Let the discussion begin. Are the Bulls for real? Common convention would say no. The Bulls have no chance against the Pacers or Heat in a seven game series right? It may not be so crazy as you think. Particularly against the Pacers, but unless Miami gets its head out of its ass, they're in trouble too.
However, the Pacers came in to Chicago looking for a win and to put a stamp on their dominance over Chicago. They left frustrated and pissed off after another chippy, physical contest. One they came out on the losing end of.
Chris Bosh noted that there's no passion for the Heat. Chicago doesn't have any such problems. I don't know if a team with Joakim Noah can have that problem, not unless something goes horribly wrong.
Noah, of course, had another near triple double with a 10/8/8 game, but he also had three blocks and four steals, and if it weren't for some foul trouble limiting his minutes, he may have been pushed over the edge.
Taj Gibson led the way for Chicago though. Every time Indiana was doing anything Gibson was there to knock down a jumper or throw down a dunk. He was jacked up after posterizing David West on a put back dunk that I thought his head might explode. If I ever gain about three feet of vertical and dunk a ball, and posertize someone, I'm doing the Taj Gibson run afterwards.
It was one of those games where Gibson's improvement on offense was on full display. His jumper has become so much smoother, so much more reliable. He's hitting contested jumpers at a good clip, and the uncontested ones are virtually automatic. Gibson has surpassed Carlos Boozer on both ends of the floor.
He has a higher PER, higher TS%, and his volume is almost up to Boozer levels (16.7/36 vs 17.2/36). With Boozer's TS% dropping below 50%, Chicago seems like a sure bet to amnesty or trade this off-season. His defense is so horrible that it's not worth discussing, and his offense is now well below the average NBA player as well.
The Bulls have needed his volume scoring at times, but he can't even provide that anymore. Not that I'm breaking any news with Boozer's play, but it's time for the Bulls to move on from the Booz cruise next season.
As for Gibson, last summer, Bulls fans were screaming bad contract, but Gibson put in the work and has rebounded nicely. He's in the midst of his best overall season, and I feel awfully good about the money Chicago is paying both Noah and Gibson. Two all-NBA caliber defenders with emerging offensive games both on very reasonable deals.
It's tough to get those sub-max deals right. Those guys almost always get overpaid, so good work by the Bulls front office to come to very fair terms with both guys.
When it wasn't Taj Gibson, it was Kirk Hinrinch
Hinrich had a big night with 18 points on seven for 13 from the field including three of four beyond the arc. I guess I don't expect much of Kirk these days because whenever he has a game like this I'm totally shocked.
It feels like Hinrich has shot the ball so much better the second half of the season, but he's still shooting under 40% from the field, under 50% TS%, has a PER at 10.8, and has a pedestrian three ball at 35% on mostly wide open looks.
Either Hinrich's really not shooting much better the second half of the season or his first half was so abysmal that a good half can't pull his numbers up. Overall, he's having a slightly better year this year than last though. His defense still aggravates, and he's managed to stay healthy so far which he hasn't done in years.
The one thing I'll say about Hinrich is that he's really improved with his ability to run an offense as he's aged. He doesn't over dribble as much, gives up the ball quicker, moves through the sets faster, feeds the post better, and overall looks more comfortable as a veteran leader.
That said, I'm not sure I trust him on anything but a minimum level contract next season. I don't trust the health despite this season and even though it feels like he's shooting better, his overall offensive efficiency is still eyepoppingly bad. Not Marquis Teague bad, but bad.
Speaking of Teague, he hasn't played much or looked all that great in Brooklyn, but he has raised his PER up to 3.6 and is no danger of having the worst NBA season in the history of the NBA for a guy playing a decent chunk of minutes.
Hinrich had one of the best plays of the game where he just grabbed the ball out of Paul George's hands as George went up on a fast break. Maybe Kirk needs a new nick name of 'weights' or 'weight room' since he's now ripped the ball out of both Paul George's hands this year and Chris Bosh's last season.
George thought he deserved a foul, and Hinrich definitely grabbed the ball with one hand and through George's hand to get the ball with the other, but I think in that scenario they say the hand is part of the ball and it's not a foul. Either way, to not only stop Paul George on a one on one fast break, but to rip the ball from his hands was pretty epic.
Lance Stephenson had a similarly explosive whiny moment near the end of the game when he was also cleanly stuffed driving towards the basket and felt he deserved a foul because there's no way he could miss. It was a great day overall for the Bulls defense.
What was that?
Jimmy Butler and David West were T'd up for a double technical in the third(?) period leaving everyone to wonder what happened. The replay showed the two guys just talking calmly next to each other while walking down the court.
They looked like two friends just hanging out, and when they were T'd up both guys had no idea what the heck just happened. Butler looked outraged and West just looked confused. Maybe the radio or other broadcast had some info on it, but Neil Funk and Stacey King had no idea what was going on either.
It was one of the more bizarre things I've seen, especially given how chippy this game got at various points where no technicals were called.
All in all, a win against Indiana doesn't stack up to a win against the Heat, but it's still a pretty damn good night to be a Bulls fan.
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