The Chicago Bulls hosted the Memphis Grizzlies tonight for their second game in two nights. Chicago came into this game fresh off of a close overtime win against the Celtics in which they lost Luol Deng to a hamstring injury. As expected, Deng missed tonight's game resting. Tonight also marked the Bulls's third consecutive overtime game. Unfortunately Chicago was unable to emerge victorious by the skin of their teeth as they had done the past couple of games.
Overall, the game was lackluster for Chicago, something not entirely unexpected after playing a very physical overtime game the night before. The team looked sluggish, out of sync, and just didn't have the normal hustle that they normally do (except for one or two individuals… more on that momentarily). Despite the Bulls staying in this game against all odds, it really was a night to forget.
Looking at the whole picture, Noah just wasn't great tonight. Offensively he struggled around the rim with Gasol in his face, he wasn't able to crash the boards and was pushed around, and, for the first time in a while, Noah looked a bit slow on defense. While he still was able to put up some solid numbers, he wasn't as good as he could have been.
What's strange though is Noah's suddenly limited minutes tonight. Quite a few bloggers and Twitter as a whole was abuzz about why Noah was on the bench late in the game, especially when the Bulls were getting murdered on the boards late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. The basketball world really went into a min-frenzy when Nazr Mohammed was put into the game after Taj Gibson had fouled out. Noah was obviously displeased about this and didn't speak to reporters after the game.
This is all speculation on my part but don't think this is that big of a deal. In fact, I think it's Thibodeau and management being extra cautious with players after what happened last postseason with Rose. Everyone knows that yesterday's game against the Celtics was an extremely physical battle, especially for Noah who had to match up against Kevin Garnett or Jared Sullinger for almost 45 minutes. Given the fact that players are more prone to injury during fatigue (see Rose, Derrick or most recently Deng, Luol) and given the fact that management has been extra cautious with all of their players coming back from injury (see Hamilton, Richard), I think that this was simply a one game anomaly.
Going back to focusing on Noah's grade though, it was his best effort but still not a bad performance from him.
Despite logging the double-double, old Boozer is back. I don't think I need to detail what happened in too much detail since you should all be able to predict what I'm going to say.
Defensively, Boozer was atrocious (as always) and offensively, Boozer was inefficient and hurt the team with his shot selection.
Welcome back, my old enemy. I hope you don't stay for too long.
Jimmy Butler filled in for the injured Luol Deng tonight and boy did he fill in. First and foremost, kudos to Butler playing 48 minutes. I don't care who you are and what kind of super powers you may have, that is a very tall task to ask anyone to do against NBA caliber players.
Defensively, Butler was a rock tonight. While he wasn't able to limit Rudy Gay the way I would have liked him to have, he still made life extremely difficult for Gay and never let up with the defensive intensity. His three steals on the night are also a nice little bonus for the team and earned him some extra credit towards his grade.
Offensively, Butler started off the game pretty slowly. Also, throughout the night he struggled to find his shot. I can't say I'm too please about those things, however, he was able to penetrate the defense very well and was able to get himself to the line often.
As far as the entire game goes, Butler was excellent tonight for what we expect from him. If he can develop a spot up jump shot Chicago is looking pretty.
Hamilton was once again limited to about 20 minutes tonight. During the time he was out on the court, Hamilton was not exactly the greatest player for Chicago. He looked a bit slow on defense and offensively he struggled to find a shot in the few shots that he took. The only bonus for him tonight was that he didn't hurt the team too badly with turnovers or blatantly stupid mistakes.
Overall, not a good game for Hamilton.
Kirk Hinrich was… the player I absolutely hate to see the Bulls pay $8 million to over the next two years. On offense, he was a non-factor, something a guy playing point guard should never be. Defensively, he was almost always a full step or two behind Mike Conley. Unacceptable game from Hinrich tonight. He needs to step it up.
For the most part, the bench was just flat out bad tonight. Nate Robinson continued to not make easy passes for easy buckets opting rather to go for contested jump shots. Robinson also continued to fail to play defense. Like Robinson, Marco Belinelli failed to make smart passes and took too many bad shots. Both guys really hurt the team, especially down the home stretch.
However, of the three bench players that actually saw minutes worth talking about, Taj Gibson was the only one that performed well. In what was likely his best game of the season, Gibson was a workhorse on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he made the most of his opportunities. From the floor, his shooting wasn't great, but he was able to get himself to the line enough times to make an impact. Defensively, Gibson also had his finger prints all over this game as he repeatedly rejected Gasol, Randolph, and Arthur. Great game for Gibson.
Thibodeau has been a great coach throughout his tenure with the Bulls and I've learned to almost never question him. However, his decision to limit Noah deserves some questioning. I won't say that he was wrong with his action, but we deserve to have some answers. Overall, Thibodeau coached a solid game but his move drops his grade a bit.
The fact that Chicago was in this game competitively towards the end pleases me. However I cannot say I'm happy with the offensive performance most of the team is putting out. I'm also not happy the team has required overtime for the third strait game.
What I Expect For Next Time:
- The Bulls to close out the game in four quarters. I enjoy free basketball as much as anyone else, but the Bulls can't play extra minutes unnecessarily with the kind of basketball they play. It's too draining on the body, especially for the starters who endure the majority of the damage with all the minutes they play.
Despite the loss I hope you all enjoyed it. Chicago will play again tonight, January 21st, at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Coming into this game, the Lakers are one of the best offensive teams and will be taking on one of the league's best defenses. All the meanwhie, the Bulls have one of the worst offenses in the league and will be showing their stuff against one of the league's worst defenses. It's a game where something has to give and we hope you're looking forward to it.
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