The #TNTBulls were back at it again on Thursday night as the Bulls beat the San Antonio Spurs 94-91 and handed them their first loss on the road this season. It was a very bizarre game for the Bulls and many factors contributed to this game that left many still wondering how to grasp a read on this team.
All around effort from everyone
With Jimmy Butler struggling to score, it looked as if it would be one of those days were the Bulls offense bogs down and shows once again how heavily reliant it is on the shooting guard. But that wasn’t the case this time around. Against a quality opponent, the Bulls saw all five of its starters score double digits. Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez, and Rajon Rondo all scored 12 points and were efficient from the field (Rondo and Lopez both shot over 50% from the field). The Bulls got 26 points points from its bench as well with Doug McDermott making his return and his presence felt on the offensive end. Despite hitting one three pointer all game, McDermott dropped eight points along with grabbing four rebounds and three assists. It was a big minutes night (25 minutes) for Doug considering this was his first game back from a concussion but the Bulls bench needed him. Niko Mirotic shot four of eight from the field and dropped in nine points. He was also making plays like this:
If Mirotic can keep using his pump-fake to give him space to blow by defenders and get to the rim, he can become a much more effective and efficient player on offense.
Butler got it going later but the big story from the game was the contribution of the bench which finally showed up. In their losses so far this season, the Bulls have struggled mightily when Butler is on the bench and the second unit guys are out on the court. But with McDermott back and Cristiano Felicio getting more minutes, things may be looking up in terms of bench production.
Hoiberg makes some good coaching choices....along with some bad ones
It looks like Fred Hoiberg finally realized that playing Cristiano Felicio over Bobby Portis is a smart idea. This is the second game in a row that Felicio has played double digit minutes and he’s making his impact felt on both ends, helping crash the glass and is finishing very well around the hoop. His biggest strength is on defense and that’s what the Bulls need right now. Portis also played zero minutes in this game and spared many Bulls fan from watching the Portis/Mirotic front court combination that was so bad on defense. Isaiah Canaan also saw his minutes drop to a mere 10 as Hoiberg chose to go with different players at point guards instead of going traditional with Canaan.
Hoiberg also went with a lineup WITHOUT Rajon Rondo late in the 4th quarter, opting to put out a five man combination of Wade-Butler-McDermott-Gibson-Lopez. It was a very smart move considering Rondo’s trouble in the 4th quarter of games in terms of shot selection and committing killer turnovers. Putting the ball in Wade and Butler’s hands late in the game is the way to go for Chicago. They are the players who can perform in crunch time and initiate the offense. It looked like Hoiberg had finally learned and watching Gregg Popovich sit Pau Gasol for David Lee in the 4th quarter may have had an influence on him. But then he quickly turned around and subbed Rondo right back into the game and you could hear the groans from Bulls fan through the TV. So you could call it a so-so move by Hoiberg in that he subbed Rondo back into the game when the lineup without him was working so well.
I don't get why Hoiberg sees stuff working, then decides "Hey better go back to the broken thing just in case." He does this ALL THE TIME— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) December 9, 2016
Bulls crash the glass
It was business as usual for Chicago on the boards. They won the battle on the glass 50-44 and continued their recipe of winning games through rebounding and fast break points. Robin Lopez had a surprise off-night with only four rebounds, leaving Rondo to lead the way with 10 rebounds. The bench was key in this department as well, grabbing 17 of them.