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Saturday, October 31

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Bulls Fri Jan 21 2011

Bulls Earn Statement Win Against Dallas

Thumbnail image for chicagobulls.pngHalfway through the NBA season, no team is fully healthy. You just try to fight through your injuries and capitalize on your opportunities to beat opponents who aren't at full strength.

The Bulls, missing Joakim Noah, weren't able to do that last week against a Miami team missing LeBron James -- in a game that also saw Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh leave with minor injuries. But last night Chicago came through without either of its star post players, beating a Dallas team playing without Caron Butler, still getting Dirk Nowitzki back to full speed and coming off a tough win against the Lakers the night before.

Neither team was at full strength, but it was clearly a meaningful win for the young Bulls. There's no doubt they can play hard-nosed basketball when they need to. The point that's been lacking at times this season is that sometimes they simply don't. But over the past three days, with Boozer out, Chicago has shown a defensive determination that's impressive if not especially pretty.

Chicago lost Tuesday to Charlotte for the second time in a week, but Dallas is currently tied for third in the Western Conference with Oklahoma City and Utah, and while the East has looked good this season, the West has been the much deeper conference in recent years.

The biggest surprise of the night was the lack of fast-break points. Chicago didn't get a single one, giving up one of their regular weapons to slow down the Mavericks. By taking the full amount of clock on each possession, the Bulls limited the chances that Dallas would have to get to the basket. Derrick Rose was the game's high scorer with 26, besting Nowitzki's 19.

For me, the biggest stat of the game was the Bulls outscoring the Mavs 28-16 in the paint, and out-rebounding Dallas 51-41 (23 of them coming from the combined work of Luol Deng and Kurt Thomas). In a game where the Bulls are without Boozer and Noah, it says a lot about their depth that they could still out-rebound Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood & Co.

Next up for Chicago are the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night at the United Center. It's looking like Boozer will be back for that one, but at this point, the Bulls know they can't survive even without their big guns.

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