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Bulls vs. Bobcats recap: 3s and FTs lead Bulls to close victory

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Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Given that the Bulls were playing their third game in four nights, I think a little forgiveness is in order for merely squeaking by the Bobcats for a 86-81 win. Besides, the Bobcats really aren't that bad, and this is a Bulls team that while showing a lot of room for improvement though are now in the midst of a 5-game winning streak. This is a good thing.

The insane 3-point shooting carried over from the Pacers game into the first half of this one, as the Bulls were 5/8 from beyond the arc in the half. Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng really carried the Bulls at the start, with Butler going 2/2 from three (he's hit 5 straight over the past three games) and Deng going 7 of 8 from the free throw line to combine for 21 points in the half. Dunleavy chipped in going 2/3 from three as well, and beyond that there wasn't much. Behind some solid inside play and the Bulls turning the ball over a lot, the Bobcats were able to stay within range for much of the half and actually take a 4 point lead heading into halftime.

The Bulls had two huge scoring droughts in both halves that kept this game close even as the Bobcats were shooting poorly themselves. Both teams wound up shooting 36% from the field. A lot of Charlotte's effort came from unheralded reserves named 'Jeff'. Per Basketball-Reference there aren't many players named Jeff, but both Adrien and Taylor put on notable performances for the Bobcats. Adrien did a lot of dirty work in the first half which helped the Bobcats score 21 points in the paint in that time. Taylor hit a couple second-half threes to get to a career-high 20 points. Meanwhile, the Bulls struggled with turnovers and their own inside play and though they rarely trailed it was still an uncomfortably close game.

What helped the Bulls stay ahead was their drastic advantage at the free-throw line. They were able to out-muscle the Bobcats often (the 'Cats were without Al Jefferson and employed stretch-shooting bigs like Josh McRoberts throughout) and got to the foul line 31 times with 26 makes, including a 14/16 3rd quarter. Meanwhile, not only did the Bobcats fail to draw as many fouls, when they got to the FT line their shooting killed them as they went only 8-16.

In the final few minutes, Noah and Boozer changed what was until-then a very poor game to come through with some clutch plays. Derrick Rose did as well with a mid-range basket and layup in the end. Overall, Rose still did not look that good, finishing again with more shots (13) than points (12). And though the Bulls enjoyed that parade at the line, Rose himself was only 3-4 (the second trip was at the very end via intentional foul), which were his first trips to the line since the win over Utah 4 games ago. Rose also assisted a huge Luol Deng 3-pointer that sealed it with 30s second left. After the hot shooting to start the game, that was the Bulls first 3-pointer in the entire second half. While Butler was slowed  a bit in the second half with a toe injury (he did return but said after the game it still hurt), Deng maintained his hot early start and finished with a game-high 21 points on only 10 shot attempts. He went 10-12 from the free-throw line.