The Bulls were men among boys in the first half and, despite completely falling apart at the defensive seams, pounded the visiting Jazz 118-100.
The Bulls (47-18) blowing out the Jazz (34-33) 118-100 at the United Center on Saturday was a mess of a basketball game. The Bulls' sixth straight win was their 11th straight at home and put them 0.7 percentage points behind the Celtics (46-17) for the #1-seed in the Eastern Conference.
"It took more than four minutes for Utah to score at the start of the game, and by that point the Bulls were up by 11 points," Kent McDill reported at NBA.com. That's right, the Jazz pretty much came out and like this:
The Bulls took advantage of the Mormon Beboppers enough to command a 31-point lead midway through the second quarter. The defense fell apart midway through the third, but it wasn't enough, as the teams traded baskets throughout the fourth. But for the entire game, the Jazz defense looked like this:
Taking advantage included shooting Utah out of the gym with a team-record 18 3s in the game. It meant Derrick Rose shooting 5-for-6 from long range... in the first quarter, C.J. Watson hitting 4-of-5 3s, Kyle Korver nailing all three of his attempts, Luol Deng knocking down 3-of-6, and Keith Bogans going 3-for-7. With the Bulls droppin' bombs like this, Kyrylo Fesenko figured he had one chance of "WINNING!" on a Saturday night in Chicago:
After taking a 68-41 lead into halftime, the defense fell apart -- allowing 30 and 29 points in the final two quarters. Tom Thibodeau acknowledged the "poor" defense and that going for home-court advantage in the playoffs is of high value. "I think you wanna do you best to put as many things in your favor as possible," he said, adding shortly after: "Where I think it does make a difference is Game 7 in a playoff series -- to have it at home."
With Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and eight of the other ten 1990-91 championship Bulls in the building for a 20th anniversary ceremony at the half, Rose and Deng led the team with 26 points. Rose bricked his last five 3s, but went 7-for-8 at the FT line. Deng was a beast, shooting 10-for-19 from the floor, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out six assists, and nabbing three steals. His aggressiveness and strength are being utilized like never before. Little things like finishing a break so strong with a strong defensive trailer is a tidbit of how he's put his balls on display throughout the season:
Three other Bulls -- Joakim Noah (16), Korver (17), and Watson (16) -- scored in double figures. Noah added nine rebounds in his 30:53. Not to mention fieriness and passioniness:
But the defensive collapse couldn't preserve Rose and Deng as one would want in such a blowout, logging respective PT of 37:47 and 38:41.
Watson hit shots with ease. His deliberation couldn't be confused with hesitation, nor his instincts with a lack of control. On top of shooting the lights out, he dished eight assists, grabbed five rebounds, and rotated very well on the defensive end. What he added in terms of pace in the second quarter put the Bulls in a position to not miss the resting Rose.
With the high energy, "M-V-P!" chants for Rose in the opening minutes, and the Bulls' dominant 129.6 offensive efficiency, it was the '91 Bulls that tested the UC roof most. "The loudest cheers were for Jordan during that halftime ceremony, and he couldn't resist predicting six more championships for Chicago," Andrew Seligman reported at the AP.
"Don't be surprised to see six more coming," Jordan said of what his former teammate John Paxson has participated in assembling:
Next up for the Bulls is hosting the Wizards and all of their awfulness on Tuesday at the UC where they improved to 29-4 on Saturday; the second best home record in the NBA to the Spurs, who are 31-3 in San Antonio.