Yes, I shamelessly just used a King-ism as my headline. But though that's usually for the Derrick Rose, it goes to his teammates in this one. Rose sat out his 3rd straight game, but the Bulls went to 3-1 overall this season without the MVP as they completely rolled the Cavaliers Friday night.
Like against Phoenix, the Bulls took an initial hit but were able to assert their will and take advantage of a smaller opponent. Per the CSN postgame, the 16 blocks tonight were a franchise record, led by 7 from the expected trio of Noah/Gibson/Asik. Somehow Carlos Boozer had 2, usually a season total for him. Poor Tristan Thompson not only had 4 attempts sent back going 2-10 overall he very early became the designated 'opposing player Neil Funk shits on all game' of the night (sponsored by LensCrafters). It wasn't just the Bulls superlative front line using their size advantage on the Cavs, it was evident all over the court from their guards and wings as well. Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton joined in on being about to out-muscle whoever was put on them, and it's startling how two star-less teams can still be so different when you realize that though there's designations such as 'starters' or 'role players', how wide of a spectrum there is in this league.
CJ Watson continued his extremely strong play since returning from injury, with a great scoring efficiency (15 on 8 shots) adding to what we know he can do with his defense and (improved) floor game. Being matched up with Kyrie Irving stood to be perhaps one matchup the Cavs could win, but outside of a really fast offensive start from Irving and his team (starting 6 of 8 from three) Watson dominated. Interesting that Irving was limited to under 23 minutes which has been a reported strategy of Byron Scott. If you have the #1 pick on a rebuilding team, don't you just throw him out there to gain as much experience as possible?
Carlos Boozer (who I totally forgot the Cleveland fans hated) really fed well off the Bulls drives and made another killing from outside (not exclusively) tonight, finishing with 19 points to go with 14 boards. He was part of a huge run in the 3rd quarter that put the game out of reach, and I have to admit I grinned when Stacey King busted out 'Booze Cruise!' after Boozer scoring streak. Like the Suns game, it was against a team that couldn't really match up with him (and pity the undersized forward who loses his athleticism, here's to Antawn Jamison). But like I said then, Booz rolling against these teams is better than the alternative, and maybe it's the start to getting his season on track in time for more formidable front lines. Joakim Noah looks to be on a similar course, with fewer gimmee misses and mishandled attempts that now makes his style of play look actually effective again instead of merely active.
Thibodeau responded postgame to a well-pointed question that it doesn't matter who's on the schedule for the Bulls, Derrick Rose's playing time is up to whether Rose feels good to play. Besides, there are now other injuries to worry about! Taj Gibson sprained an ankle in the 2nd quarter and though he stayed in after asking for a timeout he was soon ruled out for the rest of the night. John Lucas (who had a great game tonight, 9 points in 9 minutes) pulled his groin in the 2nd half, and looked to be no old friend of Thibs as Lucas had to intentionally foul someone to get himself out. Postgame, Lucas said he's fine for Saturday night and Taj isn't sure. Joakim Noah had a very similar sequence to Taj in requesting a timeout, but managed to stay in without issue.
This lockout-schedule really is a bummer sometimes, but with the precious couple days of rest the Bulls looked dominant even without their most dominating player. And tonight garbage time started so early (over 9 minutes) that they could potentially look just as great at home Saturday night against the Bobcats. Let's hope Derrick himself (or an Org. nudge...or Thibs is just fronting) sees how the team can play without him against opponents like this and realizes rest is best.