“You can’t leave him open. Everybody knows he can’t do anything else but shoot. When he shoots, he shoots it well. You have to respect him as a shooter. He can’t really do anything else, but if you let him sit out there and shoot he’s going to kill you.”
That’s what Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson had to say about Kyle Korver, Chicago’s Mr. Perfect, who scored 15 points in 15 minutes off the bench while going 5-for-5 from the field, 3-for-3 from downtown and 2-for-2 from the line. Korver drilled two of those three-pointers and both of his free throws during the fourth quarter as the Bulls finally pulled away from the Bobcats.
It was another one of those “total team effort” games for the Bullies, who had to sweat out a rough night from Derrick Rose (5-for-14, 0-for-3 on threes, 6 turnovers). Of course, even on a bad night, Rose scored 18 points, went 8-for-9 from the line, and dished out a game-high 13 assists. Credit Rose for using his floor game to make up for his misguided shooting.
And credit Luol Deng for stepping up when needed, which has pretty much been the story of Deng’s season. Lu scored a game-high 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting and finished with a game-best plus-minus score of +22. This guy has been there when the team needs him, however the team needs him, all season long. In all honesty, he deserves a lot more credit than he’s ever going to get from bloggers, the media and even a lot of Bulls fans.
But, as ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedellpointed out, Deng is team-first all the way: “I was aggressive. I looked for my shot early. But it’s the kind of team we have. Some nights you’re going to get a lot of looks, some nights it’s going to be someone else. But we’re a deep team. And that’s what’s been so great about this year. The whole team, our mindset every night is just to win. Somebody’s going to get it for us and it’s been a different guy every time.”
Carlos Boozer (16 points, 9 rebounds) echoed those sentiments: ”Guys are extremely confident. If you’re in the NBA, you can play. … We’re a team — not just one guy, two guys, three guys; we’re a group of guys. Everybody on this team, whether you’re starting or off the bench, can play in the NBA and play well.”
In related news, James Johnson made his return from the D-League, finishing with one airball in one minute of garbage time action.
It was a good win, and I’m happy with it, but in yesterday’s preview I noted how the Bobcats struggle in the second game of back-to-backs. Gerald Wallace (6 points on 3-for-9 shooting) looked gassed. Ditto for D.J. Augustin (5 points on 1-for-4 shooting), and he’s also dealing with a sprained left wrist.
As Charlotte coach Paul Silas said: “My starting guys just didn’t have it tonight.”
And really, they didn’t. That’s not to take anything away from the victory. The Bulls were focused and took care of business. But the Bobcats hung around and then just kind of faded in the fourth quarter. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens in the March 9 rematch in Charlotte. Both teams will be coming off a one-day layoff, and Chicago should have Joakim Noah back in uniform.
In yesterday’s preview, I referenced Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook, who noted that the Bobcats enticed the Lakers to attack the rim and then forced a lot of in-close misses. Something similar happened last night, as the Bulls went 17-for-30 at the rim (56.7 percent). Normally, the Bulls convert about 63 percent of their shots at the rim, so Charlotte’s D did it’s job. Around the basket.
However, the Bulls were unusually hot from three-point range (7-for-14) and from 16-23 feet (12-for-22). A lot of that was Korver, but Boozer (2-for-2), Kurt “Big Sexy” Thomas (2-for-2) and Ronnie Brewer (2-for-3) also had it going from that 16-23 foot zone. And, of course, Keith Bogans couldn’t feel his face, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.