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different Bulls stepping up over the course of this game
The Bulls started out Friday night's game looking like they did the previous one in Denver: poor defensively but hanging in during a shootout. It was a 58-50 lead for the Bulls at halftime, where they shot 60% and at times looked as crisp as they had at any point this season. The Jazz are 23rd in the league in defensive efficiency, and it showed in the lack of resistance especially when it came to Nate Robinson, who ran roughshod over them. Nate had the first 8 points of the 2nd quarter and finished with 13 points and 6 assists in the half. He significantly cooled in the 2nd half, but deserves credit alone for playing all but two minutes in the whole game. Those two things are likely not unrelated, though the Jazz also made an adjustment (with Jamaal Tinsley their only PG on the roster) to put more physical defenders on him.
The second half was more of a slog overall. Neither team was aggressive (a very long stretch without FTs on both sides) and the Jazz were able to surge back behind a brilliant game from Al Jefferson. Jefferson wound up with 32 points and at one point hit 8 straight shots, helping his team tie the game to end the 3rd quarter and get a slight lead in the 4th. The Bulls did eventually put more focus on him though, and Jefferson was held scoreless in the final 9 minutes of the game.
That's also the time Carlos Boozer took over. I know, I'm surprised too. In his
first game back in Utah [d'oh, there was a game in the '10-11 season. Bad assumption made from reading narratives -yfbb] since leaving for the Bulls 2+ seasons ago, Booz looked fairly awful for most of the game (even getting a technical for a Boozer-yell) but was a go-to guy in the 4th. Booz was working with a returning Marco Belinelli as the ballhandler, and scored the Bulls only 9 points from 6:50 in the game until late when the Jazz were in forced-to-foul mode. It also speaks to the increased defensive effort from the Bulls in that time that such an output was enough. The Bulls were on a back-to-back, and though they had an early night in Denver they still looked gassed overall in that 2nd half. But Booz's clutch work was enough to pull out an impressive road win.
Joakim Noah looked to be an embodiment of that labored-look throughout the game, and hopefully this game isn't a sign that we remember late in the season if he's still battling foot issues. Noah simply did not look himself for much of the night, guilty on late rotations early when the Jazz bigs were feasting inside on first and second-chances, and late with close-outs on Jefferson's jumpers. Weirdly enough, he was also noticeably bad catching the ball all night as well. And worse yet, he look frustrated through most of it. The Bulls get a couple days off, so hopefully it'll be a gradual progress (did have 12 pts, 11 rebs in 33 minutes, so better than Thursday) instead of reinjury, as this was a fun win but not as important as that guy.