For the Bulls, there is a perpetual on-switch that for the most part during the Tom Thibodeau era, has been turned on. This season is a different story however, so it was much to the delight of Bulls fans that during the second half of last night's game against Miami, it was turned on and worked flawlessly.
After digging themselves yet another hole, the Bulls found themselves down 19 to a Miami Heat team that couldn't even get Dwyane Wade going. It was purely a matter of weak effort, something that's been a recurring theme for most of the season, including Wednesday's loss to Orlando. After a pep talk from Nazr Mohammed, the 2010/2011 Bulls appeared on the court for the second half. That's high praise, but after playing the best third quarter of the entire season, it's a fair compliment.
Chicago did, almost literally, nothing wrong during that 12 minutes as they demonstrated just how dominating they can be, when playing for each other. Not only did they out-produce Miami 33-8 from a scoring standpoint, they did something far more encouraging: They forced Miami to change behavior and imposed their will on the game. That last bit always sound corny, but nevertheless it's true. It's how that aforementioned 2010/2011 team won 62 games and followed that up by winning 50 out of 66 games the next season. Remember, Bulls fans, when the Bulls would go on disgustingly effective stretches where teams would score a combined 20 points over a period of 25 minutes? Or what about the times where Chicago's help defense and quick rotations would force teams outside and Hail Mary themselves for the rest of the game?
Or better yet, remember how the body language changed in opponents after getting completely and utterly shut down for five straight possession in such a manner that made them want to just go home?
That's the team that showed its head last night. That's the team that understood the mental aspect of the game and its significance in getting the upper hand. Down 19 going into intermission, on national TV no less, having played about as uninspiring as one could possibly imagine, and to come back out with the mindset of winning through combined efforts and unselfish basketball... That shows character. Something that's been missing since late October.
Now, before things get too crazy, it's important to note that mental edges aren't always sustainable throughout a season. This could simply be a team fed up by poor play, trying something new and getting lucky. For all we know, the Bulls could be back in first-half mentality tomorrow against Philadelphia. But for the moment, everyone got a glimpse of how these Bulls could look full-time, when they're on the same page and ready to self-sacrifice personal glory. It wasn't about them scoring 120. It wasn't them having one guy go off for 35. No, it was the foundation of which the Bulls are built; defense, multiple efforts, unselfishness, rebounding, and turning off their mouths to turn up their games.
By the midway of the third quarter, it became obvious to everyone watching; the Bulls weren't going to drop this. They just couldn't allow it. It didn't matter what needed to happen, as long as it did. Nine players playing for one another, as a unit, is a rare sight for this year's team, so take it all in and hope it lasts.
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