I'll admit that cynicism does creep in at times for me with this Bulls team. It's an emotion born in the primordial ooze of Reinsdorf skinflintery, nourished by mounting player injuries that lay in the wake of Thibs Ball, until it finally crawls on dry land and begins tweeting bitter, hateful things under the handle @rightfieldsucks. [I'll also take personal credit -yfbb]
This is my way of saying Mea Culpa for underestimating the grit/grind/sting/chutzpah/stones/drive/WHATEVER IT IS that does indeed reside within this Bulls team.
Jo was... well what can you say that hasn't already been said? He's the heart of the team and has been for years now. Point to Luol as the glue, and Rose as the superstar, but Jo is the anchor and is as indispensable as they come. Frankly I was shocked how effective he was, and by the fourth quarter I felt like he had played the majority of the contest. Such was his effect on the game.
It also tells me that if you want to know how the Bulls are going to perform on a given night, look to what I wrote two previews ago, before I was colored by a performance that caused me to write something caustically over reactive.
To the game notes:
- Now THIS is the Brooklyn offense I've seen all season, maybe even a little worse (credit to the Bulls for making it harder than usual). Iso Joe Johnson was in full effect, Gerald Wallace went back to his ghostly ways, and save for another solid bench performance from CJ Watson (who clearly took his release personally; it was a money thing, CJ!), the Nets offense consisted of Brook Lopez and a surprisingly off-his-game Deron Williams. Credit to the defensive adjustments by Thibs to cut off Williams' penetration at the cost of leaving Lopez open for long "jumpers" (even if he made four straight at one point). I vote we call that shot a "stander", because that's what it is. Anyways, without WIlliams breaking down the defense, the Nets become much more predictable and easier to defend. Williams is the engine of this team. When he was hurting the most early in the season is when the Nets struggled the most.
- There's nothing worse than the moment you realize those godforsaken inflatable bang sticks are being handed out in your section at an NBA game. I still can't hear out of my right ear. One day we'll hear about a man who choked a juvenile unconscious during a basketball game. You will all wonder what could have driven that lunatic to do such a thing. I will understand completely.
- Remember when Luol Deng regularly made three pointers? It seems like a lifetime ago, somehow, and his season statistics indicate he shot a percentage consistent with his career averages. It certainly doesn't feel that way though. Be it the two year old wrist injury that still hasn't been fixed or perhaps the lack of open looks caused by D-Rose's absence, Luol's shot is all kinds of broken right now.
- Take this for what it's worth, but a pair of Nets fans behind me had a long and detailed conversation on how they have no answer for Carlos Boozer. And it's true. Granted Boozer was off in the second half, but Reggie Evans cannot guard him at all. Evans can rebound like nobody else in the NBA right now, but therein ends his skillset. Booz must be an offensive focal point whenever he's in the game, or at least until PJ Carlesimo finally decides to bring the double team. Definitely something to watch moving forward.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again: Jimmy Butler is a big time minus on offense right now. It bears mentioning that there aren't better options on the team to replace him, what with Marco inducing groans and Rip making them himself while wearing a heat pack on his back. But Jimmy is hesitating every time he has the ball, eschewing open driving lanes and available passes while the Nets defense recovers, and then either passing out beyond the three point line to a covered man or shooting long stand still jumpers. Guarding Jimmy much of the game was Joe Johnson, he of the questionable mobility due to his own bout with plantar fasciitis. If Butler would even appear to be a dribble-drive threat, or create some motion off the ball, the Bulls offense would benefit immensely. And since I just burned 200 words ripping him to shreds, let it be said that Jimmy's perimeter defense was spectacular, as per usual.
- How about them 3rd quarter Nets?! Granted I'm probably writing this because I was finally right about something and YOU need to hear about it, but in a game the Nets struggled to find consistent offense throughout, the 3rd quarter was downright putrid.
- To the teenage girls who squealed with delight whenever Kris Humphries did anything, including inbound the ball, I just... help me understand. Is it a Kardashian thing? Does Ray J have a legion of tweens following his every move?
- Off to the United Center, where this series gets exactly 0% easier. The Nets, perhaps because they've still getting used to their new digs, are just as good on the road, and possibly better, than they are at home. Fun times from Brooklyn, though. See you back here for Game 5.