After a fairly excellent first half, I was a bit worried that the Bulls would eventually see the effects of the back-to-back in the second. The Spurs had a brief surge to end that half, following a weird timeout where Popovich merely sat on the bench while his players had their own huddle. They responded and completely blew out the Bulls in that 3rd quarter 37-12.
It was nearly entirely a product of the Bulls missing shots on offense that quarter. They were relying heavily on jumpers and missing plenty (especially Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, who trumped his 1-9 performance last night with an 0-9) , and the Spurs would out-run the Bulls to the other basket. There were also far too many blow-bys by Spurs guards, which can somewhat be tied to fatigue but still discouraging.
But there was some encouragement to be had in what transpired in the 4th quarter. If this was merely a year prior, this game would've likely snowballed into a 30+ point blowout, but tonight while the Bulls never really threatened they were consistently hanging around. And how they did so was important, it wasn't just showing determination (and Deng and Noah always have that), but Derrick Rose being brilliant again. He had a few bad shots early in the game (and finished with only one foul shot), but in that second half he went back to attacking the rim, then slowly extended out past midrange and then hit two more 3-pointers tonight, finishing with 33 points overall. This is getting quite interesting: Rose making a significant leap in scoring ability changes a lot, for everything in this franchise.
- Ronnie Brewer had another fine game, and helped lead the bench unit in another first half where they actually extended the lead. Finished 5-7 from the field, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals. He's quickly rising up my personal ranks as a favorite on the team, and unleashed his second savage dunk in as many nights. And like I said after the one last night: cool to see that from a Bulls 2-guard.
- The bench combinations couldn't recreate the magic in the 2nd half with the Bulls deficit hemorrhaging. Thibs even tried using Scal in the 4th, and while he was on the floor for Rose's one-man run, shouldn't have stayed out there as a reward. He simply doesn't do anything. Interesting to see CJ Watson play for a majority of that quarter as well alongside Rose.
- Omer Asik had another awesome slow-powerful dunk, this time one-handed. Overall he made a lot of mistakes, but still made a positive impact. I suppose Thibodeau could've gone to him earlier in the 3rd, but when considering something like that, or using Scal at all, it's not an easy solution: Spurs were running a lot, and Taj Gibson was awful, so there weren't a lot of options.
- Chose the ESPN broadcast tonight, bringing up an interesting dilemma: is it better to have announcers who can't see the game yet talk about it (incorrectly) like they know what's going on? Or have announcers who can at least see the game, but choose to talk about anything else but what's in front of them.