So the Bulls appear to be (mostly) re-focused. Tonight they were able to go into Dallas, on the second night of a back to back, after walloping the mighty Spurs, and get a W. That's praiseworthy stuff. I would have given them the fully re-focused tag if not for how sloppy they were for parts of this game. But a win is a win, and a win on the road, out West, against one of their seemingly never ending supply of legitimate title contenders is a great thing.
The Bulls, despite the aforementioned bits of sloppiness, controlled this one wire to wire. They got out to a 10-2 start, mostly on the back of Derrick Rose, who opened the game with fireballs shooting out of his fingers. Rose finished the first half with 18 points on 6 of 8 shooting and went 3 of 3 from deep. Chicago lead only by 3 at the half, despite shooting 51.4% from the field and Rose going nova, because they turned the ball over 12 times and let the Mavs shoot a similarly sizzling 50%. Rose cooled off significantly in the second half, as he finished with only 20 points on 17 shots. For those of you who don't like to do math, Derrick went 1 for 9 from the field in the second half.
Joakim Noah was back tonight and while he still can't jump almost at all, he did get up for one nice dunk over Dwight Powell, and was a little quicker running around than he's seemed for most of the year. He struggled from the floor going 3 of 8 for 6 points and a couple of his misses were shots that ought to have been gimmes for him. He snagged 7 boards in his 23 minutes of floor time and was pretty energetic for a guy working on two lower body injuries.
Taj had a really solid little game on offense scoring 15 points on 10 shots. He was pretty active defensively and obliterated JJ Barea at the rim, which was satisfying (because JJ Barea looks like a troll and seems quite annoying). Kirk Hinrich managed to score 8 points on 3 shots but made two incredibly dumb plays which made me rage. First, he jumped to take a corner three and then decided halfway up his jumper to dribble instead, which was correctly whistled a double dribble. Then, later on, he fouled a Maverick, I believe it was Devin Harris, on a three point shot, which went in, to give up a 4 point play and cut the Bulls 9 point lead down to 5 points.
In sunnier news, especially as regards potential replacements for Kirk when Mike Dunleavy gets healthy, Tony Snell continued to look like a real-life NBA basketball player. Snell was aggressive attacking the basket off of closeouts, he made smart cuts, and he was pretty solid on defense, though Chandler Parsons was able to maneuver around him a few times too easily for my liking. For the night, Snell finished with 10 points on 7 shots, 2 assists, 3 rebounds, and a steal in 30 minutes of time. Those aren't world destroying numbers per minute, but Snell just seems a lot more comfortable out there and is no longer a noticeable eyesore whenever he plays for extended minutes as he was as a rookie and for parts of this season's start.
Jimmy Butler played as well in the second half as Derrick played in the first and finished with a similar, if more well rounded stat-line, going for 20 points on 18 shots, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals in 38 minutes. Pretty great stuff from the man from Tomball. Pau Gasol had a pretty strong showing, despite not having his usual voluminous scoring. The big fella grabbed 16(!) boards and dropped in 13 points on just 10 shots and more than held his own against Tyson Chandler. It was an encouraging change for Pau from previous nights this season when he faced legitimately strong post defenders and struggled. It certainly helped that Rose and Butler were able to get things going offensively, to take the pressure off of Pau to score so much. One thing I think I noticed, but would have to study further to be sure, is that it appears that in this game and Thursday night's tilt with the Spurs the Bulls appear to be calling fewer Pau isolations in the post and running more pick and pop actions for him. Something to watch going forward.
Nikola Mirotic barely played, which stinks, and hopefully this is a temporary blip based on matchups or something. It's not great that 34 year old Pau played 38 minutes in a January game while Niko played just 2. I'm not sure what Thibs saw in those two minutes that he so disliked, but there must have been something. On the also stinky front, the Bulls ball security was pretty terrible tonight, as they turned it over 21 times total, which lead to 34(!) Dallas points. For comparison, the Bulls only turned Dallas over 12 times for 14 points going their way. If those numbers come closer to one another, this would have been a much easier Chicago win. But it was still a win, in a tough setting, on no rest, and that's what counts.