“John Lucas III powers Bulls past Heat”
That’s the title of the AP recap of last night’s win over the Heat.
I never thought those words would be strung together in the English language.
Little Johnny Lucas was so hot last night — scoring a team-high 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting — that LeBron freaking James started guarding him during the fourth quarter.
And Lucas scored immediately scored on him.
Okay. Maybe not.
But Lucas was flat out amazing. I mean, a third string point guard scoring 24 points on only 12 shots in just 27 minutes of action.
Against the second-best team (record-wise) in the league?
It was beyond stunning.
Let’s face it, nobody expected the Bulls to win without Derrick Rose, who missed the game with a groin injury. Rip Hamilton missed the game too — in case you forgot he was even on the team — and C.J. Watson was limping around on a bum ankle.
Fortunately for the Bulls, Lucas has no fear and an eye for the basket. Sure, he had only one assist on the night, and he’s definitely a shooting guard trapped in a teeny-tiny body. But he’s got the guts of a bull elephant (pun sort of intended) and is the undisputed owner of the title “Best Third-String Point Guard in the NBA.”
Lucas hit clutch shot after clutch shot, and he even calmly sank the game-clinching free throws with six seconds left. And the dude got some well-deserved love after the game.
Said Joakim Noah: ”Lukey! I’m proud of Lukey, man. That’s my son. So I’m proud of my son. I was proud of my son tonight. He came out with a lot of energy and I just like his style out there; he was tough from the start and it got us all going. It wasn’t just his scoring. His swag out there was mean and I liked it.”
Added Luol Deng: ”We love him. He’s older than us, but just a great guy. We all love him and we want to see him do well. He’s always on the bench cheering everyone on and working hard. When it’s his turn, we’ve got to make sure we let him know that we appreciate it.”
In true Bulls (and journeyman) fashion, Lucas humbly deflected all the praise with the team-first talk we’ve come to expect from this squad.
Said Lucas: ”We just have guys who flat-out work hard. Come to practice every day and when they’re number’s called, step up. When you have 1-14 that does that and know their role; nobody’s stepping outside their role … they’re all playing their game. And everybody gets along; we’re like a family, we’re like a brotherhood. So when you have something like that, when one brother goes down, you’ve got their back.”
It’s like Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau programmed a single mindset into his players.
Speaking of which, as amazing as Lukey’s offensive performance was, this really was a total team victory.
I know I say this all the time, but rebounding is about desire and effort, and many times it can be an accurate gauge for how hard a team is working and how badly they want a particular game.
Well, Chicago outrebounded Miami 50-36 — including 14-11 on the offensive glass — and outscored them 21-7 in second-chance points. That, as much as Lucas’ scoring explosion, allowed the Bulls to withstand the rain of fire from Dwyane wade (36 points on 16-for-26 shooting) and LeBron James (35 points on 14-for-25 shooting).
How dominant was the Bulls’ work on the boards? The Heat’s starting frontcourt of James, Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony combined for only 12 rebounds in 103 minutes of PT. Meanwhile, Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver totaled 12 rebounds in 37 minutes off the Chicago bench.
There were some aberrations in this win. And not just Lukey’s hot shooting.
For starters, the Bulls were a sizzling 10-for-19 (52.6 percent) from three-point range against a Heat team that usually holds opponents to 36.7 percent accuracy from that distance.
Secondly, James and Wade — who average close to 15 free throw attempts per game between them — earned relatively few foul shots (nine total) considering how many field goals they attempted (51). And it’s not like they weren’t being aggressive, given that they combined for 13 shot attempts at the rim.
Speaking of which, Miami converted only nine of their 23 attempts at the rim (39.2 percent) despite ranking ninth in the league in FGP at the rim (64.5 percent). Of course, the Bulls rank second (behind the Heat) at holding foes to low-shooting numbers at the rim (56.7 percent), but their interior defense clearly overperformed last night.
Of course, outliers go both ways. Wade was 8-for-10 from 16-to-23 feet last night when normally he shoots around 40 percent from that distance. And a few of those shots had a ridiculous degree of difficulty.
Anyway, all things said and done, it was a great win that really didn’t tell us anything about what might happen if these two teams should meet in the playoffs.
But it sure did tell us a lot about the heart of this Bulls team.