Bench Mob Heroics Bring Thibs Record-Tying Win to Close Regular Season With NBA-Best 62 Wins

Bench Mob Heroics Bring Thibs Record-Tying Win to Close Regular Season With NBA-Best 62 Wins

The Bulls closed out the regular season with a 97-92 win over the Nets.

Tom Thibodeau finished the season tying Paul Westphal's 1992-93 rookie coaching record of 62 wins in a season, as the Bench Mob made up for sleepy play from the Bulls starters. The 97-92 win over the Nets at the United Center was tense and the reserves were fun to watch, as they played very well to close the game.

The Bulls starters combined to shoot 17-for-49 (34.7%) and 2-for-9 on 3s (22.2%) for a laughable .367 eFG% just wanting to get some rest before the playoffs after beating the Knicks in New York the prior evening. It was the Bench Mob's 50 points on 17-for-30 (56.7%) and 5-for-12 on 3s (41.7%) for a game-saving .650 eFG%.
Kent McDill wrote (NBA.com):
The Bulls reserves led a fourth-quarter comeback that helped the Bulls record a 97-92 win over the New Jersey Nets Wednesday at the United Center. The Bulls led 50-43 at halftime, then the Nets went on a 25-8 run to build a 10-point lead.

[...]

The Bulls finished the season with a [NBA-best] record of 62-20, and completed the regular season with a nine-game winning streak, their first such streak since March of 2005. The Nets finished the season 24-58 and losers of 11 of their last 12. They played again, and almost won, without Deron Williams and Kris Humphries.

[...]

The Bulls finished the season 21-2 in their last 23 games. They had the league's best post-All-Star Game record of 24-4.
  • The Bulls ended the season tied for an NBA-best 36-5 home record with the Spurs. More notable: 2nd in SRS (6.53) to the Heat; the best W-L% in games decided by ten points or more (31-5, .861); tied with the Celtics for the best defense (100.3 DRtg), according to Basketball-Reference, but the best (97.4 to 97.8), according to Hoopdata; the best eFG% allowed (.463); the best total rebounding rate (53.5%); and finished the season  alone with the Cs as the only two teams to not lose three games in a row all season.
  • There was nothing much to learn in Game #82, but there's a little. Joakim Noah (10 points on 4-for-11, ten rebounds, four blocks in 23 minutes) showed better footwork than he has since recently spraining his ankle. He was 4-for-8 at the rim and had seven offensive rebounds, so yes, there were a couple of Moses-boards in there.

    Another lesson was that this is a completely different team without Ronnie Brewer's (sprained thumb) energy injection, excellent perimeter help, loose ball hustle, and using all of those to raise the pace in the Bulls' favor.

  • Only Luol Deng (11 points on 4-for-11, six rebounds, two assists, two steals) and Derrick Rose (15 points on 5-for-13, 0-for-3 on 3s, 5-for-8 on FTs, one assist, four rebounds played at least 30 minutes -- 31 and 30, respectively -- and neither played well. Carlos Boozer (eight points on 3-for-11, five rebounds, three turnovers, in 23 minutes) wasn't finishing hard or positioning for loose balls on terrible Nets shot selection well.
  • The Bench Mob is better than the Williams-Humphries-less Nets. Kyle Korver (29 min), Taj Gibson (22), Kurt Thomas (20), and C.J. Watson (19) all played escalated minutes with the long shift in the fourth quarter where the Bulls outscored the Nets 29-24.

    McDill added: "With six minutes left and the Nets up by six points, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout, pulled all of his starters and inserted five reserves, including Butler, who had played all of 12 minutes for the team this season."

  • Kyle Korver was the hero with the hotsauce. He scored a team-high 19 points on 7-for-13 -- 2-for-7 on 3s -- to go with four assists in 29 minutes.
  • The Bulls didn't run the floor well, but hustled to win the loose ball battle. You can tell where it's crucial this team maintains a rhythm in rotating help, contesting shots, and securing loose balls to accomplish everything they need to be efficient. They scored 14 fastbreak points and stopped the Nets to only four, out-rebounded Jersey 45-35, and scored 30 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds.
  • Taj (nine points on 2-for-4, eight rebounds, three blocks) can pound a lot more than bad players like he did. Why he doesn't play bigger and stronger against more bigs is beyond me, but hopefully the Pacers get that ball rollin'
  • There's some utility for Rasual Butler (10 points on 4-for-5, 2-for-3 on 3s in 13 minutes). Against stretch-fours -- especially those who can put the ball on the floor -- you can expect more Deng and less Taj. Korver has issues with being a Foul Machine, so there you have a role for Butler to get a short shift two- or three-minute shift here and there, as he was helping well.

    Personally, Brewer's hands are an amazing asset. If his grip and dribble are shaky, I don't say bench him, but if he has issues closing out the first quarter against Indy on Saturday, by all means stick Butler back in for a short shift at the three with Korver. Their chemistry was good on the double screens for Korver and he helps well, threatens passing lanes, denied Sasha Vujacic the ball well when the Nets needed him to hit 3s.

  • Thibs called Butler a "great pro," granted accolades to the bench, affirmed that the "rotation is pretty set" but noted all 15 guys can play on-call, expressed increased confidence in Noah's energy, and discussed the Pacers' offensive strengths after the game.

    On finishing 62-20, he said: "It means that we had a pretty good regular season, but now you start over again. You're 0-0. We have to understand how we got here. We took care of the things that we could take care of and now we have to prepare for the playoffs."

    He stressed the how they got to 62-20 -- defense, rebounding, taking care of the basketball -- as how they'll beat the Pacers and succeed in the playoffs. It really is that simple when the team is this deep and damn good.

  • After two bad games, Omer Asik played six minutes in only one second-quarter shift. Maybe, Kurt Thomas is going to be "the guy" for the early-endgame physicality. Omer still isn't crashing the boards well, but had a nice one-handed finish at the rim for his only mark on the scoresheet.

  • Oh, hi, D-Rose:
The games against the Pacers will all be on Comcast SportsNet Chicago with Game 1 scheduled to be simulcast nationally on ESPN at noon CST on Saturday. Game 2 will be Monday at 8:30 p.m. and simulcast nationally on TNT. Game 3 in Indy will take place on Thurs., Apr. 21 at 6:00 p.m. CST with Game 4 on Sat., Apr. 23 at 1:30 p.m. CST, both simulcast nationally on NBATV. If necessary, Game 5 in Chicago will be on Tues., Apr. 26; Game 6 in Indy on Thurs., Apr. 28; and Game 7 in Chicago on Sat., Sat. Apr. 30 -- all times for the final three games to be determined later.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.

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