Coming into this game, there's no way the Chicago Bulls couldn't embarrass the Atlanta Hawks any more than they did the last time these two teams met. In the second night of back -to-back road games, the Bulls came out and beat the Hawks 93 to 76 WITHOUT Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich, and Derrick Rose.
You read that correctly. Four of the starters missed tonight's game and Chicago still won. Granted the game was sloppy at times and Chicago didn't pull away for good until the fourth quarter, but this may be one of Chicago's more impressive wins of the year.
While there were four outstanding performances tonight amongst tonight's starters, Taj Gibson was the anchor that kept this team going tonight as he filled in admirably for Joakim Noah with an all around impressive game. Taj played the full 48 minutes the night before against Brooklyn, Gibson came out and played another 45 minutes tonight. Despite probably being gassed, Gibson was super efficient tonight going 9-of-14 from the field with the majority of his misses coming from failed tip-ins and put backs. All the while, Gibson also crashed the boards hard as he recorded a career high 19 boards to go along with his 19 points. This does not include all the times he managed to tip the ball out to a teammate. Gibson's rebounding numbers are all the more impressive when you consider he was the only true big man on the floor for the Bulls tonight. Gibson also managed to get two assists, one steal, and three blocks on the night.
Luol Deng was visibly exhausted in tonight's game after having played 48 minutes the night before. However, Deng didn't let that get in his way even though he was in the middle of playing another 46 minutes tonight. Filling in for Carlos Boozer at the four, Deng shot a respectable 10 of 21 from the floor tonight with a 50% shooting rate from beyond the arc. The vast majority of his misses coming from shots that were just a bit short (understandably so).
Jimmy Butler recorded another double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds with almost all of his offensive damage coming from inside the paint. As always, Butler's effort level was off-the-charts, and his defensive prowess frustrated Atlanta Hawks' star forward Josh Smith all night
Nate Robinson was the last cog for Chicago tonight as he went off against Atlanta. As shocking as it may be, Robinson actually played the facilitator tonight for a good portion of the game. This ultimately netted him eight assists on the night to go along with his 20 points on 50% shooting. Robinson did exceptional damage from the three point line where it seemed like he couldn't miss. He obviously thought so too when he pulled up for a three pointer in a 2-on-1 fast break with 22 seconds left on the shot clock (not so shockingly, he missed). Defensively Nate wasn't phenomenal but he did manage to get three steals on the night and tip some passes off of Atlanta players to get the ball back for Chicago.
Everyone else for Chicago was mediocre to bad tonight. Vladimir Radmonovic saw what I believe were his first non-garbage time minutes. He took advantage of them by getting three fouls in the first six minutes of the second quarter. Marco Belinelli couldn't buy a shot until midway through the fourth quarter when his one and only basket of the night put Chicago up by 10 points. And Marquis Teague was repeatedly burned by big brother Jeff Teague.
Atlanta relied heavily on jump shots but couldn't buy a bucket, especially from the three point line where they went 6-of-19. Atlanta was also out hustled on the boards courtesy of Thibodeau's effort and energy based system and Chicago's suffocating defense forced a lot of turnovers, bad passes, and passes just to move the ball around in hopes of finding an open shot.
Chicago has earned a well-deserved night off tomorrow night. The Bulls will face off against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night in what should be a physical game between two teams that just don't like each other. Hopefully Noah and/or Boozer will be back because they may be needed.
We at Bulls 101 would like to thank you for reading and hope you all enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow. Remember to have fun but be safe and don't drink and drive!
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