D.J. Augustin, man. D.J. freaking Augustin. In the second time in as many games against one another, D.J. Augustin went toe to toe with alleged superstar Kyrie Irving and just cooked him. Augustin finished tonight’s 11 point win over the Cavaliers with 27 points on just 14 shots, including a sizzling 5 of 8 from behind the arc. The Bulls’ new catalyst also managed to grab 5 rebounds and 7 assists, while surrendering just 2 turnovers in 39 minutes of floor time. It was an incredible performance and frankly, it’s becoming a trend for Augustin. In the last five games, Augustin has scored 19, 16, 19, 27, and 27 points, for a total of 108 points on just 68 shots. Unsurprisingly, the Bulls have lost just once in these last five games and that loss came against the Wizards when Augustin played just 19 minutes. Irving got his 26 points, but took 5 more shots than Augustin to get there and the rest of Irving’s stat line was roughly matched by the unheralded Augustin.
The Bulls were without Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich tonight, which lead to this:
Maybe it was a tribute to competing against his lost favorite player, Luol Deng, or maybe, it was just that the Bulls don’t have anyone competent to play outside of their starting five and a few minutes to rookie Tony Snell, but those minutes totals are pretty cringeworthy. It’s hard to totally blame Thibodeau, obviously, given the injuries to Boozer and Hinrich, but can’t the young fella Tony Snell get a few extra minutes of run, especially with Jimmy Butler continuing to struggle with his shot?
Speaking of Jimmy and his shot… well, woof. He went 4 of 12 overall and 1 of 7 (!) from 3 tonight. It’s clear he’s still not totally healthy, as this is just not the same shooter we saw last year, especially at season’s end and in the playoffs. Jimmy did provide his usual level of stingy defense and the Bulls overall were able to shut down their brother Lu, as Joakim would say. Deng played 40 minutes and was only able to log 11 points on 11 shots, 5 rebounds, and just one assist. It had to be disappointing for Lu not to be able to show out better against his old squad, but he did share a nice moment with Jimmy and Joakim after the game (try not to cry, guys):
Gif via @DaneCarbaugh
The Bulls big men also had great performances, Noah logged 18 boards and 15 points on 7 shots, as he continues to be an absolute terror for opponents. He should see his efforts rewarded with an All Star selection soon. Taj Gibson gave Bulls fans a taste of what they can expect when he grabs starter’s minutes following the expected amnesty of Carlos Boozer this summer by scoring 26 points on 15 shots, getting to the line for 6 free throws, and rejecting 3 Cavs’ shots.
As a team, the Bulls shot roughly 53% from the field, as the Cavs, despite the addition of Luol Deng and the coaching efforts of Mike Brown, just can’t seem to defend anyone very well. On the other end, the Bulls held the Cavs to just 37.5% shooting as a team. The Bulls were especially good at preventing the Cavs from scoring around the basket, as Cleveland went just 16 of 38 (42%) on shots near the hoop (via NBA.com/Stats). That’s truly a testament to the efforts of Taj and Joakim protecting the rim. We’ll see if they are able to keep it going at home against the Clippers on Friday night.
Player(s) of the Game: D.J. Augustin, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah