The Chicago Bulls gave a full, complete performance tonight in their 98-85 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. In a season full of unimpressive if not uninspiring victories, the Bulls finally gave us a game where the good far outweighed the bad. It was the type of convincing win that the team needed, frankly. It wasn't a statement win. It wasn't a loud, dramatic win. It was the type of win that good teams tend to collect over the course of a season: they built and maintained a lead, they got strong performances from their best players and they executed down the stretch.
Basically, the Bulls didn't make it harder on themselves, and that's the biggest thing for a team that's been it's own worst enemy on most nights.
Derrick Rose started really strong going 3-4 out of the gates. He actually took more shots in the first three minutes of this game than he did in the entirety of the Philly game. It should be noted he's battling some sort of illness or bug, though. So maybe that's what was holding him back on Monday? Or maybe he wasn't interested in going full bore against the likes of TJ McConnell and Isaiah Canaan? For which, I cannot fault him.
Rose ended the game with 19 points on 19 shots, which is pretty efficient for him these days. He and Jimmy Butler did all the heavy lifting as Butler added 24 of his own. Always great to see the two of them play well simultaneously.
In a weird trivial note, neither team attempted a 3-pointer for the first eight minutes of the game. Goes to show that you can take the Joakim Noahs and Zach Randolphs out of the starting lineups, but you can't take the Memphis and Chicago out of the Grizzlies and Bulls. At their core, these are teams with 90s soul. They aren't going to be small-ball no matter how hard they (nobly) try to conform.
But moving along, the offense finally clicked in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Related: the second unit is pretty fun! They got a little sloppy with the ball, but otherwise, they looked genuinely good. Then the starters came back, Rose kept attacking, but the ball stopped going in the hoop. To spoil an otherwise enjoyable half of basketball the Bulls scored four points in the final five minutes of the half.
But I'd like to touch upon the second unit really quickly. There's something undeniably unselfish about this group, spearheaded by Joakim Noah. Our The Hungarian Jordan wrote an excellent synopsis of how Noah's reinvented himself this season and it's made the dynamic of this team change completely. But beyond Noah, isn't it amazing that Kirk Hinrich is thriving now that he's playing a reasonable amount of minutes for a guard in his mid-30s? Funny, that. Anywho, Nikola Mirotic might be best suited for a bench role to limit his overly ambitious shooting. It's pretty clear that Fred Hoiberg is starting to figure out the right lineup combinations, and it's almost like he used the first quarter of the season to experiment. I think I like this guy.
Speaking of likable guys, the Gasols were playing each other. I think I speak for everyone when I say: long live the Gasols. Pau actually went scoreless in the first half, though. But if it was in an effort to psychologically lure his brother into a false sense of security then I have to respect it. As an older brother, there's no better feeling in the world than letting your little brother think he's going to win -- only to end up putting him back in his rightful place as the bronze medal in the family.
But really, neither Gasol played particularly well. This game mainly featured some exquisite guard play from Rose and Jimmy Butler. Through three quarters Butler and Rose combined for 36 of the Bulls' 74 points. Jimmy was his usual self, working hard and earning everything given to him. Rose, meanwhile, had a certain burst that he certainly did not have on Monday. Hell, it was the kind of burst Rose hasn't shown since last year's playoffs. Maybe it's the vision, maybe he's not feeling ill any longer. Who knows, am I right?
This game did get close with around 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls were impressively able to close it out. They executed down the stretch, finding Doug McDermott on a number of occasions. At this point, I don't really care who starts between Tony Snell and McDermott, but I do care who is on the floor down the stretch. McDermott's clearly earned the right to see significant, important minutes. Yes, he's going to get attacked defensively. But I at least like that Hoiberg isn't sheltering him from the inevitable. I do think putting McDermott in uncomfortable situations now -- defending on an island -- will only help him down the road.
Good win, but Memphis is obviously at a crossroads. Not trying to take anything away from the Bulls because they certainly played well. Memphis' starters -- outside of Courtney Lee -- shot 13-43 from the field. The defense was top notch yet again. A thoroughly good win, to be sure. Revel in it, my friends. Hasn't happened very often this season.