The thrilla' in Nawlins featured the Bulls stampeding (thumbs up, right?) over the Hornets in a way that threatened the home team's franchise-record for least points in a game. But a final second three by Marco Belinelli prevented the Bulls from altering the Earth's axis.
The Bulls opened the game with a 9-0 run that became a 15-4 run that became a 21-8 Bulls lead with 2:40 remaining in the first quarter [.pdf]. With reserves that would get Brian Scalabrine minutes on just about any other NBA team about to come off the bench for the injury-riddled Hornets, it was clear that this game had already become ugly and was threatening the world to go on a Bon-Bon diet and flush its face with acid.
It was a game where Chris Kaman outscored the rest of his team by six off the bench, scoring ten in that first quarter; and following that up with almost eight scoreless minutes in the second, before finishing with a team-high 17 points on the night.
The night was magical:
- A mediocre center went off on the Bulls in the first quarter;
- Luol Deng played over 34 minutes in a game where the Bulls were up by 24 after three quarters;
- The Bulls out-rebounded their opponents by ten, scoring 16 second chance points to their opponents' six;
- The Bulls held their opponents to one fastbreak point;
- The Bulls outscored their opponents 58-40 in the paint;
- The Bulls scored 29 (!!!) points on their opponents' 19 turnovers;
- The Bulls only took 12 trips to the FT line;
- The Bulls only scored 90;
- The Bulls won;
- The Bulls' opponents entered the game 4-21, Jarrett Jack as their scoring leader, and something called Gustavo Ayon with the team's highest PER;
- The Bulls won by 23.
Yeah, this game was about the Bulls-iest blowout you're gonna find this year.
The 90 points really shouldn't be alarming, as there wasn't much aggressiveness going on when the outcome was clearly expressed by the Hornets' 31 points in the first
quarter half. There were only 25 total fouls in the whole game, as the game was pretty much signed, sealed, and delivered to the Bulls when Eric Gordon and Carl Landry were in suits and Jack was playing through a sore left knee -- on top of being a self-aware, larger-than-the-elephant deficiency controlled by conflicting interests.
And it's a bit sad because the Hornets have had so many sparks of being an interesting franchise that started in a legacy basketball state, only to move to one of the most enlightening, lively cities filled with some of the most interesting people, music, and food in America. The trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers was necessary for the star to get out of the NBA-owned clusterfrack and the arrival of Gordon, Kaman, and Al-Farouq Aminu in return to play for a solid coach in Monty Williams seemed to be promising.
No one expected the Hornets to make a repeat run to the playoffs, but their power forwards and centers are a pretty damn good accumulation of talent with Gordon and Jack. The bigs alone should be enough to pull out about a .400 record.
But the actual 2012 Hornets are a giant mess. It's like they were already contracted, but no one told the schedule makers.
- Good game, Carlos Boozer. He scored a game-high 18 points on 8-for-15, grabbing only six boards, but added three assists in only 28:24. Emeka Okafor pushed him around when Boozer got position on the block, but it wasn't Boozer lack of trying to go down low. Okafor's just simply bigger and stuck to Booz when Kaman was the center.
- When Joakim Noah is bad, it's unwatchable; when he's good, it's some of the basketball most worth consuming. The Hornets suck, this we already know; but down low, there are some guys who'll pound you down. Noah and Booz didn't force their offense. They moved the ball extremely well and navigated through space. Noah's 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting and ten rebounds marked his first double-double in the last five games after a streak of six in seven games, despite playing only 29 minutes.
- NOLA shot 6-for-24 in the third quarter, and still scored one point more than in the first. After crediting the Bulls D, Williams said, "In that third quarter, I don't know how many open looks we had. [...] We just couldn't throw it in the ocean. We had 75 attempts and 19 turnovers."
- Ronnie Brewer started for Richard Hamilton, who wasn't with the team in NOLA.
- Hooray for Bench Mob! They scored 39 points in, well, 39 shots to go with 19 rebounds, led by Taj Gibson's 14 on 5-for-12 and six boards, along with Omer Asik's eight rebounds and Kyle Korver's 12 points. And Korver's solid... defense (yes, some very nice defense to put NOLA deep in shot clocks).
- Derrick Rose hasn't been mentioned in this post, and that's a good thing. It was a 'no news is good news' night for Rose. He said his back was fine Wednesday morning -- after leaving Monday's game with spasms that had haunted him for a few days -- and played fine in New Orleans. Only six points, but on only 3-for-5 shooting. He grabbed five boards and dished six assists, but the key to the game was putting the Hornets away early. Rose teammates did just that and the reigning MVP was held to only 22:22 of playing time. After the game, he said his back was "kind of tight". Being on a two-week road trip makes this worse because of the constant flying, whether or not he plays, as there's no reason to believe he wouldn't travel with the team enduring an injury that's day-to-day.
Tom Thibodeau said after the game: "If a guy is injured, he shouldn't play. But if he can play, he should play. Somehow there's this notion of guys sitting out games. Pretty soon we'll be at the point where a guy sits out the whole season and just plays in the playoffs — if he can get there. I don't get that. [...] If he could do further damage, we won't take that chance. [...] If you cut back practice time and do more film (study), you can get rest. How you pace your team is important, so you can be healthy at the end of the season and playing your best. Can you develop the proper habits you need to be successful late (in the season)? The only way you build those habits is by doing your work. If you don't do your work and expect to play well at the end, that's just foolish."
- Thibs doesn't understand the question, "Was it an ugly game?". There's something very meta about that. I just haven't figured it out yet.
- FLASHBACK: Don't you dare underestimate what you learn from a team that beats the crap out of awful teams.
- The highlight of the game was clearly Will Ferrell introducing the starting lineups:
Wednesday was the first time in NBA history that a team won by at least 20 in three straight games of a road trip. Next up is the NBA-worst 3-22 Bobcats on Friday in Charlotte, so we should expect an extension of that. The Bulls advanced to 22-6 and extended their Eastern Conference lead to two games with the Magic 102-89 win over the Heat.
On a closing note, and with no intention to frivolously "go there", but Dwight Howard teabagged the reigning East champs for 25 points on 9-for-14, 24 rebounds and two blocks to go with three steals and three assists on Wednesday. The Magic are now 3-2 versus Miami since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh forged their little alliance, led by Howard's 19.8 PPG, shooting almost 57%, 16.6 RPG and only 16 total fouls in their five matchups.