If you were feeling a bit of deja vu watching Friday night's game between the Bulls and Jazz, you weren't alone. Much like the first meeting between the two teams this year, the Bulls played an excellent first half only to struggle mightily in the second half before pulling out an 89-88 victory thanks to Marco Belinelli's game-winning three with 5.9 seconds left.
After scoring 55 points on 51.3 percent shooting in the first half, the Bulls' offense went almost completely in the tank in the second. They shot just 23.8 percent in the half, and it seemed like the only way they were really generating points was thanks to stellar work on the offensive glass. The Bulls had 21 offensive rebounds on the night, with 15 of those coming in the second half.
So it was definitely fitting that Belinelli's three came off an offensive rebound, with Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler providing the hustle to set up the game-winner. It was also nice redemption for Marco, who scored 22 points (first time in his career scoring over 20 points in three straight games), but struggled a bit down the stretch prior to hitting the last three. He was asked to run the point for a good portion of the fourth quarter, which is simply asking a bit too much of the guy. But he came up big when it counted, and that's ultimately all that matters.
Carlos Boozer also had 22 points on the night, and it was his eight quick points right off the bat that got the Bulls going early. Nate Robinson also started strong, doing a nice job distributing and being aggressive in looking for his own shot. But both guys faded in the second half, and Tom Thibodeau effectively benched Nate in the fourth quarter due to his mostly god-awful decision making as the game went on.
Besides the Bulls' poor offense, the Jazz were able to get back in the game thanks to the play of their frontcourt. Al Jefferson was solid all night long, scoring 23 points and pulverizing the rim with several monstrous dunks. And off the bench, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Marvin Williams all reached double figures, with Favors and Williams notching double-doubles.
To try and counter Utah's size, we saw extended burn for Nazr Mohammed, who also saw a bit more time because Noah was in foul trouble for much of the game. Mohammed played a season-high 20 minutes and had nine points and seven rebounds, but we also saw plenty of the reasons why he hasn't played that much this season. He was blocked at the rim over and over again, and he was eaten alive on multiple occasions on the defensive end. But I'll give him credit for trying.
This was a really nice win for the Bulls to pull out, especially with the West road trip upcoming. It was made a bit more difficult for my liking, but that's what happens when you're playing extremely short-handed. Belinelli is developing a knack for hitting big shots, and he's making a nice case to stay in the starting lineup whenever Richard Hamilton returns to the lineup. Lakers up next.