Noah, Bulls Outlast Spurs

Noah, Bulls Outlast Spurs

Prior to the game, if you had been told that Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol would combine for 29 points on 35 shots against the league-best defense the San Antonio Spurs currently boast, you would have taken the odds on a convincing loss.

That's why, folks, gambling is fraught with danger.

Picking which Bulls team will show up game-to-game can prove to be a difficult task, but against a premier team that commands respect and full engagement, Chicago have always found a way to compete with the game's best.

Withstanding dominant periods from both LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, the Bulls were able to out-hustle the Spurs with another dominant defensive showing, winning 92-89 at the United Center.

The Defense Was Brilliant

Holding San Antonio to 41.1 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three, the well-oiled Spurs machine appeared momentarily weakened and limited. Despite 25 points and 8 rebounds and 21 points and 12 rebounds from Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge respectively, San Antonio's vaunted offense couldn't find a way to consistently score.

Inspired by a throwback performance by Joakim Noah, the Bulls' defense suffocated the Spurs all night. Looking like their 2013-14 selves, the bench unit of Noah and Gibson dominated defensively in the paint, whilst E'Twaun Moore was very good in his pursuits of denying easy catches, playing in the passing lanes and challenging shots.

Even Doug McDermott, who provided the scoring punch for the reserve collective with an efficient 12 points, had himself one of his best defensive performances of his young career. Staying in front of Manu Ginobili and running Danny Green off his three-point attempts, the sophomore forward was able to give Hoiberg 30 minutes of solid play on both ends of the floor.

As they've done all season, Chicago would find a way to come up with clutch defensive stops in critical moments. Pau Gasol came up big again in the dying stages of the game, swatting away a late LaMarcus Aldrige attempt in similar fashion to the terrific block he had on opening night against Lebron James and the Cavalier. Jimmy Butler, too, would again crush his direct opponent, forcing Kawhi Leonard into a tough three-point attempt, one which he would airball. Even Derrick Rose would get in on the act, blocking Tony Parker's last second three-pointer.

We're still waiting to see what this team can do offensively, but in the interim, we must consider how crucial the Bulls' defense has been early in the season. The offense has slumped to the depths of league's rankings, but somehow, the defense has improved significantly from Tom Thibodeau's final season.

Would we be 10-5 without it?

No chance.

Bulls' Bench Key

Unlike the Spurs, Chicago's depth gave the team everything, proving to be the key to their impressive win.

Outscoring the San Antonio bench 30-15, pulling down 15 more rebounds and handing out 5 more assists, the Bulls' reserves got them this win.

Led by an reinvigorated Joakim Noah, who flirted with a triple-double in only 23 minutes, his energy from the bench would prove to be critical, and ultimately, it was the single most complete performance from any player on the floor. In easily his best game of the season, Noah would tie his season-high of eight points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 7 assists.

With the stars of the team struggling to make an impact, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and E'Twaun Moore followed the lead of Noah, with all of Chicago's bench unit finishing the game with a positive plus-minus. The second unit were astounding all night, particularly in the fourth quarter where they built an important six point lead for the starting unit to maintain.

Rose And Gasol Still An Issue

It was a tough night for both Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, and it was always going to be.

As expected, Gregg Popovich would send multiple defenders to Derrick Rose, with Danny Green matching up on the Bulls' point guard, allowing Tony Parker to rest on the catch and shoot focused, Tony Snell. Struggling with his shot from all areas of the floor, Rose continued his horror shooting stretch, finishing the night with 11 points on 5-for-17 shooting.

Facing off against Tim Duncan is never an easy task, even if he is 39. Pau looked lively early, but would struggle offensively for the majority of the night, ending the game with 18 points on 6-for-18 shooting.

Though neither shot the ball efficiently, they found other ways to contribute.

Rose's floor game was decent, dishing out 6 assists and only committing 1 turnover. His defense, for the most part, was also solid. Gasol couldn't buy a shot, but his rebounding (13) was huge, as were his 4 assists and 3 blocks.

15 games into the season, two of the integral pieces within the Bulls' offense have struggled mightily. We wait for them to turn it around, assuming that it's not possible to regress any further, but at some point, expectations will need to match production. The Bulls' defense has been surprisingly brilliant, but it can only hold up for so long without a genuine scoring revival from Rose and Gasol.

Should that happen, the fortunes of this team change greatly.

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  • that was the best that Noah has looked in over 2 years. he finally looks healthy and able to run the floor. earlier this year he looked like he was dragging his bad leg when trying to change ends, and last night he was fluid and running the floor like a guard. And he had lift when finishing off the dribble. if he can play like that, this team has potential. mcdermott is playing too fast and forcing shots, but he looks a little better defensively. Pau and Rose were horrible, but the team still wins. the bench was great

  • The Bulls as in the past offensively are one of the worst shooting teams shooting .423. Gasol is 35 and shockingly shooting the worst percentage of his career. Rose is a limited player. And a "resurgent" Noah is shooting.. .365, Mirotic if he's hoped to be one of your best players should be playing closer to 35 minutes then the 25 he's seeing now. McDermott will he ever be a star in terms of scoring?

    In summary this team shows solid effort and possesses better then average character players. However despite decent win totals in a historically weak Eastern Conference., their ability to succeed come playoff time is highly questionable. Thank god for Jimmy Butler, or this team would be unwatchable.

  • Thank you for the recap Mark. Derrick has been painful to watch this year. One great game against OKC out of fifteen games played so far this season.

  • Gutsy and entertaining. Frustrating and inspiring. Up and down. All ways to describe the Bulls this season.

    No player looks completely dependable, but every player is capable of having a big game. Go figure. 10-5 is a pretty decent record considering they have faced a lot of tough teams. Some big wins and some stupid losses.

