As it is my obsession, I'll start with the minutes distribution tonight, which was pretty excellent. Now, it's because Tim Thomas was still unavailable, Brad Miller fouled out in 18 minutes, and Gordon shot so well...but at least I wasn't seething all 4th quarter like usual.
The defense was still unimpressive and the Bobcats hung around a bit too long, but the Bulls have so much more talent (and this bizarre home court proficiency) I didn't really see it as a case of 'if' but 'when' they'd pull away from the 'Cats. I think Vinny felt a bit of confidence too, knowing that with a short bench he can't even make much of a difference if he wanted to. And it was sort of surprising that the VDN-led team was calm and productive down the stretch while the Larry Brown team imploded on offense...but it is usually about the players, and the Bulls have them.
Derrick Rose had another very strong game, making his first 7 shots, but more importantly it looks like in the past couple games he's looked far more comfortable dominating the ball and finding shooters.
And it looks more and more that 3-point shooting will be this team's identity. With Rose being able to command defensive attention he has this around him from behind the arc:
Ben Gordon - 41.0%
John Salmons - 41.6%
Kirk Hinrich - 42.1% (!)
Tim Thomas - 47.4%
Adding Brad Miller (being only 2 of 10 as a Bull but at least plausible range for a center), 3-point shooting looks to be one of the few things I can idenfity as something the Bulls do well as a team. It was Salmons' and Gordon's bombs that put away the Bobcats on Saturday. Even in transition, the Bulls seem more likely than most to kick back to the arc than to get a higher-percentage look inside.
So instead of hoping an actual offensive and defensive scheme will pop up in the next week, I can at least see launching 3s as something the Bulls can do to win a playoff game. The Bulls are also a top-5 offensive rebounding team which could help in that strategy.
But the most important way to get the shooters off is for Rose to keep attacking. They can't space the floor like Orlando can with Dwight Howard manning the middle, but if Rose is agressive and forces the defense to collapse it could have a similar effect. And anything Rose improves at is more important than the results this season anyway.