Takin’ the Lead: Bulls 98, Wizards 79

How high have the expectations gotten for these Bulls?

On a night when the Bulls won by 19 points and took over first place in the Eastern Conference despite missing their second and third-best players — Carlos Boozer (sprained ankle) and Joakim Noah (flu-like symptoms) both sat this one out — there was an overwhelming sense that they should have won by more than 19 points. Should have crushed the Wizards much sooner and much harder.

The Bulls held Washington to 79 points on 43 percent shooting while scoring 22 points off 16 forced turnovers. The Wizards scored only 33 points in the second half. Again, this was without Noah, who leads the team in Defensive Rating. And yet Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was unhappy with his team’s defense.

Yeah. I’d say the expectations have gotten pretty high.

I’ll admit, I fell into the expectations trap last night. When Washington erased a double-digit deficit by outscoring the Bulls 27-19 in the second quarter, I was like, “Whaaaaaa…?!” The Bulls were 29-4 at home. The Wizards were 1-29 on the road. It felt like some universal law was being violated.

Let me repeat: Minus their second and third-best players, it felt like the Bulls should have been up by 30 at the half. And giving up 46 points over the first 24 minutes seemed like abject failure.

That’s how good the Bulls have been this season.

Of course, the Bulls almost always crank up their defense in the second half, and it happened again tonight. The Wizards managed only 14 points in the third quarter. They scored 19 points in the fourth only because JaVale McGee was busting his butt to get a triple-double during garbage time. He got it on a dunk with 18 seconds left and celebrated by hanging on the rim and screaming. While his team was down by 18 points.

I guess you could say the Wizards are at the other end of the expectation spectrum.

Derrick Rose had another Derrick Rose-like game (23 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) and yet seemed pretty quiet. Luol Deng did what he’s been doing (20 pints, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) but (ugh) logged another 43 minutes (too many in a blowout if you ask me). Kurt Thomas continued to defy the laws of nature and aging by ripping down a game-high 15 rebounds. Taj Gibson added 13 boards and scored 9 points. The bench contributed 21 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

And then there was Keith Bogans.

Bogans — who’s been persona non grata in Chicago all season — nailed five three-pointers and scored a season-high 17 points. (In case you’re wondering, his career high is 28 points, which he set against the Utah Jazz on November 16, 2004.) And despite playing his best game of the season, Bogans was still the subject of mockery in ESPN’s Daily Dime Live chat. I guess Keith exists at the low end of the expectation spectrum, too.

Said Bogans: “It doesn’t frustrate me at all. I’m being talked about. I’ve been around long enough, people are going to say things. But, I’m here for my team, I want to win. I’m not worried about individual stuff. I’ve had individual things; my main goal is to win a championship. That’s what I’m focused on.”

Yep. That’s a 2010-11 Chicago Bulls attitude for you.

Added Bogans: 

“My job on this team is to defend first. I don’t get caught up in ‘I’m a shooting guard.’ We’ve got Derrick, we’ve got Carlos, we’ve got Luol [Deng]. They take the bulk of the shots. I’m going to get us going defensively and when my shot’s there, I’m taking it. I know my role on this team.”

And, really, that concept is what has made the Bulls so effective this season. There’s no confusion. Players know their roles. They understand what’s expected. Then they go out and do it.

Said Thibs: “If we are preparing the way that we are supposed to and doing the right things, the results will take care of themselves.”

Currently, the results are that the Bulls are 48-18, dominating their division and sitting alone in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the final day of the 1997-98 season.

Yeah. I’d say that speaks for itself.

Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box ScorePlay-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.


26 Responses to Takin’ the Lead: Bulls 98, Wizards 79

  1. dssinger@law.gwu.edu'
    DS March 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    For all the knocks he’s gotten, Bogans’ attitude is very impressive. He says exactly the right things and you get the feeling he really believes in it. You have to love that in pro athletes — especially when it’s a guy on your team. Here’s hoping he can just improve his 3PT% over the stretch run and the playoffs — and get it up closer to 40% (he’s at 37 something right now). Just making other teams respect his open threes, or making them pay on a more consistent basis, adds another element to our offense.

    Great turnaround on the post, Matt. Keep up the good work!

  2. Inception March 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    this team is a true reflection of Thibs….when you have that, you know your team is on the right path…the MJ teams had it with Phil and his beliefs, and now we have it with Thibs…he def deserves to win COY.

    players win the game, but it starts with the coach and his philosophies.

  3. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. March 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Another excellent summary, Matt.

