The Bulls close one of the most difficult stretches of the season with a win. Chicago has now won seven of their last eight with victories over the Blazers, Raptors, Grizzlies, and Wizards in that stretch.
Doesn't sound impressive? Those are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th best records in the NBA right now, and claimed two of those victories on the road.
Derrick Rose is catching his stride
Derrick Rose may not be all the way back, but he's certainly proving he can lead the Bulls to victory aas he was dominant in three of those four victories [and was ill for the fourth]. Last night, Rose chipped in another 25 points for the Bulls, almost all of them in the fourth quarter.
He's stopped settling for the three point shot [1-3] and focused on his floater, drive, and mid range game [9-14 inside the arc]. The results have been dramatically increased performance from the former MVP as he gets closer and closer to his old self.
Memo to all you Brooks haters, playing him with Rose does work
With Kirk Hinrich out, Aaron Brooks played plenty of minutes, and those who think the Bulls simply couldn't play Aaron Brooks a ton of minutes because defenses would eat him alive can stew about this one. He led the team in +/- over his 25 minutes despite playing a squad that wasn't going small and had three big wings on the floor who could theoretically attack him.
There was no where to hide Brooks, yet the team played much better with him on the floor, despite the fact he had a pedestrian game by his standards, simply because he's so much of a threat both off the dribble and to shoot that it pressures the defense and creates looks for everyone else.
Changing of the (5th) guard?
E'tuane Moore came in and gave the Bulls some pretty solid minutes from the wing which goes to show the Bulls have completely given up on Tony Snell, whom played just nine minutes to Moore's 20. Can't say I blame them there, I'd like to see what Moore can do with a few looks.
It's easy to forget because of their various draft statuses, but Moore was a better college player than Snell and is only two years older. He's also been serviceable in the NBA the past two seasons. I'd say he's probably the better player of the two.
Will any bigs start complaining, and by any, I mean Taj Gibson?
Last night it was
Pau 34 minutes
Jo 29 minutes
Taj 19 minutes
Nikola 14 minutes
Mirotic isn't going to complain. He's a rookie and likely realizes he's going to have to wait in line for this season. He's shown enough that we know he's a bad ass.
Jo and Pau seem like they're still getting theirs. Taj Gibson's minutes have plummeted to sub 20 per game, and he's not necessarily the closer which probably gave him some pride in the Boozer era when he deserved to start but didn't.
Now Taj has always had the right attitude and with two years left on his deal, he doesn't need to do anything special to impress suitors for another year and a half, so he's not losing money.
Still, I think it has to sting for him to not be out there more and to lose some of those important minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes an issue later on.
That said, I don't know what Tom Thibodeau can really do about it either. I'd say go in with the aim of limiting all the big men to sub 30 minutes. This will be good for keeping guys healthy too. However, 34 minutes for Pau on a night where he's clearly the Bulls best big isn't something to complain about.
It's going to be a challenge keeping everyone on the same page mentally this season if everyone is healthy. One solution is to try Mirotic at the three, but I think that's a tough ask for a rookie.
The defensive responsibilities there are entirely different. You're now on the ball instead of behind it, you now have to hedge screens and funnel guys instead of rotate and call out screens. In a game where your natural reaction can't even be a tenth of a second slow, I don't think Mirotic would be successful handling that.
Maybe Taj could play the three on defense with Mirotic playing it on offense, that might work. Either way Thibs might need to get creative and give it a shot.
Bulls delivering best Christmas present of all
I don't thin any of us are shocked the Bulls are 19-9 right now. That's not an amazing record for this team. However, many of those losses came when the team was really beat up.
Beyond that, the team looks like it's just scratching its potential now. We still haven't seen many games from Rose where he's attacking like he could at his peak. We haven't seen Joakim Noah play near his best ball, we still have tons of continuity issues because guys have played in jumbled lineups.
Even in this recent streak where the Bulls won games against four of the top seven teams in the NBA, the Bulls really only looked like they were at their best against Portland to me.
This team has a lot of head room, I think they have a playoff gear ready to use this time. With some headroom left to spare, Chicago's got a chance to go all the way. Maybe we'll get two parades this year right next to each other.
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