There were a lot of positives in the Bulls’ home win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Joakim Noah scored a career-high 21 points (on 10-for-12 shooting) while grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds (including 6 on the offensive end) and blocking 4 shots. John Salmons finally broke out of his slump with a big-time performance (game-high 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block). As a team, Chicago had their best shooting night of the season (50 percent), played solid team defense (the ‘Cats shot 39 percent), won the rebounding battle 44-38 (while grabbing 15 offensive boards), outscored Charlotte 19-5 in fast break points, and won the Battle of the Paint (36-26).
So…why didn’t the Bulls win this one by a lot more than just three points?
Well, there were some negatives, too. Such as letting the Bobcats snare 16 offensive rebounds of their own. The Bulls were also careless with the ball, giving up 28 points off 21 turnovers (led by Derrick Rose’s game-high 7 TOs). They also bricked nine of their 22 free throw attempts, including five straight in the final 1:20 when they were trying to clinch the game (two by Joakim, two by Luol Deng and one by Salmons). Chicago also had trouble getting a hand in the face of Charlotte’s three-point shooters. The ‘Cats came into the game shooting 28 percent as a team, but they went 12-for-29 last night (41 percent). And that number was much better before the Bobcats were forced to start gunning for a comeback in the final minutes.
The point is: I was both encouraged and worried by the win. To win in the NBA, you absolutely must protect your defensive backboards, take care of the ball and hit your free throws. The Bulls didn’t do any of those things. But they won anyway. Which is nice, but I sure hope Vinny Del Negro wrote a few of these things down in his notebook so the team can work on them during their next practice.
Salmons didn’t break out of his slump by hanging out on the perimeter and jacking up threes until he got hot. He was aggressive, driving hard to the hoop and canning four layups and earning a game-high nine free throw attempts (including a couple And-1s). The Fish Man really is at his best when he forces the action on drives. When he does that, he gets his defenders on their heels, which opens up the space he needs for his jumper. Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue.
Noah joined a semi-exclusive group last night, becoming the the third player in the last six seasons to have at least 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and shoot 80 percent from the field in a win. The other two? Kevin Garnett (versus the Dallas Mavericks on March 21, 2001) and Shaq (against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 21, 2004).
On offense, Jo did most of his damage via offensive rebounds (8 points on four tipshots) and dunks/layups. But he also hit a couple jumpers (from 14 and seven feet out) and knocked in a nifty left-handed hook shot from the baseline. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Noah has become scoring force, but he has added a few aspects to offensive game. And that’s a good thing. The only blight on Joakim’s evening was the two missed free throws at the 1:20 mark.
Luol may not have shot very well (6-for-17), but he he went 4-for-8 in the fourth quarter, hitting from 19, 21, 21 and 23 feet out. Deng also grabbed two offensive rebounds in the fourth, one of which led to a big three-pointer by John Salmons. For the game, Luol grabbed 11 rebounds (to go with his 14 points), six of which were offensive. I bring this up because Deng has been crashing the boards with a vengeance so far this season…and he’s averaging 9.8 per game. He may not be shooting all that well (44 percent), but he’s working really hard.
Wipe that butter off your fingers, Derrick:
It’s not a good thing when your All-Star-in-the-making point guard dishes only 4 assists while committing 7 turnovers and finishes with the worst plus-minus score (tied with James Johnson) on the team (-7). Derrick was careless with the ball last night, and it hurt the team. That’s a big reason why he played fewer minutes (30) than Kirk Hinrich (33), who dished 7 assists versus 4 turnovers. It’s all about playmaking, and that’s the area in which Rose needs to improve the most.
On the bright side, Rose has clearly added a nice little pull-up jumper to his offensive skill set. Last night, he went 5-for-9 on his outside shots. He seems to like that area near the free throw circle on the left-hand side of the floor.
Not much in the reserve tank:
With Tyrus Thomas out for a month or more, the Bulls are suddenly a little weak off the bench. Deng, Noah and Salmons all played 40-plus minutes (47, 41 and 43, respectively). And Chicago got only 12 points out of their reserves (Hinrich scored 9 on 3-for-10 shooting and Brad Miller added 3 while Jannero Pargo and James Johnson went scoreless). This worries me a lot, especially since the Bulls will round out the month on a six-game road trip versus the Kings, Lakers, Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz and Bucks.
Brett from Queen City Hoops: “Meritorious Player: Tough call – Boris Diaw had a decent night with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists…but 6 turnovers. Raymond Felton led the Bobcats with a +/- of +11 and had 10 assists…but he shot just 5 of 17 from the floor. Tyson Chandler had 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes…and a brutal -13 for the night as Joakim Noah posted a career high 21 points (and 16 rebounds was a good night’s work). Pick one – they all had their faults tonight.”