As I’ve mentioned before, blowing out bad teams is a key quality of truly good teams. Well, that’s what the Bulls did last night, addressing their recent so-so play in the process.
The Bulls dominated pretty much every meaningful statistical category. They shot 53 percent from the field. They won the rebounding battle 44-33 (including a 13-8 advantage on the offensive glass). They had 20 fast break points. They outscored the Raptors 58-38 in the paint. Chicago’s bench outscored Toronto’s reserves 52-22.
If you check the Basketball-Reference box score, you’ll see that the Bulls swept the Four Factors and finished with an Offensive Rating of 118 and a Defensive Rating of 96.8.
Coach Tom Thibodeau got strong play out of the usual suspects, by which I mean Derrick Rose (19 points, 7-for-11, 6 assists), Carlos Boozer (12 points and 13 rebounds) and Luol Deng (a game-high 24 points). But the bench made the biggest difference.
Chicago’s reserves actually had a triple-double of 52 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists. Ronnie Brewer had a strong game (12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) and Taj Gibson finally broke out of his post-concussion slump (16 points, 8-for-11, a game-high 14 rebounds). Gibson attacked the boards and the rim in addition to playing great defense. And then there was Omer Asik (career-high 13 points, 5-for-6, 7 rebounds, 5 blocked shots).
Asik’s numbers only tell part of the story. He came up huge during the pivotal second quarter, during which the Bulls outscored the Raptors 30-14. Omer took advantage of a mismatch against Leandro Barbosa and hit a layup. He fed Luol Deng for a layup that just beat the shot clock. He grabbed rebounds at both ends. He blocked and intimidated shots. And even when Asik wasn’t making plays around the ball, he was moving, setting picks, getting into excellent position.
Asik is a smart basketball player and he works hard. He played great last night. Almost everybody on the bench did.
Said Boozer: ”Most times, games are close and they don’t get a chance to play like this. But in games like this, you see just how talented they are. You see how talented Taj is, you see how talented O is. The more time you get, the better you become. These guys are stud players.”
The best part is that the Bulls — who play tonight in New Jersey as part of four games in five nights — were able to rest Rose and Boozer during the fourth quarter.
Or maybe the best part is Chicago’s record (23-10). The Bulls have now won five straight and 14 of their last 16 games. They are now 18-1 against sub-.500 teams.
And here’s more good news if you can believe it: According to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell, Joakim Noah has started working out with the team. Noah’s cast will come off next week.
Said Noah: ”I’ve been running. I’ve been doing some conditioning and doing some lifting. A lot of core work. A lot of leg strengthening. It’s hard to make everything game-like. There’s nothing like playing in a basketball game. There’s nothing you can do to simulate a basketball game. But I’m doing the best I can, even with a cast on.”
Things just keep getting better.