"This is my night, and I'm shooting my way to the BaB lead photo!" (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Back before the season, I pointed out the passage in this year's Pro Basketball Prospectus that talked about how the Bulls do statistical research on more than just on-court production. They want a certain personality type in their players, those who are driven yet selfless, invariably coachable and rarely discouraged. I think that type of attitude manifested itself tonight. A team playing their third game in as many nights, not only without their leader and focal point of the offense but his backup as well, looked to be the more energetic team and the one that wanted the victory most.
And it was a fun one to attend. Aesthetically the play was ugly at times, but there was an underdog feeling in the building even though the opponent was the worst team in the league. And to say you were there the night John Lucas III put up 28 shots is...well, it's something, anyway.
Lucas took on the PG slot by his lonesome (Thibodeau remarked postgame Lucas was his own backup) and definitely got his 45 minutes worth. He shot fairly terribly but at least wasn't afraid do so, and filled up the scoresheet to a near triple-double (8 rebs and assists). Playing all those minutes, even limping through a few late possessions, and holding his own was impressive. John Wall had one really nice dunk over him (literally), but otherwise you could say Lucas won that matchup, even if they weren't 'matched-up' that often. Wall's dunk actually was pretty indicative of the Wizard's night: some highlight plays but mostly ineffectual. The Bulls obliterated them on the boards, led by Luol Deng's 15 and Omer Asik's 14, and the effort the Bulls showed all night surged (with the fans in tow) to a late possession where the Bulls grabbed 5 offensive rebounds on their way to a Asik dunk.
They didn't play particularly well, but they played extremely hard and completely shut down the Wizards late. It wasn't as easy as to say 'no Rose, no problem', as the continuing issue of the starting frontcourt appeared yet again. The idea of Rose's absence allowing for a big game from Carlos Boozer turned out to be little more than a joke, as he didn't even really fight for position to set up any kind of post offense. And Joakim Noah not only was ineffectual as well but sprained his thumb. The Wizards actually hung in the game when those two were in, and it's strange but more and more true that it feels like Asik and Taj are not just fallbacks but the actual closers of the team.
That's not the best option, as opposed to getting Noah and Boozer back to something better than this. And of course Derrick Rose is absolutely necessary to have this offense work at all and his injury may scarily linger for a while. But out from the shadow of those principal players, what the Bulls reserves showed was how they make this team not just good, but great. It's having deep talent but with a common mindset as well, and the Bulls know how to pick 'em.