A total team effort.
That’s what last night’s win in New Orleans was.
The Bulls struggled in the first half and trailed by as many as 12 points. But, by the end of the game, they could boast some pretty sweet accomplishments.
The Hornets are one of the best defensive teams in the league, but the Bulls shot 51.5 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from downtown (6-for-13) and 95.5 percent from the free throw line (21-for-22). Chicago finished with an Offensive Rating of 112.6. Pretty impressive considering New Orleans ranks 6th in Defensive Rating (102.9).
Derrick Rose (23 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) got the better of Chris Paul (15 points, 3-for-10, 6 assists), and I’m seriously considering sending Nicolas Batum a thank you card. Carlos Boozer (17 points, 7-for-12, 8 rebounds) stood up to David West (17 points, 6-for-11), holding his PF counterpart to only 2 rebounds. Luol Deng chipped in 14 points, Keith Bogans exploded (for him) for 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, and Kurt Thomas pulled down 11 boards.
The bench also came through, contributing 30 points and 20 rebounds while providing plenty of energy and a variety of key plays.
As a team, the Bulls outscored the Hornets 36-20 in the paint and outrebounded them 47-26. Chicago also limited New Orleans to only 2 offensive rebounds, which tied the franchise’s all-time low.
Then, of course, there was the defense.
It’s been working for the Bulls all season. Well, almost all season. The defense looked pretty broken when the Bulls lost in Golden State and Portland — games two and three of this five-game road trip — but was resurrected in Utah and against last night in New Orleans.
Sure, the Bulls couldn’t figure out what to do with Marcus Thornton (24 points on 9-for-15 shooting), and the Hornets scored 53 points in the first half. However, Chicago held the home team to 35 second half points while scoring 55 points themselves.
Finally, the Bulls dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hornets 25-14. And lest you think that was an aberration, check out this tidbit from ESPN Stats and Information:
The Bulls win tonight was typical in that they used a dominant fourth quarter to finish off the Hornets, outscoring them 25-14 in the final period. On the season, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by 129 points in the fourth quarter, tied with the Jazz for the best mark in the NBA. In fact, the Bulls and Jazz are the only two teams to have outscored opponents by 100 points in the fourth quarter.
Not bad, eh?
(It did help, of course, that the Hornets bricked 13 foul shots.)
The Bulls finished their five-game trip with a 3-2 record. Those losses to the Warriors and Trail Blazers felt bad, but they seemed to serve as a wake-up call, and the team certainly played better against the Jazz and Hornets.
And, as I suggested above, Rose seemed to play much more inspired defense after Batum called him out. As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out, Rose (with a little help from his friends) held fellow All-Stars Deron Williams and Paul to 8-for-23 shooting over the last two games.
Not that Derrick is getting a big head about it.
Said Rose: “I’m not even paying attention to what [Batum] said. I know that withour defense and the way we’ve been playing, I’m not worried about that. With our defense, we over-help with everything so if one guy is out of place our whole defense is out of place. And we’ve just been getting on right page right now, getting on the right rhythm, where a guy is driving we’re stepping in front taking charges trying to go for the block. And in the Portland game and the other game that we lost [against Golden State] we weren’t doing that.”