Raise your hand if you truly expected the Chicago Bulls to beat the Miami Heat on the road last night. You're lying, but congratulations to all of you.
This game came as a surprise to most people. The Bulls had been playing extremely poorly of late, with their only wins coming against the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic in games that were much close than they should have been. And those wins were sandwiched around a horrifying loss at home to the Charlotte Bobcats, which pretty much speaks for itself.
The Bulls, however, went into South Beach and did what they do: play intelligent, suffocating defense and rebound the crap out of the ball. The Bulls finished +20 on the boards, pounding Miami for 19 offensive rebounds. They literally got into Shane Battier's head down the stretch, when Battier — considered one of the smartest players in the league — denied himself a pair of wide open threes in an effort to swing the ball to the corner, only to find the corner already covered. Tom Thibodeau's preparation for this game was immaculate and the execution was just as good.
All the preparation in the world doesn't guarantee wins, obviously, but when the Bulls bigs come out and perform like they did last night, the Bulls are tough to beat. Joakim Noah did his thing, putting up 13 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists after missing the game in Orlando. Taj Gibson followed up his best game of the season with another solid one. He didn't shoot well, but he had 9 rebounds in just 17 minutes and his defense was just as good as ever. Carlos Boozer, however, surprised everyone by having consecutive good games, this one coming against one of the best teams in the league. He put up 27 points and 12 rebounds on 12/17 from the field and made several big plays down the stretch, including one on defense (!!!) when he stripped Chris Bosh on a jumper in the final minutes.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both had decent games, scoring 30 and 22, respectively and efficiently, but they combined for just 6 assists, as the Bulls took away their options, the corner three in particular. Bosh had a mediocre game, scoring 14 on 5/12 from the field, and nobody else stepped up.
This was a great team win by the Bulls. But now, if the past is any indication, they will promptly lose at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Alas.
Player o' the Game: Carlos Boozer (27 points, 12 rebounds)
Boozer followed his best game of the year against the Magic with what might have been an even better one against the Heat. He shot better, rebounded just as well and played better defense. The Bulls needed him to step up and he did.
When's the last time you could say that about him?
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