A total team win: Bulls 84, Nets 73

Going into last night’s game, the Nets were 21 games below .500. But their record was at least somewhat deceiving since Deron Williams had only played six games in a New Jersey uniform.

In possibly related news, the Nets began the night having won five games in a row, which was tied them with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the league’s second-longest active winning streak. And in their last game, the Nets had beaten none other than the Boston Celtics.

As for the Bulls, they had the league’s longest active winning streak at seven games. Now it’s eight games and they’ve once again taken a half-game lead over the Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Despite the double-digit margin of victory, this wasn’t an easy win. The Bulls simply could not shake the suddenly troublesome Nets. But they did what good teams do: They locked down on defense and executed down the stretch.

On the defensive end, they held the Nets — who, again, have been on fire lately — to a season-low 73 points. And they did it in New Jersey. The Bulllies made them shoot only 34.9 percent from the field and forced them to brick 16 of their 19 three-point attempts. Williams, an All-Star, shot 1-for-12 and went 0-for-3 from three-point range. And check out this shot chart: The Nets attempted 14 layups and converted only five of them.

The Bulls basically pulled an iron curtain around the basket.

Said Luol Deng: “Our defense has been great. Our defense has been great all year. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but holding a team like that to 73 points says a lot about our D. Especially a team who just won five in a row and beat a good team in their last game, so their confidence was pretty high coming into this game.”

Added Derrick Rose: “That’s what we’ve been doing the whole year — playing defense. If our offense isn’t going, that rarely happens, but if it’s not, we’ll rely on our defense and that’s what we did tonight: Make it tough on them. At first, they were getting everything that they wanted, then we just closed down the paint and rebounded the ball.”

The Bulls offense certainly wasn’t going last night. And, with all due respect to D-Rose, the offense is usually pretty average (which is why Chicago currently ranks 15th in Offensive Rating). The Bulls shot only 40.7 percent themselves and Rose, in particular, struggled to score his team-high 21 by shooting 8-for-23 from the field and (ugh) 0-for-5 from downtown. Rose also had only 2 assists.

Of course, he helped hold Williams to that 1-for-12 shooting — blocking two of Deron’s shots — and had a critical steal down the stretch. Perhaps more importantly, he had a game-high plus-minus score of +14. Here’s some video of one of Derrick’s sweet blocks on Williams:

As a team, the Bulls consistenly made big plays down the stretch:

With 5:35 left and the score tied at 65-65, Deng brought the ball across halfcourt against New Jersey’s trapping defense. For a second, it seemed like Lu was going to call timeout…and then he drove hard to the basket for a layup.

After Kris Humphries tied the game with a layup off an assist from Williams — who, in his defense, had a really good floor game with 11 dimes — Rose drove in for one of his patented driving layups to put the Bulls up two points with 4:52 left.

With 3:57 left and the game once again tied (69-69), Luol Deng drilled a 19-footer off an assist from Kurt Thomas. Bulls by two again.

With 3:17 left, Rose made a great steal off a long pass by Williams and took it the other way for a layup. Bulls by four.

With 2:16 left, the Nets committed an illegal defense, and Kyle Korver capitalized by draining the ensuing free throw. Bulls by five.

With 2:08 left, Joakim Noah tipped in a miss by Rose. Bulls by seven.

With 1:15 left, after the Nets had pulled to within five points off a layup by Sasha Vujacic, Deng busted New Jersey’s trap by making a crosscourt pass to Korver, who knocked down a triple to put the Bulls up by eight points.

With a minute left, Big Sexy hit a stop-and-go layup off a nice assist from Noah. That put the Bulls up by 10. After that, Korver and Noah combined to make three of four free throw attempts to round out the scoring.

Game over.

What I hope that description got across was the teamwork. Everybody contributed. Everybody did their job. The shooting, rebounding, passing. This team is in sync. They know each other. They believe in each other. And it’s all coming from the top.

I’m talking about coach Tom Thibodeau.

Said Noah: “We’re doing the same things every day. It’s almost becoming more and more routine. Thibs is preaching the same stuff and even when we’re doing interviews and stuff, I always end up saying what he’s saying to us all the time, and everybody’s saying the same things in interviews. It’s funny, but you know what? Thibs, he knows what he’s talking about and we’re listening.”

