Rose, Boozer, and Deng combined for 76 points to decisively beat a worn-out, but aggressive Spurs team 109-99 at the UC.
There was fringe chatter early in the season that the Spurs (46-10) could challenge the Bulls' (38-16) record-setting 72-10 season of the mid-1990s.Thursday, the winningest team in the NBA closed out their three-week annual road trip -- while the rodeo occupies their home -- at the United Center against the Bulls before the league begins All-Star Weekend. And it was the Bulls who handed them their tenth loss of the season in a absolutely fantastic basketball game for fans of all types.
The game had a fun pace with limited sloppiness, strong defense constantly countered by both coaches with schemes and very talented players using those talents, and one of the biggest stars of the season putting on a big show on national TV. Derrick Rose's career-high 42 points marked the 29th time in franchise history a player has scored 40-plus with eight-or-more assists; 26 of those times were achieved by Michael Jordan:
I really can't stress the amount of fun packed in this game. Maybe, it was the anticipation that has built up inside of me for this game over the last week, but that's largely due to just loving watching this Spurs team a couple of times per week. The fact of the matter is that the Bulls went on a 9-0 run for a the first couple of minutes when the starters returned midway through the second quarter for a 52-44 lead. The Spurs had a 6-0 run in the third to get within two points of the Bulls, but that was the closest they'd come as the Bulls ran away in the final 17 minutes.
The Spurs didn't disappoint. They put on a show themselves on both ends, but I can't introduce my bullet points without highlighting Luol Deng. His 19 points, seven, rebounds, and five assists were strong and his efficiency was highly-needed against a team that just wasn't going to allow much balance. But it was Deng's really heroic defense. Whether it was denying Richard Jefferson in the corners, going one-on-one with Manu Ginobili, or helping down low with Tim Duncan, there was just little the Spurs could do with the ball when Deng was near.
There was a ton that was impressive from the Bulls in their very big win -- not just to get a win, but runaway with this game against this opponent to improve to 25-4 at home.
- Both teams shot very well. The Bulls shot 53.8% (43-for-80) and 37.5% on threes (6-for-16) to the Spurs 48.8% (39-for-80) and 50% on threes (7-for-14) for respective eFG percentages of .575 and .531. This high efficiency put together Offensive Ratings of 121.1 for the Bulls and 110 for the Spurs.
- Bulls dominated the boards. It's what they dominate best in every box score and keeps them in games where opponents shoot well. They out-rebounded the Spurs 41-29. Besides Tim Duncan's nine, no Spur had more than four boards. On the Bulls end, Kurt Thomas had a team-high nine boards with four teammates also grabbing five-or-more.
- Rose's heroics were the decisive difference-maker, possession after possession after possession. Scoring a career-high 42 is great in itself. Eight assists on top of that makes it better. Shooting 18-for-28 with only one turnover and hitting all six FTs is straight-up dominance with the basketball. He bricked all four of his threes, but he put the ball anywhere in the halfcourt he wanted it:
The body of work on the shot chart is amazing. 6-for-7 at the rim, 3-for-3 within ten feet, 3-for-4 at 10-to-15 feet, and a spot-on 6-for-10 at 16-to-23 feet. His timing was some of the best it's been all year with his bigs on the pick-n-roll. It's been a scary ride, but with a Carlos Boozer-Joakim Noah post tandem, the two- and three-man game could become unstoppable with Rose at the helm and Deng slashing with such power.
In a game where the Spurs converted with such high efficiency and took care of the ball so well, his five rebounds were also big, considering he was in charge of controlling the pace. Tony Parker scored a team-high 26 on 11-for-21 shooting, but he was just a great player erring on the side of aggression in a great way.
- Boozer didn't look terrible on Duncan when his teammates helped him. He received a lot of help from more alert teammates down low and it paid off. He only scored 15 on 7-for-14 shooting with six rebounds, but that was due to being limited to 29 minutes. Again, shortening his shifts and bum-rushing more help allows him to be an asset on the entire floor for rebounding an scoring. It's later in shifts when the hardest facepalms get induced.
- Deng was just a Grade-A basketball player. Only he, Rose, and Boozer were able to score in double-digits for the Bulls, but knocking down shots was needed for Rose to setup spacing with an inside-out game -- to punish San Antonio for overcommitting help. Deng hit 3-of-6 long twos -- one brick should've been a three attempt, but he dribbled in and made my skin crawl -- and 2-of-3 threes.
I was unsure of how I felt that he'd shift to defend Manu at the point and on the wings. Deng proved himself over and over, being a large part of holding Manu to 16 points, despite 18 shots. Not to take credit from Deng, but maybe Manu was cRuNKd up:
- Thank you, bench. Ronnie Brewer's nine points were sneaky and his help was genius. Taj Gibson and Omer Asik were the help defenders the Bulls needed to give Boozer and Thomas rest with ten combined rebounds in 29 and 14 respective minutes. C.J. Watson wasn't very efficient, but wasn't terrible, definitely made the case he's a better two-guard off the ball than manning the point against good teams, but still a good game.
- Kyle Korver, bad. Only five points, but only 1-for-3 shooting -- all threes. His three turnovers were ugly. There was a lot of slowness and apprehension in his game. Only played 19 minutes, none in the third quarter.
- Not a game note, but I'll address Bethlehem Shoals here and end it. His GQ article, titled, "The Case Against Derrick Rose" wasn't a case for or against anything. He expressed an aesthetic displeasure with watching him, fear of disappointment, and a lack of "swagger." After exchanging many words with B.S., for whom I have a ton of love and respect, I understand. The title of the article is brainless, his thesis statement is non-existant, and his bridge is a list of shit made up out of thin air. There was no case made, so much as he vented some personal feelings that he can't adequately explain.
Until last season, I was the same way with Dwyane Wade. I could never deny his greatness, but I hated watching the way he played forever. Until the last couple of weeks, I've had the same feelings for Russell Westbrook. I still feel like the child calling out the naked emperor with Rajon Rondo.
Now, I probably put Wade in my top five for the first time ever and Westbrook either at the top of a point guard class with Steve Nash, Tony Parker, and Rondo or at the bottom of the elite class with Chris Paul, Rose, and Deron Williams. I respect the hell out of all of these players' production throughout hating the styles and being nauseated by watching them. It just took time to eat crow and appreciate them better.
Again, I respect the hell out of Shoals, his work, his style, his method, his poetry, his prose, and even a vast majority of his aesthetics. There's nothing really to point at as right or wrong in his article because it was so weighted in aesthetics. The article was just a musing terribly presented as a persuasive argument.
No games until the Bulls play Toronto on Wednesday and the Heat at the UC on Thursday. All-Star Weekend should fun and we all have Noah's return to anticipate within a week.
I might take an All-Star Break myself and just look for cool videos of the inevitable first-half player-centric montages that'll flood the web over the next 48 hours. Maybe, some research will have me stumbling on something interesting and worth sharing. Of course, if the rumor mill buzzes loudly, I'll have words, but I wouldn't expect a significant personnel move for the Bulls before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. I have an idea to make a big offer for a certain player for cynical reasons, but that deserves its own post, which should be up before Sunday.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.