Bulls 'Grind' Out Defensive Battle With CP3-less Hornets

Bulls 'Grind' Out Defensive Battle With CP3-less Hornets

The Bulls had to work and exchange small runs with the Hornets for a 85-77 win.

"When we play good defense, rebound, have low turnovers -- jeez, I sound like Thibs -- we usually win," Joakim Noah said after the Bulls (44-18) beat the Hornets (37-29) 85-77 at the United Center on Monday. It marked their third-straight win, seventh in their last eight, 11th in their last 13, and ninth-straight win at home to up their Chicago record to an NBA-second-best 27-4 (Spurs - 29-3).

The Bulls out-rebounded their opponent for the 11th straight game and 46th time this season, extending their record to 41-5 when they do so. The Bulls held their opponents to under 90 points for the 29th time this season -- co-leading the league with the Celtics (48-15) -- and are now 27-2. The Bulls have now held their opponents at or under 80 points for an NBA-best 10 times.
 
In an 85-possession game, the Bulls held Nawlins to a 90.6 Offensive Rating, an absolutely terrible .388 eFG%, and a nearly invisible 20.7 Offensive Rebounding Rate. The Hornets run one of the most highly efficient defenses in the NBA, but their zone play weakens their rebounding position and ability to force turnovers. Though the Bulls only shot a slightly-less terrible .407 eFG%, they crashed the offensive glass as a 27.3 rate and only coughed up the rock nine times. Without turnovers, the Hornets were forced to outscore the Bulls by relying on halfcourt sets -- and that works for almost no one.


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"LOSERS!"

But both defenses playing as well as they did -- and even with Chris Paul sidelined by a concussion -- the Hornets and Bulls were able to capitalize on their stops with runs to play a game of tug o' war. The Bulls never led by more than 10 and, despite Nawlins going on three runs that combined for the Bulls only scoring three points in 11 total minutes, the Hornets never led by more than three.

The Hornets just wouldn't go a away. With the Bulls up 35-28 mid-way through the second quarter, Nawlins ignited an 11-4 run and continued to play an energetic, alert transition D to not get forced to pay for missed shots when the Bulls constantly tried to run the open floor on defensive rebounds. The two teams were tied 43-43 at halftime.

The Hornets had their only lead of the night with a 6-0 run early in the third to put them up 49-46, but the Bulls responded soon after with a 9-0 run of their own to put them back up 60-53. Unfortunately, Nawlins immediately responded with an 11-4 run to close the gap and tie the game again. In the fourth, the Bulls had a short 5-0 run to stretch their lead to ten, but the Hornets wouldn't say die and tied the game again with a 12-2 run. But the Bulls would have the last laugh, immediately scoring the final eight points of the game for the eight-point win.

Derrick Rose led all scorers with 24 points on 8-for-21 shooting to go with two blocks and nine assists with only three turnovers, despite the 31.9% Usage Rate. Carlos Boozer scored 19 on 8-for-14 shooting with nine rebounds to counter a recent rough patch of games. Noah grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in only 30:42 of PT with Omer Asik grabbing eight in 13:43. The two centers rebounded at dominant respective rates 23.4 and 32.2%.

Jarrett Jack led the Hornets, starting in Paul's place at the point, with 23 points on 8-for-19 shooting in 43:12. He played a stellar game on both ends, never letting much be easy for Rose. Marco Belinelli dropped 17 points of his own, sneaking through the baseline and hitting 3-of-6 threes -- all of his makes well beyond the three-point line. But that was Nawlins' only offense, as David West was iced to 11 points on 4-for-17 shooting to go with his team-high 11 rebounds.

With Trevor Ariza also out, it should've been a big night for Luol Deng to have more energy on the offensive end, but he could only manufacture 10 points on 2-for-12 shooting. Kyle Korver bricked all four threes to have a forgettable 2-for-8 shooting night where he could only score six because of two final-minute FTs after a Hornets' intentional foul. Most notable on the wings was Ronnie Brewer with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, working the baseline with as good off-ball cuts as you're going to see in the NBA.

