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Bulls Wed Feb 15 2012

As The Bulls Turn: Bulls Had More Ammo

Something of an either/or dilemma for the Bulls and their legions of fandom last night. Either the Bulls, sans Derrick Rose, took care of business against an underachieving and talented Kings team; or the Bulls showed some major flaws in their post defense as well as letting the Kings ("The WORST, Jerry!") stick around for the entire game. So what was it? Well, in spite of Chicago Land's typical self-hatred and "Sky is falling" demeanor, I'm siding squarely with the former.

The injuries continue to mount, reoccur and linger for the Bulls, just like every NBA team in this abridged, compressed, death march of a season. Still, "Neither pulled hammies nor ankle sprains nor x-rays nor gloom of turf toe stays these ballers from the swift completion of their appointed games." The Bulls, bench, starters, 10-day contracts (we see you Mike James, 'sup?) are doing their thing.

No Derrick Rose, no problem, which as the 6-2 record without D.Rose will attest, has been this squad's M.O. all season. CJ Watson has been alternately "good-ish" and then regressed, but let's give him the pass after being harried by a very focussed Rondo on Sunday and then facing the supersized point, Tyreke Evans. The 6'6 guard swallowed the 6'2 Watson like a starbeam dropping into the infinity of a black hole, and well, that's why Derrick Rose is so valuable. Still, Bulls win and in this bizarre season, that's good enough.

A still inactive Rip Hamilton, water off a duck's back for the backcourt tandem of CJ and Ronnie Brewer. Mind you, last night Ronnie and CJ had a rough go of it, but John Lucas and Brewer made things work when they were paired up and Lucas especially impressed with easy (and not-so-easy) dimes, to the tune of nine in a scant 22 minutes of game action. Joakim Noah has squarely bounded back into form with yet another double-double for the pogo-legged one (plus four blocks and 8-9 from the charity stripe). Boozer did his typical disappearing act against a formidable (stature, if not talent-wise) defender --namely, Jason Thompson or DeMarcus-- whoever had Booz on the switch. So feel free to waste your breath about his salary or be happy with his about average 16, 5 and 2. Most importantly, in a game wherein both teams felt like making baskets and playing a bit of a faster pace than either is accustomed to, the Bulls had more ammo. Their bench dropped in 44 points, the team shot .524 from the field and they made all but two of their 26 free throws. The Kings, by the way, had 28 FTAs and only made 22, so practice your free throws, kids.

Things that really struck moi about the game? Offensively the Kings were too much for the Bulls front court to handle. This is something, very seriously, you don't see that often. Particularly, the Kings murdered the Bulls boarders on the offensive glass. With Sacto cleaning up 17 misses and creating more opportunities for points. Even with Boozer and his disinterest in doing window work, this is a bit high.

Mind you, no one is ever going to "fear" Jason Thompson as an offensive threat, but he is a presence and he's always been able to board. Throw in the fact that he's 6'11 with reach and he's been lining up aside the equally 6'11 DeMarcus Cousins and you're talking about a tag-team duo that is a bit much for the Bulls to handle. Most frustrating is that JoNo was, for the most part, doing his best to stick to his man and only move over on the rotations (he or Lu were, no surprise, covering for Boozer.) But it was just too much and Baby Bear DeMarcus got into the honey tree way too easily and frequently. [Snuh? Baby Bear? -Ed] And let's take this time to talk about DeMarcus and what he's up to.

Cousins came into the league with so much hype surrounding him last season that any scenario that didn't have him averaging a triple-double (points, boards, blocks, to be certain) and leading the Kings (along with Prince Tyreke The Freak) back to the 'offs, would've surely been a disappointment. And lo, Cousins didn't win ROY (Blake), had sort of a disappointing start, showed mere flashes of brilliance and ended up in Paul Westphal's doghouse leading into this season. Sad trombone. Now the narrative script since January 5th (Westphal was fired) has been flipped and DeMarcus, particularly since Thompson has supplanted starting center job from Chuck Hayes, has very much emerged as the monstrous big pundits were pining for. Peep his game log and note the uptick in productivity he's seen since 1/16 (game Thompson started starting), that friends is a bit of correlation and causation. Yay, numbers!

In any case, it's a pleasant bonus for us NBA nerds to get to watch DeMarcus blossom, let alone explode in the shrine that is the UC. He's a forgotten gem for the casual fan due to the late starts and Sacramento being an overlooked hoops town. Meanwhile, and more concerning, is the fear that a team like Miami (or, gosh, Indiana) could nab a Chris Kaman-type and cause the same sort of mismatched nightmares that Thompson-DeMarcus wrought last night.

Anything Else?

  • "Bully For Thibs!" The Bulls head coach will be making the trip down to Orlando for the All-Star game as the Eastern conference caller. Here's to Thibodeau resting D.Rose and Luol and running ragged the best the East has to offer. Also, please, let's start a campaign for ASG coaches to have an arm-wrestling match? No reason, it'd just be funny.

  • As mentioned in the post, the Bulls did re-sign Mike James to another 10-day contract what with the unpredictability of Derrick's back spasms, and hey, insurance is nice to have.

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