Pau Gasol has his flaws. He's not perfect. Questions remain about his status on the team - both now and going forward - but without him tonight, the Bulls lose to the hapless Nuggets. It really is that simple.
Getting the Bulls off to a fast start with 12 first quarter points, the Spanish big man also closed the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter, proving to be the deciding factor in the game. Finishing with 26 points, 19 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, Pau was simply too much for the inexperienced and undersized Denver frontcourt, monstering his way to several statistical season highs.
Following the lead of Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were fantastic once more off the bench. Losing Nikola Mirotic in the first quarter to an errant elbow that required stitches to mend a laceration, the Bulls' starting power forward wouldn't return, remaining out for the game with a suspected concussion.
In his absence, Noah and Gibson set the tone defensively, combining for 22 rebounds from the bench, 8 of those being offensive. Looking fresh and energized, the Bulls' reserve bigs also contributed offensively, combining for 17 points, with Joakim Noah netting a season high 9 points.
Like his bench bigs, Doug McDermott also had himself a very nice follow up game from his solid output against the Spurs on Monday. Having another nice defensive game (relatively speaking) and scoring 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting, McDermott is starting to find his niche as the noted gunner off the bench.
Making his game even more fun is the fact that the Bulls were playing in the "Doug McDermott Bowl" - something all Denver vs Chicago games should be aptly known as going forward. It's always pleasing seeing Doug shoot well against the team that the Bulls dealt with in order to secure McBuckets on draft day. Shame Nurkis and Harris didn't play.
Whilst the frontcourt lived up to expectations, the Bulls' backcourt was underwhelming.
Jimmy Butler was unusually inefficient (for him), collecting 19 points on 16 shots. Clearly bothered by the heal injury, the Bulls should consider resting Butler, assuming he lets them. Carrying on and forcing himself onto the floor each night doesn't seem like an intelligent decision, even if no structural damage exists within Butler's foot. You have to appreciate the will to fight through the pain, but this team and its players should be wise enough to know that fighting through injuries will find you out when you least expect it, even if the notion is brave and noble.
As he's done all season, Derrick Rose couldn't buy a shot. Shooting the ball 17 times for a return of 12 points, the Bulls' point guard was wildly inefficient. Missing easy looks at the rim, opting for tough pull up bank shots and an overall questionable shot selection, Rose's individual offense was bad. Real bad. Despite his shooting woes, Rose had himself a nice game as a facilitator, dishing out 9 assists, committing only 2 turnovers and finishing the game with a +9 on the night.
Still, though, in league full of tremendous point guard play where the reigning MVP dropped 28 points in a quarter against the Hornets, the atypical point guard battle of Rose and Mudiay could only muster 16 points on 30 shots combined for the night. If we didn't all ready know it, this shocker certainly highlighted the critical need for terrific guard play if a team has serious intentions of contending and building towards an elite offense, something both Chicago and Denver currently are not.
Emmanuel Mudiay has his excuses. He's a rookie on a bad team who is learning the toughest position in the league, all while trying to run an NBA offense. You can ignore the Nuggets' point guard horrid shooting this early in his career, but how much longer can we excuse Derrick Rose?
The Bulls are winning, often at times in spite of their former MVPs shooting numbers. They have an impressive 11-5 record, good for third in the East, and Rose has been still been dealing with lasting issues from his orbital fracture. Or has he?
Rose: “I’m missing shots because I’m missing them. It’s nothing to do with the eye. I’m getting good looks. Just missing them."
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) December 3, 2015
If Rose's shot has nothing to do with his eye, that's...not encouraging.
Hopefully he can work out his issues quickly, as an efficient Rose becomes even more paramount with Jimmy Butler hobbling through games. That, or revert back to Thibs-ball where feeding Gasol on the low block was a staple of the offense.
Hell, if Pau Gasol is going to beast like this consistently and treat opposing frontcourts like he did at the 2015 EuroBasket, get the geriatric the rock!
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