulls have had the crazy success they've had is that these players COMPLETELY buy into what he's selling, and they have the skillsets to implement his defensive gameplans (I suppose Garpax deserve a lot of the credit for that as well). I'm not sure he would get the same kind of buy-in if he went to another team.

    For example, if he went to the Lakers, or Brooklyn, and had their rosters to work with, would the players tire of his style because they simply couldn't provide what he demanded defensively?

    Idk, I never want to see Thibs leave the Bulls, I love the guy, but it would be kind of interesting to see how he did with another team.

    (P.S. Doug, I think I read a tweet where you said you recently had some kind of surgery. Hope all is well.)

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    As for the surgery, yes, I had arthroscopic shoulder surgery which amounted in a labral repair. I was waffling on whether or not to have surgery or physical therapy. They said PT wouldn't get me to 100% most likely but surgery would, so I opted for that despite it being a much longer recovery.

    Sucks, no basketball for probably three months or so though.

  • I definitely agree that the Bulls players meld well with their coach. Management has a vision of what they want and brought the coach and players together to implement that.

    It goes back to Reinsdorf questioning D'Antoni about his defensive philosophy when the Bulls interviewed him.

    As for going to the Lakers/Brooklyn, I don't think he'd have the same caliber of defense as in Chicago necessarily, but he'd get those guys playing much better. He had Kyle Korver playing respectable defense.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    In fairness Utah fans always said Kyle Korver was a better defender than he was given credit for, not sure how much you can assign his defense to Thibs.

  • I was thinking, are the Bulls at this point kind of a poor man's San Antonio? Great coaching. Pieces fit into a system around a handful of stars regardless of who or what those pieces are. And the team just quietly wins all the time, but doesn't get a ton of credit around the league for actually being good. We're not quite at San Antonio though. Pop has figured out how to play his stars for 25 minutes a game instead of, oh say, 47 minutes and 57 seconds!

  • A lot of Bulls fans have negative things to say when it comes to Thibs playing the guys too many minutes which at times he does, but imo he has to because of the scoring consistency of some of the bench players. This is the players that Thibs were dealt so the players that can score are the ones that he has to gowith resulting in a lot of minutes being played which is now resulting to injuries to the starters. But bottom line... Thibs has done a coach of the year job once again and if he had a better roster or with a team that had a 100% chance at winning the title this year, I have no doubt that Thibs would have his championship this year cause too many playersand coaches in tgethe past has had nothing but gigood things to say about him.

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    One of the most troubling parts about Rip is that even when he was 2-13, he continued to iso and take low efficiency shots. At one point in the game, he was wide open weak side on the three point line throwing his arms up in the air, and his teammates looked like they recognized it was not a good idea to give him the rock, opting to play 4v5 instead.

    Rip showed the same swag when we played the Sixers in last year's playoffs, and against regular season matchups with the Heat. In the latter case, he actually set off Wade, who was having a bad game until Rip started talking trash to him.

    These qualities were probably good for Rip earlier in his career when he was a top 5 sg and had the talent to back it up, but those times are gone. He almost shot us out of last night's game.

    If Rip learns his role I think he still has a lot of value to the team. He has the potential to be our best spot up shooter. He needs to realize though, that he's no longer "the man", stop trying to take over in games, and adjust to his twilight years accordingly.

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