The Big question entering the 2012-13 season for the Bulls was how well they could play until Derrick Rose came back. After a relatively slow start the Bulls have continued to be one of the best teams in the NBA even without their only true star player.
They enter the All-Star break 30-22 fifth in the east. They are 1.5 games behind Indiana in the Central Division and three games behind the Knicks for second in the east. Finishing second or third in the East is going to be important. The second, third, sixth and seventh teams in the East would not play the Heat until the conference finals.
After beginning the year 6-7, the Bulls are 24-15. Most impressive is the Bulls 15-10 road record. That’s the best in the East and trails only San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They have lost five of their last eight on the road however.
Joakim Noah’s All-Star Season
Noah is putting up career highs in multiple categories. His importance to the Bulls cannot be overstated especially after losing Omer Asik as a free agent to Houston in the offseason.
He is in the top three on the team in almost every major category and leads the teams in four statistical categories. He is currently fifth in the NBA in rebounding, eighth in blocked shots and is one of the best defensive players in the NBA. He can also guard both the four and five.
Carlos Boozer’s Consistency
Boozer is the Bulls biggest punching bag for sports radio pundits and bulls fans. As the NBA heads to All-Star weekend, Boozer leads the league with 27 double-doubles. He is averaging 15.7 PPG and 9.3 RPG. Boozer is currently 14th in the NBA in rebounding. Despite all the trade rumors swirling around him, Boozer has been arguably the Bulls most consistent player.
The trademark of Thibodeau’s coaching career has been his ability to get the best out of his players defensively. He was credited with being the brains behind the Celtics defense during their 2008 run to the NBA championship and 2010 run to the NBA Finals.
The Bulls are in the top five in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and three-point field goal percentage defense.
Tom Thibodeau continues to show that he is one of the best coaches in the NBA in just his third season. He was the fastest coach to 100 wins and has the highest winning percentage in NBA history. He has been called a defensive genius and the Bulls continue to rank among the NBA’s best in defense and rebounding.
Their road record is also a testament to his team’s ability to keep their focus and not be intimidated crowds on the road.
With Rose’s return near, the Bulls offense should also improve. Closing out games has been a problem at times this season. The Bulls have been a very balanced team, but they lack the one great player who can break a team down offensively. Rose is the only player on the Bulls with the ability to take a game over.
The New Bench Mob
After getting off to a slow start, the Bulls bench has stepped up recently. Injuries to Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich have allowed Jimmy Butler, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson to get significant minutes.
The loss of Asik to Houston has been the one devastating blow to the bench. He is third in the NBA in RPG and leads the league in defensive rebounds.
After scoring only in double figures only twice in the first 37 games, Jimmy Butler has become an important part of the Bulls rotation since. He has hit double figures in the 12 of the 15 games since. He is averaging 12.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 1.2 SPG in that time. HIs 86.2 percent from the foul line ranks 14th in the NBA.
Robinson has started 12 games as Hinrich has missed time with injuries. He is the Bulls third leading scorer with 12.0 PPG. He is also putting up 4.2 APG, 1.1 APG. Robinson is shooting 83 percent from the line and 40 percent on three point attempts.
Belinelli signed with the Bulls from New Orleans last summer. He has also had to become a part time starter for the Bulls with Richard Hamilton missing time with injuries. As a starter, Belinelli is averaging 15.3 PPG, 1.2 SPG and shooting 88 percent from the line. He has been a key player and one that is not afraid to take big shots in crunch time.
The All-Star break should give Hamilton and Hinrich time to rest. The Bulls begin their second half with three of the first four games on the road after the break. Their lone home game is a visit from the Heat on February 21st. Sixteen of their last 30 games are on the road.
Initial reports indicated that Derrick Rose would return sometime in February have been turned upside down by Rose’s interview earlier this week with USA Today. When asked when he’d return Rose said “Not until i’m 110 percent” and that he “did not have a set date”
Watching the Bulls continue to grow without their superstar will have to suffice until if and when Rose returns this season.
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