It shows.

On the subject of team play, let’s talk about the job Omer Asik did last night. He scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting while blocking two shots and ripping down a career-high 16 rebounds. Nine of his boards came on the offensive end. That’s nine extra opportunities in a close, low-scoring game in which the Bulls shoot poorly.

Said Rose: “That’s almost every game with him. To come in and get that many rebounds. Got to the free-throw line, dunked a lot of balls, blocked shots, played a lot of defense, that’s what we need from him. We’re happy that he’s on the team.”

Added Noah: “He’s been playing so good for us and I think that’s the beauty of this team. We’ve got a lot of weapons. And Omer is someone who lives in the gym, improving, his confidence is getting better and better and he’s understanding how he can score in the offense. He’s playing at a really high level and we need that to do what we want to do.”

I know some fans wanted the Bulls to part with Asik to bring in somebody like Courtney Lee at the trade deadline. I was not one of those fans. Although I don’t think Omer will ever be an All-Star, I think he can be a very capable backup and at-need starter. Heck, he already is. He has a very high basketball IQ even if his arms look like wet pasta noodles. With all due respect to the Courtney Lees of this world, shooters become available every year, but talented, intelligent, hardworking big men are a precious commodity that should never be traded away lightly.

Management made the right decision keeping this guy.

Anyway, Asik was a big component of another strong outing for Chicago’s bench (32 points, 25 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocked shots, 2 steals). Which is yet another reason why, for today at least, the Bulls are the best team in the Eastern Conference.

From ESPN Stats and Information (via TrueHoop):
The Chicago Bulls pulled a half-game ahead of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference with an eighth straight win Thursday, giving Chicago its longest winning streak since stringing together nine straight victories in 2005. The Bulls have outscored their opponents by 12.5 points per game during their win streak, with each of the last five wins coming by a double-digit margin. The only team to win MORE than five games in a row by at least 10 points this season is the Heat, who won nine straight by double digits from November 29 to December 13.

Chicago held New Jersey to a season-low 73 points, the NBA-best 12th time the Bulls have held an opponent under the 80-point mark this season. The only other season in franchise history when the Bulls held their opponents under 80 more times was in 1997-98, when Michael Jordan and crew held opponents under 80 13 times en route to a sixth NBA title.

The Bulls seem to have an easier road to the top seed in the Eastern Conference than the Celtics. Over the final four weeks of the regular season, Chicago will play more home games (7 to 6) and more games against teams with losing records (8 to 6) than Boston.

TrueHoop Network:
Devin Kharpertian of Nets Are Scorching: “It’s almost paradoxical that a game prominently featuring two of the most innovate point guards in the league today was defined by such ugliness on both sides. Rose & Williams combined to shoot just 9-35 from the floor, and if you include backups, all the point guards for both teams combined to shoot just 10-48. Yes, that number actually gets uglier the more you look at it. Both stars shot poorly for different reasons; for Williams, it was a matter of his hand injury, while Rose struggled to get in rhythm with his jumper. … As an aside, it’s interesting how two guys who are legitimate stars at their position have significantly different roles — Rose is expected to anchor Chicago’s offense, while Deron is a cog in creating everyone else’s offense. Rose is expected to carry that huge offensive burden, and when his jumper’s not falling, it can cause a lot of problems for Chicago. That was evident in this game.”

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

7 Responses to A total team win: Bulls 84, Nets 73

  1. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    chitwon4life March 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    The road the bulls are on is taking them to the finals, not sure who they will be playing then but I am sure the bulls will be there. This team has not only won this year but also has grown and still growing.
    The team as it stands now has been hurt for the whole season forget some of it the whole saseon would be the right answer.
    There is only way this team won’t be in the finals that is if they cannot stay healthy as a team but that yet has been a excuse for them losing or winning htus makes my case even more solid why this team will win.
    I know the playoffs are a whole new monster but yet our team is tested in the playoffs and we will make a great showing in the playoffs.
    I want to congradulate our first year coach he has done a great job stood firm and stayed constant , he has not always been perfect yet he still has got the job done and done it very well.
    The game last night sent just another msge to other teams The bulls can and will lock you down which will just add more preesure to the other team they face great game all I can say and if D Rose is not the MVP this is just plain flat out not the award it is ment to be ..PEACE

  2. bleigh82@gmail.com'
    bleigh82 March 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Nice win. Road wins are usually never easy, but the Bulls seem to have learned how to find ways to pull them out which great teams do. This team is more and more resilient as the season goes on and it is a pleasure to be a fan of a TEAM in every sense of its meaning.