  • The pace was highlighted by Tom Thibodeau after the "grind-it-out" game, "going deep into the clock," later adding: "I
    would've liked to have had us push the ball more -- especially late....
    In the 2nd half, I think we walked the ball up a little too much."

    "When you're not going well offensively you have to be able to count of your defense and your rebounding" and that protecting the basketball "was big for us tonight," he said early in the postgame. He added thoughts on the Bulls needing to "find" Carlos Boozer more inside and add more re-posting to their offense. He also expressed a ton of confidence in Korver to hit shots with "good looks" after a reporter questioned his constant attempts:

  • "The Bulls are very good at making halftime adjustments," Kent McDill wrote at NBA.com. "After playing to
    a 43-43 halftime tie, the Bulls held the Hornets to 4-for-18
    shooting in the third quarter and 11-for-37 for the second half."
  • Nawlins' pick n' roll defense is just too tough in their zone and forced the Bulls to hit jumpers -- which they don't do well. They only hit 16-of-50 and 4-for-20 on threes. Deng led Bulls' awfulness going 1-for-9 on jumpers, but was 1-for-5 on threes, so at least he wasn't attempting too many long twos.
  • Rose's shot fell a bit more, but the streak of terrible long-range shooting continues for him. He hit 6-of-15 jumpers and 2-of-6 threes. But his two threes came after three misses that extended his streak of bricking 17 in a row, dating back to Wednesday's loss in Atlanta.

    This isn't just a bad streak of a handful of days, though. For over a month, Rose has been bricking threes like it's his job. Over the 14 games since going 4-for-8 on threes in L.A. against the Clippers on Feb. 2, he's only shot .176 (12-for-68) from

    long-range. After shooting a 3P% of .390 (50-for-128) through
    December, his rate has plummeted to .328 on the season, shooting .272
    from January through Monday. Since the new year rung in, he's hit less
    threes (39) in a higher volume of
    attempts (143).

  • 24 of 31 Bulls buckets were assisted. This is what makes the nine turnovers stand out. The Bulls were dependent on ball movement to score and didn't sacrifice taking care of the basketball. 12 of their first 13 baskets were assisted in a first half in which the first quarter was the only quarter where turnovers were a problem -- committing four.
  • A good night of hitting at the FT line. The Bulls shot 19-for-22 (86.4%) at the FT lines, where they've been haunted all year. The volume was only at a .235 Free Throw Rate, which remains an issue, but the Bulls are so bad at hitting FTs, it isn't so bad that they're not getting to the line. The Bulls
    are 26th in the NBA in FT% at .735. In wins, they're shooting .745,
    compared to .710 in losses, despite getting to the line at the same per
    game rate.


    Rose -- who's compensating a tad for terrible long-range shooting here -- continues his upswing at the FT line, shooting 6-for-7 on the night. After shooting .897 and .890 in January and February, he's hit 17-of-21 in March. He's now shot .873 at the line (234-for-268) in the 38 games since Dec. 18, averaging slightly over seven trips to the charity stripe every night.
  • Since Noah's return, the defense is incredible. Toronto and Atlanta were debacles, but the Bulls are 6-2 in the eight games since Noah returned after missing two months. They've prevented their opponents from scoring 90 points in seven consecutive games and held opponent under 80 in three of the last six games.

The Bulls added a little umph over the Heat for the two-seed and move back to two-and-a-half behind the C's for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. On an individual note, the Bulls upped their winning percentage to .710 -- .700 being a huge threshold needed for Rose to earn any serious MVP consideration, as he still isn't near the league lead in just about any category.

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That said, they're still not in the top three in winning percentage, but no serious MVP candidate in Boston or San Antonio helps. The guy in Dallas? Now, that's competition.

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Next, the Bulls take on the Bobcats (26-37) in Charlotte on Wednesday before a back-to-back home set on Friday and Saturday against the Hawks (37-26) and Jazz (33-31).

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