Some observations on the Bulls barely-victorious night over the Durant/Westbrook-less Thunder.
- Boozer and Noah had big offensive games, and an interesting night on defense as well. Thibs cross-matched Boozer on Kendrick Perkins to let Noah roam and stay outside on Serge Ibaka, to mixed results. Sometimes Ibaka was left too wide open for jumpers as Noah was forced into too many assignments. But Boozer did seem to fare better against Perkins, at the very least making the Thunder go to Perk more. Thinking there's a huge advantage for a limited offensive player can be actually damaging to a Bulls opponent in this case, though maybe that would be a moot point for the Thunder if they had heir leading scorers in the lineup.
- Ibaka was very impressive on offense, finishing 10-17 from the field and even stretching out to go 1-2 on three-pointers. If Taj Gibson was looking for a contract comparison in Ibaka, that game wasn't a good case. Not that Taj isn't the better defender, but he hasn't made the jumper as consistent of a weapon as Ibaka has, and Taj had literally nothing (0-3 in twenty minutes) to show for his night.
- The bench was pretty terrible. In going 5-20 from the field, the bench shows a really bad failing considering that they were expected to, at the possible expense of defense, provide more offensive versatility and production.They've all had moments here and there...except Marco Belinelli, who is seemingly getting worse and had only a single (missed) shot attempt in 12 minutes.
- A big-picture point on the bench: they do have a lot of time to get a lot better, and I don't think Belinelli will be this bad. (I also don't think Nazr Mohammed will be as good as he'd been, and he also put up a goose egg Tuesday) But it's just frustrating to see something that was a strength last season turned into such a weakness. Last year it was a unit where deficits were erased and leads extended, and now you see Thibs being forced back to his starters earlier and more often each game. Which can be a cascading issue considering the potential overwork and injury risk it may then raise for Hinrich, Deng, and Noah.
- Jimmy Butler was a bright spot in that second unit, and I liked how Thibs gave him a chance to defend James Harden and at least give Deng a little bit of a rest. In the second half opportunity, Butler was bested on two straight possessions by Harden and fouled him each time, but in general I like him being attempted in that role. What we haven't seen yet is Butler get any minutes alongside Deng at SG, but I don't think we're at the point yet where Belinelli has to be mothballed and force Butler out of position and being no outside threat.
- The Bulls had a very good 12 steals in the game, something that even Boozer helps provide for their defense which then gives them a chance at a transition basket. We have seen how much easier (like it is for any team) when the Bulls don't have to set themselves offensively. Both Hinrich and (more surprisingly) Nate Robinson are quality on the break. Unfortunately the fast-break points dried up in the 2nd half.
- No word yet on Hinrich's injury, and remember: the Bulls are filthy liars. So we'll see.