    I actually think Asik could easily be a starting center in the NBA. If he develops any kind of offensive game, and I think he can, I don’t see why he couldn’t start for a bunch of teams. That said, I’m happy to have him as the Bulls backup center.

    Now, onto Indy. Won’t be an easy one. Win this and the next game is Sacramento at home. Go for the ten game streak Bulls!

  3. enigmatik.inviktus@gmail.com'
    Enigmatik March 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    It was ugly, but a win is a win. Guys really don’t care about their stats as long as they get the W, and that’s good to see. It’s going to continue to carry them a long way this season.

    One more W and the team will have 50 wins for the first time in 13 years.

    One game at a time…

  4. Inception March 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    looks like D-Will has been eating one too many donuts.

  5. litobirdy@Yahoo.com'
    lito March 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    I was at the game and i’ll admit it was not pretty, very bad shooting for both teams. and it was nerve wrecking to watch that lead crumble in the 4th. sure got loud in there when it got tied. But when Rose blocked that layup on D-Will, I started the MVP chant, that was awesome.. Go bulls.

  6. Bam! March 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    I love the Bulls, and Derrick Rose is awesome, but I’ve been hearing “Rose for MVP” far too much recently.  A few months ago, like November or December, sure, I would have handed Rose the MVP without the blink of an eye, but, the way he has been playing recently, I don’t think he deserves it. Outstanding player, so much potential at such a young age, but, at the moment I would rather give the award to Dirk Nowitzki.

    Here’s some random, but interesting D-Rose Bull-ets (not my term, but a good one):

    In wins, Derrick averages 8 assists, which is slightly higher than his season average.  Over the past ten games, he has been averaging about 6 assists per game.

    In losses, Derrick takes two more shots and passes less than in wins.

    Since the All-Star Game, Rose has been playing two minutes less each game.  His field goal percentage has dropped from 45% to just under 40%.  He has been taking two more threes each game, and only making 15% of the extra threes.  He is also rebounding, blocking and assisting less.

    This year, Rose has tended to make each night either a “points night,” an “assists night” or a “Who is Derrick Rose?” night. What I mean is, when Rose’s shooting is poor, he usually decides to pass more, since his usual usage would be less efficient. However, he has not been doing that lately. Last night is a could example. Rose shot 35% from the field and 0% from the three, and he only had 2 assists. Good thing Kurt Thomas, Asik, Taj, and Noah played well or else the 22-43 Nets would have broken our 7 game win streak *shudders*.

    Another thing about last night: when you shoot 1/5 in the first quarter, 1/3 in the second and 1/4 in the fourth you know it’s not going to be your best offensive performance, so why not focus more on facilitating the offense, instead of being the offense. D-Will shot just 1/12 but managed to dish out more than 10 assists! Rose shot 25% from the field in the first half and 25% in the fourth quarter, meaning he shot 25% in 75% of the game.

    The third quarter was theoretically our best 12 minutes because we led the Nets by the highest percentage of their own score (i.e. our lead of 3 by the end of the quarter was 21% of their 14 points in the quarter, while for every other quarter, the percentage was lower. This attests not only to our defensive success in that quarter, but also our offensive success, even though it was our lowest scoring 12 minutes of the game. The offensive success isn’t surprising, since that was also Rose’s best quarter for shooting.

    The second and third quarters were the only two quarters during which we held a lead throughout the entire 12 minutes.

    Luol Deng was the only Bulls starter who shot well during the second quarter.

    Asik, Deng and Rose were the only Bulls who scored during the third quarter.

    Interestingly, this season, C.J. Watson has a higher Assist Ratio than Derrick Rose.

  7. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    chitwon4life March 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Sounds to me like Bam you are a hater be gone off this page its not for haters do your protest on anothet stage D Rose is the MVP you of all people say these things yet what about the other stats that don’t show when he is double and triple teamed anyways MJ says he is Doc Rivers says he is i am sure they are more qualified than you so poof be gone Ba you damm hater…Peace

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