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Duhon/Gordon/Deng/Nocioni/Noah

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As Stacy King said: "that's a good group right there". (in between saying 'energy' and 'intensity', no doubt)

At the time Duhon came in for Hinrich to form that lineup at 4:53 in the 3rd quarter the score went from 53-43 Bobcats to 91-82 Bulls by the end of the game.

As noted by the telecast, they kept running a play where Duhon would come up to the 3 point line on the near side, and dribble back against 2 screens, first by Nocioni and then Noah. And it seemed that every time, Okafor would follow Noah out and try and challenge Duhon way out by the 3 point line, leaving the paint free of their shotblocker for Noc, Deng, or Gordon to get an easy look or at least cause an extra rotation to leave a shooter open.

And after doing fine work in setting those screens, Noah effectively finished the game at 1:30 left with a jumpshot, capping a great night from him. Box score delight: Nocioni with 11 rebounds, allowing a frontcourt pairing of him and Noah to survive on the glass enough to keep their offensive talents on the court.

That game-saving lineup came after an abysmal start to the 3rd quarter, where after the first 9 minutes the team was 3-10 from the field with 9 turnovers. Skiles had been trying combinations all game, from the new starting lineup to a second-quarter combination of Duhon/Deng/Noah/Smith/Wallace, with Noah taking the wing player on defense. To his credit, Skiles stuck with the group that was working without over-playing them to exhaustion. Or even if they were exhausted, they didn't stop making shots.

One common denominator was that lineups with Kirk Hinrich were generally bad, as he had yet another terrible game. I don't know how he was only credited for one turnover, but he looked careless with the ball, afraid to shoot (especially around the rim), and foul-happy. His 3rd foul of the first half was just by being lazy. After Derek Anderson shot a three, Hinrich neither went to the glass or went down court, he instead stood and watched, so while Anderson was moving to follow his miss Hinrich was slow to react and picked up the foul. Cue the patented slumped shoulders.

Duhon, as a part of the aforementioned lineup of awesome, played very well, and all game was actually getting to the rim and finishing, which I didn't know point guards were allowed to do. (And I don't just mean that in a 'cause I haven't seen it from Hinrich' way, but I thought it wasn't regarded as a 'pure' point guard move. heh.)

Yet despite yet another appearance from Hinrich's alter-ego, the Mopey Iowan, Skiles said postgame that he will keep the same starting lineup next game. I'm fine either way at this point: on the one hand Hinrich will eventually play better and seeing Duhon/Gordon/Deng/Smith/Wallace against the Pistons almost concedes defeat. However, Hinrich did re-injure his left hand, and maybe it's time to play up that injury and give the captain a break.

Other more random observations:

  • The aggressively maligned (by me, anyway) insertion of Joe Smith in the starting lineup didn't exactly produce as a group, but Smith himself shot well. It looked like he hurt himself near the end of the first half, and while he stayed in the game and started the 2nd half, he looked a bit slowed.
     
  • Luol Deng was the only one consistently making shots, even in that awful third quarter. We saw a return of the automatic midrange jumper, with a dose of his new tricks. 30 points.

  • The referees were kinda screwin' the Bulls over all night, especially (as usual) on Ben Gordon drives.
     
  • Hope David Stern enjoys that fancy new publicly-financed arena in Charlotte. That's always empty.
     
  • Final play of the first half, the Bulls patented complicated 'give it to Gordon' play turned up alright as instead of trapping Ben after the screen, the they just kept Matt Carroll on him. Gordon was able to get space at the elbow and hit a moderately-tough leaner.
     
  • Stacy: "Gerald Wallace doesn't get a lot of credit for his defense". eh? Going to games in person costs a lot, but at least I get to miss the telecast when I'm at the UC.
     
  • Jared Dudley, emboldened by his first start, wasn't shy in going shot 0-6 in 20 minutes. Makes me think how Tyrus Thomas would do on a bad team like Charlotte with (apparently) minutes to spare.
     
  • Tyrus Thomas finished with 6 minutes. The way Noah played tonight he may be even further down the bench, although maybe he earns some brownie points with a good game against the Pistons, which he's been known to have.

So things ended up fine, a road win is a road win, even if it was against the Bobcats (Ben Wallace's new favorite team, 8 boards, 2 blocks and a steal in 22 minutes proving even the half-dead version could do damage against these guys). But it was far from good times up until then, and tough to feel confident going into a weekend back-to-back against the Pistons and Celtics.