Bulls escape Washington with an 87-80 win

The Bulls  had a rough night against a mediocre opponent tonight. They shot 42.5% from the field tonight and committed 21 turnovers, yet they still came away with a 7-point win over the Wizards.

We all know about Joakim Noah's absence from the lineup due to torn ligaments in his thumb, but tonight, although cleared to play, Taj Gibson played just 31 seconds. It came during the final seconds of the first half.

Carlos Boozer made up for Gibson's absence with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. He dominated the Wizards' big-men tonight and was great passing out of double teams for the most part.

It took Boozer a couple games to get fully accustom to playing with his new team, but he's found his niche in this Bulls offense. They trust him down in the low-post, believing that he will make the correct play, and thus far, he's done just that.

Last night's hero, Kurt Thomas, had a solid night; nothing impressive, nothing bad. He had just 4 points, but grabbed 7 rebounds (including 4 offensive rebounds) and had 2 blocks. "Big Sexy", as Bulls' commentator calls him, won't do anything flashy, but as I said last night, he has tremendous knowledge for the game of basketball and knows how to play fundamentally sound basketball.

MVP candidate Derrick Rose had a good night on the stat sheet -- 25 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds -- but shot just 9 of 21 from the field and 0 of 6 from the three-point line. Rose just didn't look like he had "it" today; his passes just weren't as crisp as they have been lately and he missed a lot of floaters that he normally makes.

Luol Deng had a rough night -- with 14 points and 5 rebounds -- but played solid defense as usual. Thanks to the 1-2 punch the Bulls have with Rose and Boozer, Deng isn't asked to do too much, so nights like these from Deng are manageable.

Keith Bogans continued his underwhelming season, scoring just 2 points and missed all three shots he took in 18 minutes. Defensively, Bogans got torched by Nick Young, who had 22 points tonight. Bogans has been given the "defender" tag throughout his career, but he isn't the fastest defender around and struggles to get through screens. However, I don't think he'll be removed from the starting lineup at this point. If Thibodeau wanted to do so, it would have been done by now.

Let's take a closer look at tonight's win over the Wizards:   

What led to the Bulls win

The 4th quarter was an offensive struggle for both teams, but the Bulls managed to hold the Wizards to just 10 points in the final frame.

The Bulls took a 73-70 lead into the 4th quarter, but won the game thanks to their suffocating 4th quarter defense. The Wizards looked lost and confused on offense during the final 5-6 minutes of the game, often times being forced to throw up a shot with the shot clock winding down.

One night after holding the Philadelphia 76ers to 35% field-goal shooting, the Wizards shot just 38% against the Bulls defense, going 4 of 15 in the 4th quarter.

The Bulls also had 8 blocks tonight and outrebounded the Wizards 41 to 33.

The Bulls gave up a few open looks in the 4th quarter to Rashard Lewis, who was acquired last Saturday, but they managed to get lucky as the ex-Magic went 0 for 5 from three-point land today.

When Tom Thibodeau got hired as the Bulls' head coach in the offseason, it was expected the Bulls were going to be a defense-first team. This season, they've been a mixed bag at times. But tonight, they played stifling defense in the 4th, which led to their 9th win the past 10 games.

What does it signify

Derrick Rose can have an "off" game and still drop 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. He just didn't look right tonight, and a large part of the credit should be given to ex-Bull Kirk Hinrich.

Hinrich made Rose work both offensively and defensively. Hinrich had 19 points and 9 assists tonight, getting off to an excellent start tonight.

He attacked Rose several times in the fastbreak and in the pick-and-roll's, putting Rose in foul trouble by the end of the 1st quarter.

Hinrich's defense also caused Rose some problems early on, but Rose turned it on in the 3rd quarter, scoring 13 points in the frame.

No one in the NBA can stop Derrick Rose, but Hinrich did an excellent job on Rose early on. Rose picked up the sluggish Bulls in the 3rd quarter and helped them gain a 3-point lead heading into the 4th.

Tonight definitely wasn't  one of Rose's best performance, despite having good numbers on the stat sheet; his passes just weren't as sharp as they've been recently. Rose is just this good. He can have a bit of an "off" night and still put up 25/5/5.

Key performance

Carlos Boozer carried what was a pretty sluggish Bulls team. He had 30 big points tonight and had his 6th double-double this season.

It just seems that the Bulls have a better feel for what Boozer can/will bring to the table this season; the first few games back from his pinkie injury, the Bulls didn't go to Boozer down-low at a consistent basis.

Lately, the Bulls have been dumping it down to the two-time All-Star whenever they need a bucket and he's been the delivering.

I still don't think the Bulls are using Boozer to the best of his capabilities: in the pick-and-roll.

In Utah, Boozer and Deron Williams would run the pick-and-roll during any situation of the game. Early on or during crunch time, it didn't matter. With the Bulls, it just seems that they don't run many Rose-Boozer pick-and-roll's during late game situations.

Nonetheless, Boozer had an outstanding night and he just keeps on getting a better feel for how he can make a big impact with the Bulls.

Final thoughts

The Bulls struggled to get a win tonight against the Wizards, but it was helpful that they were basically playing 7 on 3, with JaVale McGee making a few boneheaded plays defensively and Andray Blatche having a, well, terrible night.   

At 18-9, the Bulls are in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference standings, behind the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, respectively. They're just 2 1/2 games behind the Heat, and 5 behind the Celtics. Not saying they'll surpass either of those teams, but I can see them getting into the top 2 by mid-January.

If the playoffs were to start today, the Bulls would be play the Orlando Magic. Do you think the Bulls would win that series?

What's next

12/25: Bulls (18-9) @ New York Knicks (16-12). 11:00 pm C.S.T. ESPN/WGN/ESPN 1000

Christmas basketball; my favorite. No seriously, I love Christmas basketball. 

It's going to be very fun watching the Bulls on National TV on arguably the biggest holiday. The Knicks are coming off a 112 to 98 thrashing of the OKC Thunder.

The Knicks beat the Bulls 120 to 112 the last time the two teams faced off. The Bulls will be looking for revenge this time around on a nationally televised matinee at the Garden.  

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