This was a game of mini-runs (much like almost every basketball game in the history of man). The Bulls took an early lead, and held it for most of the rest of the game. The lead fluctuated from nearly 20 in the third quarter to under ten midway through the fourth. The Bobcats, despite being outshot and outrebounded, never stopped applying pressure. Jeff Adrien was particularly relentless, tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in his first start in a Bobcats uniform. Kemba Walker had 18, 6 assists and 4 rebounds on 6-17 shooting, while Ben Gordon was up to his old tricks in the United Center, burying a series of ridiculous shots en route to an 18 point night (on 7-15 shooting, 4-5 from 3). Gerald Henderson added 10 points for the Bobcats, who fell to 11-33 on the season.
The Bulls, on the other hand, were led by Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler (with a few spurts from Nate Robinson). Luol Deng's return after a 5-game absence was moderately successful. He finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 31 minutes, including 2-4 shooting from deep. Carlos Boozer had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 fouls, looking more like the Boozer we know from his first two seasons in Chicago than the All-Star snub Stacey King seems to think he is. (He's played well lately, but anyone who thinks the Bulls deserve three All-Stars while the Hawks and Nets have none is deluding themselves.) Kirk Hinrich had 8 points despite quickly getting into (and staying in) foul trouble. He shot 2-5 from deep.
As I said before, this win was spearheaded by Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. Noah became the first Bulls player since Dennis Rodman to record 15 or more rebounds in four straight games. He had 18 boards tonight, 6 of them offensive, to go along with 12 points (6-12 shooting), 7 assists, 5 blocks and only one foul in nearly 45 minutes of play. Those stats might sound incredible to you know, and you're right. When you add in that Noah became only the tenth player to record these numbers in an NBA game, you might be more impressed. When you add in that the other 9 players were Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Parish, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Marcus Camby, Pau Gasol and Danny Manning, you might be so impressed, that you have no choice but to name him the Player of the Game.
Unfortunately for Jo, I wasn't moved to do this, and not because of any lack of recognition for what Noah did. Jimmy Butler was just too good. A career high 19 points on 7-10 shooting, to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a blocked shot. His numbers are nowhere near as staggering as Noah's, and to be honest, he wasn't any more important to this victory. In all honesty, they should both be Players of the Game. But they aren't. Because Joakim Noah might do something like this again, and Jimmy Butler might not. But if he does, then we can look at these last couple of weeks will be seen as the starting point. All hail the Jimmy. Long may he reign.
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