The Chicago Bulls annihilated the Raptors whom were missing Kyle Lowry. The win pushed them back up to the three seed and also clinched the tie breaker against the Raptors if they finish with the same record.
Both teams started off hot. The Bulls stayed that way while the Raptors cooled off. At the end of the night, the Bulls climbed into third in the East and also clinched the tiebreaker against Toronto.
Despite hanging out in third, the Bulls don't control their own destiny as the Wizards are tied in the loss column and would mostly likely own the tie breaker with Chicago (conference record). In the case of a three way tie, the winner would be Toronto if they beat Chicago in their finale or Chicago if they beat Toronto.
Joakim Noah with a dominant performance
Noah strung together a 8/10/14 game (14 assists) and is second only to Vlade Divac in centers with double digit assist games (since 1985) and the only center with a 14 assist game.
It's likely in the Wilt era of 33% more possessions and more minutes that Chamberlain destroyed those numbers, but Joakim is still amongst the elite passing big men in NBA history.
One of the best part about Noah with the ball in a passing situation is that when he is off the ball his man will frequently cheat. However, when he is on the ball, that doesn't happen. This frequently provides very good spacing with a lineup that might otherwise not get it.
The even better news is that Joakim Noah's overall level of play and energy looks good. He spent the whole game like he was jacked up on red bull, mountain dew, and 5 hour energy shots.
Noah left the game at a point where one more pass would have set a new career high (and position high in the basketball reference era) for assists by a center while one more basket would have given him the triple double.
On his final possession he opted to go for the assist. Get this guy on a state farm commercial.
Nikola Mirotic is a bad ass
What's scary about how good Nikola Mirotic is playing is how bad he's shooting while playing so well. Mirotic is 4/18 from the three point line over the past two games, but he's 15/18 from inside the arc, almost exclusively on drives.
He uses the threat of the three to set up that drive, so you can't simply say he should stop shooting them though. Some of those step back threes are shots I'd prefer he remove from his repertoire for awhile, but I'd rather not try and put any shackles on him at this point.
Keep playing free Nikola.
Mirotic reminds me a great deal of the first couple times I saw Dirk play. I'll be interested to see if he simply steps his game inside the three point line like Dirk generally does or if he just improves his shooting.
Stay warm Chicago!
I might write a piece or two from Cancun if I'm sober enough to type [and may even write one if I'm not, but really what are the odds of me finding the publish button in this case].
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