    One serious complaint, which you glanced on, is this: why on earth are both Rose and Deng playing the last few minutes of a game that is clearly in the bag? I love Thibs, but I can think of no reasonable excuse, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be in his shoes if one of them were to be injured in that context.

    DS –

    I understand your point about wanting opposing teams to respect Bogans’ shot enough to cover him more closely, and it’s a reasonable point on the surface. But frankly, I don’t believe that it would matter at all if he were shooting 40%. Unless, of course, there are teams out there which are absurdly stat-centric. To illuminate what I mean, consider this:

    If the Bulls were to play four seven game series in the playoffs, and Bogans were to take five 3pt shots a game, that would total 140 shots. If he were to hit them at his current rate, he would make 52 of them. If he were to up his percentage to 40%, he would make 56. That’s an improvement of one made shot for every SEVEN games!

    If there is an NBA team that would alter its defense based on such a trivial difference, I’d love to know who they are so that I can make fun of them.

    My main point is that Bogans is a very serviceable 3pt shooter as it stands right now. If teams leave him alone in the playoffs, that’s fine with me, as he will likely make them pay. If not, then, as you and many others suggest, it will open things up nicely for Rose and the other three starters.

  4. Luke March 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    hmmm, interesting all the bogans-bashers on this site are awfully silent….

  5. enigmatik.inviktus@gmail.com'
    Enigmatik March 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I agree that the team should have won by more than 19…Thibs is right and that’s why we should be encouraged that there is room for growth. Scary for the rest of the NBA.

    Up next is a New Jersey team that just knocked off the Celtics and has one of the game’s best point guards at the helm. And they also knocked off our Bulls back on January 5th. The Bulls have the longest active win streak in the NBA at 7 and the Nets have the second longest win streak at 5. Payback time.

  6. bleigh82@gmail.com'
    bleigh82 March 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    I wasn’t too worried when the Wizards fought back in the second quarter. It took a 19 point half from Crawford and some contested jump shots on their part to keep it close. On top of that, the Bulls missed a bunch of open jump shots that would likely be open the entire game thanks to the Wizards defense.

    How many times this year have the Bulls either gone into the half in a close game or behind an inferior opponent only to come out in the 3rd quarter and put the clamps down? Seems like it has happened quite a bit. Impressive.

    Nice game by Bogans. He deserves credit when it is due. I still wish Thibs would stop insisting on playing his starting late in blow outs. I just don’t see any point in it at all.

  7. liebingr@gmail.com'
    Bex March 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    My theory on Thibs playing starters well into garbage time and beyond is that it goes back to his 48-minute team philosophy. Not saying I love it or even agree with it, but if he wants his team to play every minute like it counts maybe this is part of it. We are winning so it’s hard to jump on him about it.

  8. Jimmy March 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm #


    In defense of those “Bogan bashers”, Bogans has been playing good the past two months (near or above 40% at the 3), but he was not hitting his open 3 pointers earlier in the year. Thus, since the start of 2011, I decided that having Bogan start will suffice. However, if we play the Heat in the playoffs, I would like to see Brewer get the bulk of the minutes when Wade is on the court. Brewers defensive prowlness is just too fun to watch, and he will give Wade fits.

  9. Jimmy March 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    By “earlier in the year” i mean this season, not literally 2011.

  10. Luke March 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Matt, just read over the ddl last night… you should definitely do a bulls night out for a game. I’d show up

  11. TBF March 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    As a card-carrying Bogans basher, I’ll step up and say that I still don’t think he’s a particularly great option. 17 points for him is so wildly out of character that I’m honestly more shocked by that than by McGee’s blocks. That said, I’m not sure what anyone wants the “bogans bashers” to say. He played well. Good for him, good for the team. I’m not going to invent reasons to dislike him when I have plenty of real ones that were plenty valid for months.

    Just because I don’t like him doesn’t mean I’m rooting for him to do poorly so that I’ll be ‘correct’.

    That said, I have two minor quibbles. First, as has already been said, Thibs needs to sit his starters when the game is well in hand. He playing with fire there.

    The second is that this team seems to have fallen desperately in love with the 3 point shot. Espeically Derrick. I know, I know, he has that shot in his bag of tricks now, but honestly, he doesn’t make enough of them to usually warrant shooting between 6 and 10 triples per game. We’re not the Magic out there; sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brought you. But hey, we keep winning, so I guess I can’t question it too much.

