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Bulls vs. Wizards final score: Bulls frontcourt shines in unexpected win

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This game turned out to be kind of great fun, especially with the schadenfreude involved in keeping Washington in their tailspin (Denver showed it's not too late in the season to fire your coach, Wiz! It is too late to help your bench though...), as the Bulls pulled out an unexpected 97-92 victory. They led for much of the game and were near a double-digit margin for much of the second half.

In their first full game in this daunting stretch without both Rose and Butler, it was great to see so many other Bulls step up with great performances. The Bulls lead was at a precarious 3 points with 1:45 remaining, and it would've been a pretty sickening loss if it had turned out that way and wasted so many fine efforts.

It was primarily from the frontcourt trio of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, and Nikola Mirotic, and fittingly all three were on the court for that final stretch. It wasn't a pretty finish, and I really thought it was strange to have Gasol out there, but he did secure a couple rebounds kept that Wizards at a 2-posession distance.

I'll start the individual praise with Mirotic, who had his second straight phenomenal outing leading all scorers with 23 point on a mere 13 shots. Washington had nobody who could stop him. Against the big Nene-Gortat duo, watch him take Nene outside for this awesome step-back three.

Nothing else worked for them either. Their stretch-4 is freaking Drew Gooden. And like the Clipper game on Sunday, Mirotic did a wonderful job fronting of the post by Mirotic when guarded by a smaller guy like Paul Pierce. The Bulls predictably struggled a bit to find good looks at times down the stretch, but Mirotic emerged as their go-to option and delivered.

Gasol's pick-and-roll defense may have been exploited whenever he was inserted back into the game, but he made up for it by absolutely cooking from midrange, and he finished with 20 points on 8-11 shooting.


Noah ('the man in the middle' was introduced last tonight, that's different right?) I thought really led this effort. His defense was fantastic throughout his 32 minutes, especially playing alongside Mirotic. He scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half and was actually converting inside chances, also having 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks.

And better yet, he literally took Nene out of the game. In a welcome change, Nene was abominable against his 'hated' opponent tonight, so that was awesome. Even on something that could've been a passable defensive play, he knocked the ball out of Noah's hands right to Snell for a layup. He also had a completely dirty cheap-shot on Noah in the 4th quarter. It was reviewed and called a flagrant one, but you could see intent to where a tossing would've been justified, and he'll hopefully be at least fined by the league. Nene then fouled out the game throwing Noah to the floor for an rebound. So, as always, fuck Nene....and much easier to say so when he played completely awful like he did in this one. Zero points and six fouls in 20 minutes.

John Wall's night doesn't look too terrible at a cursory glance but he left a ton of points on the table with some haphazard transition choices, and finished 8-20 with 6 turnovers in a game where he was almost exclusively guarded by Aaron Brooks. Brooks shot even worse, but overcame an awful start to win the matchup. Brook's streaky scoring helped both going on a big run in the 2nd quarter to get the Bulls their lead, and hitting just enough shots down the stretch in a time where Wall and his team couldn't answer enough times.

As I said, this was a fun one. There were a couple other minor contributions from Snell (still hot as hell from three, going 3-7), Moore (great first-half defensive stint) and Dunleavy (only 5 points but was real active and took a couple charges). And Tom Thibodeau had a hell of a game, not only showing yet again how his system facilitates the 'next man up' mentality and execution of the team, but he both limited Hinrich's minutes as low as he could (12:27), and gave Doug McDermott some extended burn (15:18). They both were absolutely terrible!

But I'll try and forget those two, as nearly everything else was good. It looked ugly at points, especially with 16 turnovers, and the Bulls offense is just never going to be very smooth or effective with so much of their usual contributors inactive. But while even this game did get scary in the 4th quarter, and we'll still see some tough road ahead, it was more than enough tonight, and best of all against a loathsome opponent they've struggled against recently.