The Bulls had been stinking it up against the Western Conference this season, going just 5-10 heading into Friday night's game at the United Center against a really solid Warriors squad. That certainly made me concerned about this one, but the Bulls erased all doubts right out of the gate and rolled to a 103-87 victory.
The Bulls came out and played one of their most dominant quarters of the season in the first, outscoring the Warriors 31-13 in the frame. It was a masterful performance on both ends of the floor, as the Bulls shot 53.7 percent from the floor and held the Warriors to a woeful 22.7 percent. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that the Bulls won the rebounding battle 21-7, including seven offensive rebounds. Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler brought all of the energy, and the Warriors were simply no match down low. The Bulls finished the night with a 56-37 rebounding advantage and had 16 offensive rebounds overall.
Boozer got the Bulls off to their excellent offensive start scoring six of the Bulls' first 12 points while Neil and Stacey opined about why he didn't get selected to the All-Star Game. But the most impressive performance in the first quarter went to Kirk Hinrich, who rebounded from his miserable performance against the Pistons with an 11-point quarter.
I have to give special props to Kirk, who I and most other BaBers have given plenty of well-deserved crap to this season. His matchup against real All-Star snub Stephen Curry seemed like a huge mismatch, but Hinrich responded with his best effort of the year. Hinrich scored 19 points in the first half, knocking down 6-of-7 overall and 4-of-5 from three. The Warriors seemed content to let Hinrich shoot open J's from long range, and Kirk made them pay, which is all we've been asking for this season. Hinrich finished the night with a season-high 25 points and made 6-of-7 from deep (tying a career-high for threes). He outscored Curry 25-21. Seriously.
The Bulls pushed their lead out to 26 thanks to Nate Robinson's hot shooting, but the Warriors naturally made a bit of a run in the second quarter. Golden State was able to get back into the game thanks to David Lee's increased aggressiveness and ability to get to the free throw line. Lee really struggled in the early going against Noah, but he got a little momentum scoring against Nazr Mohammed and ended up translating that into a 17-point quarter, with nine of those points coming at the free throw line. Curry also started to get hot, and the Warriors were able to score 37 points in the second quarter to narrow the deficit to 13 at the break.
Things got kind of sloppy in the third quarter, with a bunch of offensive fouls and travels in the first couple of minutes. But the Bulls did what they had to do, never letting the Warriors back in the game and pushing their lead out to 18 heading into the fourth. From there on out, it was just a race to the Big Macs.
Besides Hinrich, there were several other notable performances to point out. Noah was an absolute beast, finishing with 14 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and three blocks while doing a stellar job on Lee. Robinson was ridiculous all game, hitting several circus shots en route to 22 points off the bench in 21 minutes.
And of course, I have to single out BaB favorite Jimmy Butler. The second-year man significantly outplayed Harrison Barnes, who was reportedly on the Bulls' radar this offseason if they were to trade up in the draft. Like his last few games as a starter in place of Luol Deng, Butler was all over the place, wrecking havoc on the offensive boards and doing all the little things we love him for. Butler notched a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, joining Noah and Boozer with double-doubles. Boozer did struggle from the field with 7-of-21 shooting, but as mentioned, he was paramount to the Bulls' strong start.
The Bulls continue to impress this season, as this was a game I kind of thought they would lose. They are now a season-high 10 games over .500, with several very winnable games coming up before a long road trip in February. I figured the Bulls would be a good team even without Derrick Rose this season, but they have surpassed even my rather optimistic expectations. While I still have my doubts about this group in the playoffs, they certainly could make things super interesting if they play like they did tonight and Rose comes back close to 100 percent.