  12. contrerasadvocates@yahoo.com'
    Savage March 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    What a year! It has been a very long time since we have witnessed this type of professionalism and team work. It has been a joy to watch them this season.

  13. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    chitwon4life March 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    i just heard skip payless onceagain show his dislike toward our bulls and the Star and soon to beMVP f the NBA, Derrick Rose.i for one am not sure what it would take for him to actually say that DRose is the MVp but if you look at what he has done with the players that have been hurt or unable to play for what ever reason, and then there record and how he has managed to be in the top ten in two stats.that body or work plus what he does that stats don’t show adds up to MVp many have already said he is this years MVp including our own beloved MVp Micheal Jordan.
    The playoffs will be great this year for our Bulls, but the payoff is happening now they have become elite right before our eyes.its great to be a Bulls fan not sure where we are gonna fisish but for now we are on top and still standing in the East and i feel as though that is where we will end up when the last buzzer sounds in the east and be in the finals this year.
    Get ready chicago the roof is on fire and the top of it is about to be blown off by our Bulls i can feel it and i think many more people sense the very same thing only time will tell. The game last night was like a practice with a corwd watching , i remember when MJ and scottie use to win like this and it was so great think those times are back we are spoiled now on winning so lets keep the ball rolling enjoy the ride while it last fans Rose and DOALL Deng and company will get it done trust me you can take that to the bank..PEACE

  14. Handkuft@yahoo.com'
    GotNext March 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Why can’t the playoffs start now? The bulls are playing so well and with all the talk about who doesn’t want to see who in the playoffs, let’s not forget that NO ONE wants to see the Bulls.

    The biggest concern is obviously the big minutes Deng and Rose are playing. I think what Bex said is pretty accurate because his theory and Thibs’ philosophy seem to be better suited for a post season rather than regular season. Playoff games are more intense and guys go a lot harder for longer periods of time, so naturally your best players will play more minutes. Any good coach knows there’s no easy games, more so in the playoffs. So the only explanation I have is that Thibs is perhaps grooming his best players into ‘playoff’ shape. Because we can assume there will be very little garbage time, teams will have their best players at the end of most games, expecting them to perform at the highest possible level even after they play 40+ minutes. Whoever is more comfortable playing in those conditions will have a decisive advantage in a close game.

  15. Inception March 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    somebody show this to Rose….the doubters are still alive….just the way i like it….


  16. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. March 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    “Whoever is more comfortable playing in those conditions will have a decisive advantage in a close game.”

    You are endorsing a highly questionable strategy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of the strategy being employed by one of the best coaches in NBA history – Popovich.

    Admittedly, Thibs has a much younger team to work with, but we are talking about elite athletes here, and there really isn’t any need for them to ‘rehearse’ for extended playoff minutes.

  17. Handkuft@yahoo.com'
    GotNext March 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Tony, it isn’t so much a strategy as it is a reality. Elite athlete or not, you get tired through out the course of a game and that does affect your performance, especially towards the end of games. Conditioning is a big part of basketball, and winning a game comes down to not only executing a play coaches draw up, but also the ability of your elite athlete to make a play. As you get tired, your athleticism diminishes, and you become half a step slower. I believe being quicker than your opponent is an advantage, not something that guarantees you victory but it definitely improves your chances to win. I’m not endorsing this even if it was Thib’s plan, merely speculating why he’s playing Deng and Rose more minutes than what seems to be necessary .

  18. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. March 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    GotNext –

    “I believe being quicker than your opponent is an advantage,…”

    Sure, but on what possible basis are you arguing that playing Rose and Deng late in a blowout is going to help make them “quicker” in the playoffs? On what basis do you imagine that playing Deng 40 min. a night will make him quicker in the playoffs?

    If an NBA player is fit enough to play roughly 35 minutes a game at a high level, then he is prepared to extend that to around 40 under playoff conditions.

    When the Celtics last won the title, not one of their players averaged 36 mpg during the season. When the Spurs last won the title, no one averaged over 34 mpg. Were either of those teams at a “quickness” disadvantage?

    Deng is averaging more than any of the players on the Jordan-era Championship teams. Why?

    Thibs is taking his “one game at a time” mantra quite literally in the context of playing time. I hope that it doesn’t backfire, but whatever happens, there is zero evidence that pushing the envelope like this will give players any physical advantage over their opponents in the playoffs.

  19. fakemail@gmail.com'
    Jo March 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Just kudos—great job, as always, whoever runs this page. The “Extras:” are appreciated. The recommended sites on the right are, too. Like the other team-based, Truehoop extensions, this site’s definitely on the go-to list for Bulls news, analysis, etc. Kudos, again!

