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Wednesday, October 21

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Bulls Sun Nov 04 2012

Weak End To Bulls Weekend

Bulls_200.pngThe Bulls had a weekend similar to a twenty-something East Lakeviewian with disposable income and nothing to prove. On Friday they dominated on D (dinner at DMK Burger), shot well (Koval Lion's Pride Whiskey), and came away with a win (facebook'd "#winning"). On Saturday they were worse for the wear, got off to a bad start (45-minute wait for brunch in Wicker Park), forced bad shots to try and get something going (Malort bombs) and finally tweeting around 9:35pm, "you win some, you booz some" to end a night to forget.

It was a weekend that showed that when the Bulls are on, they're on, and when they're off, they're still in it because of Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes. Below are both games recapped. It should be noted that I didn't change a word of what I wrote Friday, just to illustrate my excitement and optimism after the big win.

Friday night's victory in Cleveland was a "this is what every optimistic Bulls writer said could happen" game. The Bulls won 115-86 but it wasn't even that close. Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer led the team in scoring with 19 points a piece. Nate Robinson ran the point for a double-double (16 points, 12 dimes). Joakim Noah and his doppelganger, the Cleveland Cavilers Anderson Varejao, had nearly identical stat lines (both with five rebounds, with Varejao tallying two more points and one more assist to Joakim's 10 and one). Noah, along with his front court cohorts, was able keep Cleveland from getting anything going inside with the Cavs only scoring 36 points in the paint on 40% shooting. Loul Deng had a half-day of work (only playing 30 minutes!) but shot 5-for-8 with 14 points and five boards.

Overall, Hamilton is playing as if he wants to earn his entire two-year (option for a third) contract of $10 million in the first two games alone, which will appease the blue-collar mentality of Bulls supporters because last year's play from Hamilton was more befitting of a workman's comp check than a NBA direct deposit transaction.

Carlos Boozer is as consistent as he's been in his entire tenure with the Bulls, the difference is that for the entire time, Bulls fans have wanted to amnesty his contract, but now there's a feeling of "yeah, we actually need his 18 & eight a game." Boozer has been taken for granted. It's OK, we're all guilty of it. Boozer doesn't have a dunk over D-Wade GIF moment like Taj Gibson does. Boozer doesn't ever start or finish fast breaks that often. Gibson is fun to root for. The type of defensive X-factor you need to win more than just another Central Division title, but you'd be remiss to think Gibson can do what Boozer does on the offensive end. What Carlos does is boring, but vital to this team's success. Boozer has that Jay Cutler, malcontent persona, but like Cutler, like him or not, we need him.

Then Saturday happened.

Saturday night's game against the Eric Gordon-and-Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Hornets was a "this is what every pessimistic/realistic Bulls writer said would happen" game. The Bulls started slow, finished slower, losing to the Hornets 89-82. The offense was flat, the defense was appropriate and held the Hornets to 42% shooting while holding their third straight opponent to under 90, which leads the league amongst teams that have played at least three games.

Loul Deng and Joakim Noah played 42 and 43 minutes apiece and kept the team in the game with Deng scoring 19 points and Noah getting his second double-double of the season with an 11-11 game. Marco Belinelli started 4-for-4 against his former club, but missed all six of his shots after. He was aggressive coming off screens, getting himself open for shots instead of waiting to get open looks. Kirk Hinrich continued to struggle offensively posting a 1-for-8 shooting night with only four assists but five steals.

Boozer and Hamilton scored four points apiece on a combined 3-for-18 effort, this after Friday nights' 19 points apiece game. At least they're consistent. After getting excited about their performance a day prior, it's important not to look at this game as nothing more as a second game in two nights, poor shooting display. As the cliché goes, live by the perimeter jump-shot, yada yada yada. As Culter would say of Boozer's performance...

What was most concerning from the off-night loss is Thibodeau may have realized a little too late that his starters were struggling. Hamilton and Boozer did sit out most of the fourth quarter, however their bad shots set the tone for the Bulls entire second half. Perhaps giving Jimmy Butler and Vladimir Radmanovic more than a combined six and a half minutes could have offered some relief. Certainly the answer to the scoring question isn't more Vlad consistently in the rotation on heavy minutes, but those games when Boozer is ice cold, Robinson is indifferent to efficiency, and the whole team is playing catch-up, he's worth a look. We all were looking forward to Butler getting more of a shot after his stand-out Summer League, but Thibodeau seems resigned to using him in only situational defensive moments. This can all change of course. It's only week one of a nine month season.

Last year, Thibodeau probably didn't want to rely as heavily as he did for offense on John Lucas III, but injuries and circumstance forced his hand. So next time his top seven guys can't get it going, he'll look to a bench of players hungry for minutes and getting their team back in the contest. Again, expect more Fridays and the occasional Saturday, but it's clear they'll be in almost all of the games they suit up for. (I made it a whole article without mention Derrick Rose! Well almost, at least it's progress!)

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