No matter how you slice it, the Bulls' win over the Kings on Tuesday night was a fun game to watch. There was plenty of comedy to go with hustle. And where the score implies more drama than there actually was, it's reflective of two teams battling to push the ball down each other's throats.
The Bulls offense was about as aggressive as you would want. There was no Derrick Rose (back spasms), but the last thing lacking was speed and explosion. Joakim Noah (22 points on 7-for-11, 6-for-9 at the rim, 8-for-9 at the line, 11 rebounds, four blocks) consistent held the Kings back from getting rewarded for some very strong defense by punishing them for over-committing to the ball. Luol Deng (23 points on 6-for-17, 4-for-5 at the rim, 9-for-9 at the line, 11 assists, seven rebounds) moved the ball and nailed open shots creating off the ball, exploiting those same aspects like, well, an All-Star capable of point forward elements.
Best for the Bulls is that they started this six-game homestand with a bang, not having to stretch too many minutes, in a game without their superstar reigning MVP. Deng played 42 minutes, but that's just how things go -- especially with Richard Hamilton still out, stretching Ronnie Brewer's playing time. Noah played 36 minutes, but Taj Gibson's (15 points on 7-for-8) ultra-aggressiveness and Omer Asik (seven rebounds, +16) prevented him from playing stretches too long in the second half.
Carlos Boozer (16 points on 7-for-14, 4-for-5 within ten feet in 24 minutes) was another highly bright spot, slaying some good on-ball defense. Him an Noah being aggressive off the ball completely changes the Bulls offense into a big boy bunch with reserves to not wear them out. It's difficult to ignore wishing this could be seen every night; and the ways they were using their size, fighting for position, and making moves were ways to play the game that give your the desired results, no matter who's the opponent.
Home sweet home, indeed.
- Awful rebounding kept the Kings in the game. No offense to the Kings, as the Bulls man- and help-defense really wasn't so bad. In isolation, highly skilled Kings players made great moves and hit some crazy shots. Moreover, they fought in a commendable way for loose balls in ways that should accumulate 15-20 more wins for this team over the last months of the season, IMO. That said, rebounding is supposed to be the Bulls' Old Reliable. They're way too big, athletic, and skilled to piss away great before-the-ball-is-in-the-air defense by allowing 25 second chance points to anyone -- let alone the Kings -- on 17 offensive rebounds [.pdf].
- Going into Thursday's matchup with the Celtics, there's an offensive formula to beat the crap out of them. The Cs aren't a strong rebounding team, but it's tough to move the ball well against. If the bigs and Deng just stay as active as they were on Tuesday, the Cs aren't going to slow them down with physicality. Moving through space, finding open men, and aggressively cutting to the basket without the ball will get the ball where the Bulls should never get beat: above the rim. The injury bug has hurt, though. After winning six of their first seven against teams on pace to make the playoffs, they've lost five of six.
- Limited amounts of long-2s made this game a blast as a fan. The 3-pointer is a more efficient shot and gets a rise, as does watching the best basketball players in the world aggressively pushing the ball toward the basket. The Bulls and Kings provided great entertainment with 36 and 47 shots at the rim, going 9-for-19 and 9-for-17 on 3s, and only taking 17 and 15 shots on long-2s, respectively. The Kings are more talented than their record and they're playing well since replacing Paul Westphal with Keith Smart at the head coaching position -- and it showed through both teams playing a well-coached game.
- More Deng-Big pick n' roll please. Deng's a strong man. He makes up for ugly-looking ball-handling by keeping his strong bdy between defenders and the ball. We saw his slow down and not charge full force as the handler in the PNR game -- and it looked great. He isn't the next point forward of the NBA, but with the Bulls' bigs and 3-point shooters using space, this could be a great weapon to allow Rose to rest here and there on offense. It only works when teams are over-committing their help, though. The Heat and Cs and Sixers may help too well, but all help Ds over-commit from time-to-time and if he can switch gears with his pace to make interior passes like Tuesday night more often, the Bulls offense gets a bit more dangerous, as the height is just further utilized.
- Noah talked Noah stuff and Lin-sanity on Wednesday's PTI.
- Neither C.J. Watson (.456 3P%), nor Kyle Korver (.424 3P%) were chosen for All-Star Weekend's 3-Point Shootout. And that really shouldn't be surprising.
- The Bulls starting lineup with Brewer instead of Hamilton has been the most efficient in the NBA this season (min. 100 MP). That's right: Basketball-Reference.com just made me lose my shit.
Advanced Box Score via Hoopdata.