    The FO will have to trade for the starting wing for the Bulls to have a shot at the Finals. But unless Butler, Rose and Gasol start bringing it every night, they will never get past GS, and probably not even the Cavs.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Actually, prior to the Spurs game the Bulls had faced one of the lowest schedule strengths in the league. With only 15 games played I guess that the Spurs record could move that up quite a bit.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I had not checked that stat, BigWay. But the Cavs, Indy, GS and all the West coast teams I considered tough games. Detroit, too.

    The Bulls could be 13-2 or 6-9. I will settle for 10-5 for now. But despite having a lot of talent, they also have a LOT of issues.

    Hoiberg should be playing Portis at least 10-12 minutes per game, IMO. I suspect the FO wants the stats of Taj increased for a possible trade, so the minutes for Portis are down.

    I see a trade of Noah to Dallas mentioned. I might do that if it could land the Bulls the SF they need, especially with Dunleavy's injury taking so long to heal. But it's less likely if Noah keeps playing the way he did against the Spurs!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    If there is a taker for Noah, I would make the trade. I wouldn't expect much in return.

  • If I were the opposing coach I would employ the hack-a-Moore strategy. That guy has the yips on his free throws. It started when he gagged on two in the Golden State game. Last night he air-balled one after missing a pair earlier in the game.

  • I know that we are all hoping against hope that McNoD will become a legitimate NBA player on both ends, but why is it that his defense suddenly improves every time that he hits a couple of shots. It's the same argument that people used with Boozer every time he scored 20 pts. He still looked like a spastic chicken on D, even if the results looked a little better in the box score. The Spurs still had the Bulls scrambling like mad men on D, maybe they just missed some shots that they usually make, you know like BG7 Rose does.

    Not sure how 12 points on 12 shots(5-12) is efficient offense while Gasol scoring 18 points on 18 shots, is inefficient.

    As you noted, Bulls starting lineup was a collective minus 22, Spurs starters a collective plus 49, Bulls Bench a collective plus 37, Spurs bench a collective minus 57. Clearly the Bulls bench lead by Noah's energy won this game.

    In a typical example of an empty stats game, Gasol stuffed his personal stat sheet with 18-13-4-3 but the Bulls lost ground on the scoreboard during both his first and third quarter shifts while breaking even in his second and fourth quarter shifts. Noah on the other hand had much more modest box score stats 8-11-7-0, albeit in only 23 minutes but the Bulls won his shifts by 10 points. That's a 17 point turnaround in a 3 point game.

    While I'd still like to see what would happen with Noah and McNoD starting, allowing Gasol to bumslay the second units it seems pretty clear that Hoiberg is committed to Gasol's entitlement minutes, starting and finishing no matter what. Seems strange to pander to the needs(ego) of a guy who isn't going to stay here after this season anyway. Maybe it wouldn't work out, but would it really hurt(besides Gasol's feelings) to try.

    I certainly hope that Jimmy is indeed hurt, but not injured. He has been noticeably outplayed both of the last 2 games by George and Leonard. Of course, those guys are likely the 2 best overall wings in the league so there is no particular shame in that, but hopefully the matchup would be much closer if he was healthy.

    It is difficult to know what to make of this team with the quality wins against Cleveland, OKC and the Spurs but only the 9th best point differential in the eastern conference. These wins seem like regular season mirages, not unlike the Bulls wins over the Heat during the regular season and their inability to compete with them in the playoffs.

    In any event a nice win against an elite opponent without anybody (with the possible exception of Noah) playing particularly well.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    McD was 42% from the field, Gasol was 33%.

    Neither were overly efficient, but McD had 5 FGM on 12 shots, Pau had 6 FGM on 18 shots.

    His defense looked the best it has in his career.

  • In reply to Mark Karantzoulis:

    McD also had that excellent stretch in the 2nd quarter! He looked like a versatile scorer, not just a shooter. I recognize McD's limitations, but I really root for the guy to succeed. He is still developing...

    Snell looked good the few times he drove against Spurs. IMO, it would serve him well to drive more and not be entirely a catch-and-shoot player.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Your "empty stats" Pau bashing mantra is misleading and bogus as usual. Consider this:

    1. Pau was clearly the best player among the starters last night. Without those points, rebounds, assists and blocks, the Bulls get blown out.

    2. Pau limited Duncan to six points and out rebounded him. Duncan didn't even get to the FT line. When was the last time Duncan played over 30 minutes without shooting a free throw?

    3. Conversely, Pau scored six points at the FT line. More than the margin of victory.

    4. Pau makes the biggest defensive play of the night-stuffing Aldridge at the rim near the end of the game.

    5. Perhaps Pau is "entitled" to finish the game because of plays like that one. Moreover, last year Pau was (by far) the best clutch player for the Bulls as documented at Blog-a-Bull. That is "earned" time.

  • Nice summary Bigway on a solid team effort--your comments were very positive and complementary. Yes when these guys play together they are a force on any NBA floor. Maybe all McD and Sneel need is playing time to learn and overcome their limitations--and maybe they have not hit the wall as I suspected.

    Two very good centers on this team makes it very hard for other teams to match up. Maybe starting Gasol has enabled Noah to heal more with time to compensate for prior injuries--to get in sink mentally beyond those injuries. Sometimes athletes must also mentally overcome injuries after physical healing.

    Mirotic can rebound but cannot adjust to the speed of the NBA as he still has trouble hitting short, medium, and long distance shots--he just seems to throw the ball up near the basket and cannot find a way to correct his form while making his shots. He needs to play, but I would like to see his time divided up with Portis and Gibson's playing time divided with Felicio--giving 12 minutes to all of them so we all could see what the team has--as they all compete equally for playing time--and if the time comes to trade one of them the others not traded would have had some floor time.

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