Rip Hamiltion didn’t play due to a groin injury.
Luol Deng (11 points on 4-for-12 shooting) wasn’t on top of his game.
Derrick Rose bricked his first five shots and finished the night 4-for-10 from the field.
And the Bulls beat the Grizzlies by 40 points.
Other guys stepped up.
Carlos Boozer spent his floor time in attack mode, finishing with 17 points (7-for-10) and 11 rebounds in only 24 minutes. Boozington scored inside, he scored from the outside, and he was unusually aggressive. And although I’m sure that had something to do with his parents being in attendance, it was still good to see Carlos step up to the challenge against an imposing front court.
Ronnie Brewer took Hamilton’s place in the starting lineup and continued his impressive start to the season. Ronnie finished with a co-team-high 17 points to go along with 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He went 6-for-10 from the field, 1-for-1 from downtown, and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. This was the continuation of a hot-shooting trend: Through five games, Brewer is shooting 63 percent from the field (17-for-27) and 100 percent on threes (4-for-4). I think it’s safe to say Ronnie spent the offseason working on his jumper.
I expect there to be some regression to the mean in Brewer’s shooting. He’s not going to stay above 60 percent all season. But if he can continue to hit jumpers with reasonable consistency, he’s going to become a very dangerous weapon in Chicago’s arsenal.
Moving on, the bench mob also did what it does. Everybody was hustling, scrapping, playing defense and just smacking the poor Grizzlies around. The Bulls forced 18 turnovers and scored 21 points off of them. They sprinted their way to 33 fast break points and scored 48 points in the paint. They dominated the boards 55-40 and held the Grizzlies to 31 percent shooting.
It was a thoroughly dominating performance.
That said, there were some extenuating circumstances. Mike Conley didn’t play due to a sprained left ankle. Zach Randolph managed only 2 points in 11 minutes before leaving with a bruised right knee. And beyond that, the Grizzlies were just…off. Yes, the Bulls defense was menacing them, but the Memphis players seemed confused and out of synch. There were at least four or five occasions when somebody passed the ball to empty space only to watch the ball go careening out of bounds. Shots were bricking and clunking off the backboard. Drives looked awkward. Moves looked clumsy. Nothing went the Grizzlies’ way.
The Bulls sure had a lot to do with that, but Memphis imploded as a team. As a rule, 40-point losses tend to be outliers. They don’t tell you much about either team. After all, last season the Bulls beat the Sixers by 45 in Chicago but lost to them a few weeks later in Philly.
Still, the Bulls sure seem to be trending up since their loss to the Warriors. They’re playing great as a team, everybody is motivated and on the same page, and their biggest worries seem to be external (i.e., the current dominating play of the Miami Heat).
Well, okay, one internal worry is the health of C.J. Watson, who suffered a strained left elbow. I can’t say I feel fully confident with John Lucas becoming Rose’s primary backup. We’ll have to wait and see how serious Watson’s injury is. He’s scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.