Playing the second contest of a six-game homestand, the Chicago Bulls pummeled the Utah Jazz 111-97 on Saturday night at the United Center. The Bulls improved to 34-9, 15-3 at home, this season.
The Bulls placed four players in double figures against the Jazz (19-21). Carlos Boozer poured in a game-high 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds while shooting 13-for-17 from the field in 41 minutes of action. Kyle Korver, who missed his final seven field-goals in Thursday night's loss to the Orlando Magic, was in a groove from the start and dropped 26 points -- the most he's scored in a Bulls uniform -- on six three-pointers to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Derrick Rose put up another solid performance and it looked almost effortless at times, scoring 24 points and dishing out 13 assists in 35 minutes.
After both teams got off to a slow start -- the Bulls, in particular -- the Jazz were up early, leading by as many as five points, but the home team knotted it up at 22 through one quarter of play. Korver and Boozer combined to score 20 of the Bulls' first 24 points, but it was coach Tom Thibodeau's reserve unit, the "Bench Mob," that gave the team a huge lift and take its first lead of the night in the second quarter -- 24-22 -- which it would not relinquish. The Bulls started the second frame on a 9-0 run and claimed a 39-34 lead when Rose checked back into the game with 3:56 left in the first half. Rose made his two shots in the second, which the Bulls ended on a 9-4 stretch to take a 48-41 lead at halftime. Rose accounted for all nine points during that span.
The Bulls' star continued his strong play in the third quarter when he scored eight points as Thibodeau's bunch extended their lead to 79-63 heading into the fourth. The two teams put on a scoring exhibition in the final period, with a combined 66 points. The fact that the Jazz -- who were led by Paul Millsap's 26 points -- ended up with 97 on this night will not please a perfectionist like Thibodeau.
Here are three takeaways:
1. Injuries should loom large -- but they haven't: The Bulls were without three starters -- Luol Deng (wrist), Joakim Noah (flu) and Rip Hamilton (shoulder) -- and their backup point guard, C.J. Watson (ankle), Saturday night. Rose admitted before the game that it would be a "tough" outing, and yet his squad continued to roll right along during this compressed 66-game schedule and dusted a club that is in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.
The Bulls played like a well-oiled machine offensively for most of the game, shooting 55.8 percent from the field and draining 7-of-18 three-pointers. They crushed the visitors on the glass, 42-31, and piled up 31 assists on 42 baskets.
Omer Asik made the second start of his career -- both of which this season -- and stuffed the stat sheet, with four points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks to go along with stellar defense on Jazz center Al Jefferson, who missed 11-of-19 shots. Starting in place of Deng and Hamilton, Korver and Ronnie Brewer combined for 37 points. The Bulls' injury list has been a revolving door all season, but it hasn't been a problem for them, which is also a testament to the coaching staff, who have pushed the right buttons time and time again.
Most impressively, the Bulls haven't lost two games in a row since early last February.
2. Bench Mob pick up the slack: Although the Bulls' "Bench Mob" was missing three players in Korver, Brewer and Watson, they made up for it with high-energy, productive basketball. John Lucas III had his second consecutive efficient game, posting seven points, three rebounds and two assists while shooting 3-for-6 from the field in 13 minutes. He played a major role in the Bulls' second quarter run that allowed Thibodeau to give Rose an extended rest of eight minutes, four seconds.
Lucas showed off his Rucker Park-style ball handling late in the third quarter when he fed Taj Gibson (four points, five rebounds, two blocks) for an emphatic two-handed dunk from just inside the free throw line. Meanwhile, rookie Jimmy Butler received 28 minutes and had eight points, five rebounds and a plus-minus of plus-11. On this night, even fan favorite Brian Scalabrine was at the scorer's table several times, playing two minutes overall.
3. Rose finds touch: Rose missed one of his first five shots but made six of his last eight and posted his ninth double-double of the campaign in the process. He took advantage of the Devin Harris- and Raja Bell-less Jazz and got to the free throw line 11 times, making 10. The reigning NBA MVP shot just 6-for-22 from the field Thursday and knew he had to shoot a lot better Saturday. He did just that and looked like a one-man fast-break wrecking crew throughout the contest.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Sunday before a nationally televised tilt against the New York Knicks (18-22) on Monday night at the United Center.