Maybe the Suns minus Bledsoe count as significant, but I'm thinking not. Barring that win, the Bulls have to go back to a December 5th win against the Heat to find a win against a quality opponent. Granted, the Spurs were missing Leonard, Ginobili, Green, and Splitter for the night, but Bulls fans are the last team to have any sympathy for someone else's injuries.
The Spurs are still high effort, talented, disciplined, methodical, and well coached.
Well at least in theory.
It didn't work out that way this game as the Bulls dominated them on the hustle board and owned the offensive glass. Chicago won the offensive rebounding battle 14 to six and the turnover battle seven to 19, and that was pretty much the game.
The Bulls played harder, smarter, and better than the Spurs. It was a reminder that this team, when healthy, still has plenty of talent even without Luol Deng and Derrick Rose.
If there was a stat for bad-assness...
Then Joakim Noah would have had a triple double, because he was a bad ass at least 10 times on defense. As is, he feel two assists shy of recording another triple double tonight. The offense runs much more smoothly when they have Noah in there to help create plays.
To me, Noah's defense was really the key to the win. Every time the ball went inside Noah was there contesting, altering, or blocking the shot. Sometimes knocking the ball away before it even got to that point. The Spurs hung close in the first half due to timely three point shooting, but they simply could never get anything else going largely because of Joakim Noah in the middle.
I won't say this often but...
Kirk Hinrich gave the Bulls a huge lift on offense. As much as I doubt Kirk's overall level of play, he's still a pretty clear upgrade to Mike James who's simply awful. Hinrich knocked down half his shots and did most (maybe all?) of his damage in the fourth quarter as the Bulls pulled away from the Spurs to hang on for the win.
Return of the efficient Jimmy Butler
Jimmy has been mired in pretty massive shooting slump. He started to come out of it against the Wolves, but was still just 5/12 from the field. Prior to that he had played seven straight games while shooting under 40%, five of those under 35%, three of them under 30%.
This is only the sixth time Butler's shot over 40% in the 22 games he's played since returning from the turf toe injury he suffered earlier in the season. As Kelly Dwyer noted, "turf toe, the injury which quietly ruins your whole season".
Granted, Butler's opportunities for easy points were amplified by the number of transition plays the Bulls ran due to all of the San Antonio turnovers. I'm not going to go so far to say Butler's in a shooting rhythm. Still, it was the first time he posted back to back games with over 40% shooting from the field since his injury.
Kicking off the Ice Capades trip with a win
The Bulls started a long road Western Conference road trip against the Spurs, and overall, have a much tougher second half to their season than first. However, it was nice to get out of this game with a win.
Chicago will face the Pelicans, Kings, Suns, Warriors, and Lakers on the rest of the trip. The Bulls should probably only be favored against the Kings and Lakers, but if the pull off those two wins, I'll find it hard to complain about a three and three road trip.
The overly odd Charlotte pick question
Do you root for Charlotte to win? To lose? Hard to say.
The Bobcats are presently in eighth place in the East which would land the Bulls the 15th pick in the NBA draft. Nothing particularly special, but in a strong draft class, Chicago might get a quality role player or even a starting caliber player with a little luck.
However, right behind the Bobcats are the Knicks and Pistons, if one of them were to pass Charlotte, then the Bobcats would presently fall to 10th which would give the Bulls no draft choice at all. The pick would then be deferred for another season.
However, the Bobcats would only be in 10th by percentage points against the Pelicans meaning, they could easily fall to 11th which would give the Bulls the highest pick possible in this year under the protection scheme.
I'll take 11th in this draft over deferring for sure. I might even take 15th over deferring, but that's a bit dicier as there's no guarantee the East will improve enough for the Bobcats to miss the playoffs again next year to give the Bulls a better pick, and it's more likely than not the talent pool will be less.
Will be interesting to see what happens, my guess is the Bobcats fail to make the playoffs. With the big question being whether or not they manage to avoid the top 10 protection.