One night after the Bulls were thumped in Denver, they pulled out a gritty 93-89 win in Utah and became the first Eastern Conference team to beat the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena this season. It was quite the impressive win, because the Bulls looked dead in the water early in the fourth quarter when Al Jefferson was busy punking every single member of their frontline.
But Tom Thibodeau made some nice adjustments on Jefferson, fronting him in the post and bringing double-teams to help deny entry passes. The ploy worked, as Big Al didn't score a single point over the last nine-plus minutes of the game.
The issue then of course would be who would step up offensively for the Bulls. After a scorching first half that saw them shoot 58.5 percent, the Bulls shot a dismal 21.7 percent in the third quarter. The beginning of the fourth quarter didn't start much better, and with just over five minutes to go, the Bulls were down 81-77.
That's when Thibs decided to make Marco Belinelli the primary ballhandler as opposed to a noticeably gassed Nate Robinson, who played pretty much the entire game. Thibs has shown trust in Marco handling the ball in late game situations before, and it certainly seemed like the right move to make in this one considering Nate's fatigue and increased likeliness to make poor decisions down the stretch.
Almost primarily in those last five minutes, Belinelli ran pick-and-roll with Carlos Boozer, who had not been able to get in much of a rhythm due to foul trouble. But the duo stepped up huge when it mattered, helping lead the Bulls to victory. Here are the results of all the Bulls' possession in those last five or so minutes:
- Belinelli-Boozer PnR results in Boozer layup (81-79 Jazz)
- Boozer post-up results in missed layup, Boozer called for technical but Jazz miss free throw (81-79 Jazz)
- Belinelli-Boozer PnR results in a wide open 14-foot jumper for Boozer at the elbow (83-81 Jazz)
- Belinelli misses open jumper from top of key in transition (83-81 Jazz)
- Belinelli-Boozer PnR results in Belinelli getting fouled. Next play, they show PnR again, but Jazz double hard before the screen, Boozer slips down and finishes the layup with the left (83-83)
- Belinelli-Boozer double PnR. Millsap recovers on Boozer at free throw line, but he's a little too aggressive, allowing Boozer to drive past him and get fouled. Boozer splits free throws, but Luol Deng gets offensive board (84-83 Bulls)
- Belinelli-Boozer PnR results in perhaps a rushed three by Belinelli, but he was open so it wasn't that bad of a shot. Miss. (84-83 Bulls)
- Belinelli-Boozer PnR. Marvin Williams aggressively helps from the backside, but he's just a little late and fouls Boozer on the catch. Boozer knocks down two free throws (86-83 Bulls)
- Belinelli-Boozer start with PnR, but Millsap knocks it away from Belinelli and play falls apart. Luckily, Belinelli picks up loose ball as Randy Foye over-runs it, allowing Marco to penetrate. He dishes to Boozer in the corner, who then drives and gets fouled. Makes both. (88-85 Bulls)
- Rest of game is all free throws. Joakim Noah makes 2-of-2 and Deng makes 3-of-4 to salt it away.
In the quarter, Boozer went 3-of-5 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line. It was great to see Boozer be aggressive rather than settling for jumpers, as four of the five attempts were in the paint and three of them were in the restricted area. He also was able to get to the line by driving hard to the bucket and drawing contact.
As for Belinelli, I'm still kind of terrified of him handling the ball in the clutch, but he did a really nice job reading the pick-and-roll and making the correct decisions in this one. He had four assists in the final frame and set up Boozer for several of those attempts to the free throw line as well. Whether Belinelli could be this effective in more high pressure situations down the line remains to be seen, but perhaps this will give him some confidence to be that guy that helps out Derrick Rose when he gets trapped.