My pre-game fears of a letdown game from either team were quashed early: this was a fun contest throughout, with both teams running fantastic offense and using balanced scoring.
That balance was certainly shifted while the game drew to a close, as Derrick Rose had a great first half but an even better 2nd to finish with his career high of 42 points. It's frightening to think that he's doing this at only 22, a couple more years and maybe he holds back on a floater here and there, is more selective on when to take 3-pointers, and we're talking 50-point nights on a semi-regular basis. But hell, right now: his ability to move in the paint is unmatched, and even his 2 offensive rebounds were spectacular catches and finishes. That's your point guard right there.
(Those two rebounds-and-finishes from Rose leads to an interesting stat in the game, the Bulls had 20 second-chance points on 9 offensive boards, dwarfing the Spurs total though they only had 3 fewer ORebs )
Rose is the story and should be (Tony Parker doing his best to hold his own as a pretty-damned-good player himself only heightened the matchup), but it was yet another night of contributions from all sources that had the Bulls pulling away even before Rose's final scoring binge. The big man depth continues to impress, as while Tim Duncan started strong in the 3rd quarter with 5-5 shooting to keep the Spurs close in that half, the backup tandem of Taj Gibson and Omer Asik more than held their own, and it's tantalizing to think how deep that frontcourt will be upon Noah's return next week. It would take a serious guard upgrade to diminish an advantage like that.
In a high-efficiency game like this there will be lots of good lines: Boozer with 15 and 6. Luol with 19 and 7, and of course, 40 minutes! Included a scare in the 4th when he was on the ground after an apparent groin shot, but stayed in the game, naturally, and made a huge 3. Ronnie Brewer did a great job getting himself lost along the baseline and chipped in 9 points. Bogans was 2-4 from three, Taj deserves an extra mention for his 2 blocks, CJ Watson had a solid 2nd half stint where he created some points for teammates, and this Bulls team is absolutely rolling into the break.
Even in Noah's absence, the Bulls have beaten Boston, Orlando, Miami, and now San Antonio. I can't fully get behind the headline above in terms of a 'statement' in this one single game meaning that the Bulls are true contenders. But with what we've seen in Noah's absence, and knowing what he can bring when he returns...it's sure looking likely, isn't it?
We have until Wednesday to hash that possibility out (and moves to better guarantee it) before the games start again. Happy All-Star Break, started by Derrick Rose surely making himself early the talk of the weekend.