Despite the absence of Joakim Noah (flu-like symptoms), Chicago’s starting frontcourt was dominant, combining for 75 points on 29-for-50 shooting (58 percent) to go with 25 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocked shots and 3 steals.
Carlos Boozer — who always seems to become more assertive on offense when Noah is out — erupted for a season-high 31 points and 11 rebounds. Taj Gibson, who started in place of Noah, had a big-time game with 21 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks and 3 assists. And Luol Deng scored 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting.
Boozer, Deng and Gibson also combined to go 15-for-19 from the free throw line. For comparison’s sake, the Magic attempted only 14 foul shots as a team.
The Bulls had a clear and obvious edge in side and power up front, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau made sure they pressed that advantage from the onset.
Said Thibs: “We were searching [Boozer] out and he got going early. I thought we recognized that and Rip [Hamilton] recognized that. Kirk [Hinrich] recognized that and when Kirk is running the team that’s usually what happens — [Boozer] usually gets 15-17 shots. You could put that in the book. And if he gets his shots he’s going to score. He’s shown that throughout his career.”
Thanks largely to Chicago’s overpowering frontcourt scoring, the Bulls compiled an outstanding Offensive Rating of 110.3 points per 100 possessions.
Everybody except Boozer, Deng and Gibson? If you subtract their shooting numbers, the rest of the team went 7-for-27 from the field (25.9 percent).
The starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton combined to go 4-for-15. The reserves shot 3-for-12…and Jimmy Butler didn’t even attempt a shot in nine minutes.
That said, Hinrich and Hamilton did combine for 17 assists — one more than the Magic had as a team by the way — and Captain Kirk had a team-best plus-minus score of +8.
Holding a team to 94 points on 47 percent shooting may not sound bad on the surface, but adjusting for the pace of the game, Orlando was scoring at a rate of 108 points per 100 possessions.
For perspective, the Magic average 101.5 points per 100 possessions for the season, which ranks 28th in the league. If they averaged the 108 points per 100 possessions they scored against the Bulls, they would rank seventh.
Chicago’s D got used and abused by Jameer Nelson, who scored a season-high 32 points while shooting 11-for-20 from the field and 6-for-9 from three-point range. Nicola Vucevic shot 8-for-14 and had a double-double (20 points and 12 boards). Arron Afflalo sniped the Bulls for 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting, including 2-for-4 from downtown.
The Magic also outrebounded the Bulls 36-35 despite the absence of Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder) and the fact that Orlando was the smaller team.
Worst of all, the Bulls squandered an 18-point third quarter lead, shot 5-for-17 in the fourth, and had to sweat out a miss by Nelson in the final seconds to hold on for the victory.
The Bulls shot 17-for-22 (77.3 percent) at the rim and outscored the Magic 42-32 in the paint. They also committed a season-low 6 turnovers.
Player of the Game:
Taj Gibson. Even though Boozer led the team in scoring, Gibson had to fill Noah’s shoes…and he turned in a dominating performance. Like Boozer, he was assertive and fearless on offense. He was aggressive in attacking the basket and even showed off a post move or two.
Said Thibodeau: “[He] played big minutes, battled, played the five all night, just did a great job in all areas. Blocked shots, rebounding, scoring, executing. [He] played a great game. He’s been playing very well as of late too so he’s starting to get into a pretty good rhythm.”
Goat of the Night:
Nate Robinson. He went 2-for-7 and had zero assists in 16 minutes. Although he did knock down a couple threes, Robinson finished with a team-worst plus-minus score of -6 and the offense looked all sorts of whacky when he was running it.
The return of Rip Hamilton has brought about the disappearance of Marco Belinelli. He went 1-for-3 and looked virtually invisible in 18 minutes last night. Marco is now 11-for-31 over his last three games.