  20. Inception March 17, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    remember, there are no back-to-back nights in the playoffs….

  21. Handkuft@yahoo.com'
    GotNext March 17, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    Quickness is just ONE advantage. Rose relies on it, as does Korver and Boozer. For a player like Rose, quickness is his main weapon on offense and opens up the rest of his game. Quickness determines how explosive your first step is, how fast and high you can jump off the ground , and how quickly you move from side to side with the ball.

    Watching Rose since he was a rookie, one of the few negatives I saw was his lack of endurance, which resulted in a lot of poor late game decisions. He didn’t have many games like that and they happen less and less frequently now. But as we saw in Atlanta, when he threw that pass in traffic instead of going to the hole or wait for a better option, mistakes will cost you games . He didn’t even play 40, and that was a playoff like game. He was clearly running out of steam. Keep in mind that he improved on a lot of areas during his career, so he most likely understands he still needs to improve his endurance. Like you said 40 is the minimum in the playoffs, and I believe he wants to be above that.

    The obvious risk is injury. However Deng and Rose are still young, and both them and the coaching staff believe that they can handle the workload. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up playing even more minutes in the playoffs. Players completely trust Thib’s system, and the key to a championship according to him is to become a 48 minute team. That being said, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to imagine that someone like Derrick Rose lives by those words.

    Doc rode his big 3 for 38 during the championship year, and Pop rode Duncan for almost 40 and then 42 in the playoffs every year before the last championship, when he was at his best. Both teams had pretty quick points but neither carried best player tags, so it’s important that Rose is able to play 40+ quality minutes which he has struggled to do consistently especially in the playoffs. So the point is, your best players have to play a lot of minutes for your team to win.

    Thibodeau has proven to be everything we expected and then some. He always seemed to be more focused about working out the kinks in his system than worrying about upgrading his roster. You can’t doubt his technique, maybe when it backfires. For all we know maybe we are that weak when Deng isn’t in the game, but I’m convinced that Thibs knows exactly what he’s doing and knows better than anyone how far he can push his players.

  22. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. March 17, 2011 at 4:53 am #


    “Doc rode his big 3 for 38 during the championship year, and Pop rode Duncan for almost 40 and then 42 in the playoffs every year before the last championship, when he was at his best. ”

    That was during the playoffs, not the regular season. I’ve illustrated above that neither team (nor the Jordon-era Bulls) ever pressed anyone to 40 minutes a game.

    Thibs may get away with pushing some players to the limit, but I don’t know of any reasonable explanation for having Rose and (especially) Deng in at the end of games which are well in hand. If he wants to push them, then do it when it matters, not when it doesn’t.

  23. Inception March 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Thibs definitely needs to work on his rotation management….he prob never had to worry about this as an assistant, so i’ll let it slide since he’s a rookie head coach….hopefully, he won’t have to learn it the hard way with a star playing getting hurt during garbage time.

  24. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath March 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Skip Bayless is surely the Tucker Carlson of sports dialogue, but I saw his recent comments with Jalen Rose about DRose and MVP and I didn’t see a big problem. In this case, he was just fighting for there being big games left in the season and to hold off on crowning Rose and keeping the other names in the pot.

    I would much prefer this kind of process, really. It would be more satisfying to have Rose rise above the other names, rather than having him pegged 60% into the season and ride it out for the win …

  25. Luke March 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Tony C., I don’t understand how you can compare the Celtics and the last spurs championship to how Thibs manages the 2010-2011 bulls. In what way are either of those teams even slightly similar to the bulls? The Celtics didnt average 38 min, but I bet their age was pretty darn close to 38.

    I agree with Gotnext, the only real reason for leaving in rose and deng is to keep them at 40 min shape, which they will have to do in the playoffs. they’re young, without a lot of experience (unlike the MJ era) and can handle those kind of minutes. And if they average roughly 40 min a night now, then according to you, they will be able to extend that to 45 min in the playoffs. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see how opposing teams handle 45 minutes of derrick rose

  26. Handkuft@yahoo.com'
    GotNext March 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    “I’ve illustrated above that neither team (nor the Jordon-era Bulls) ever pressed anyone to 40 minutes a game”

    Big difference between those teams and our bulls team, is that our best players are a lot younger. Duncan was playing 40 minutes a year when he was physically peaking. Spurs won 3 championships with their best guy playing heavy minutes. Same with KG, even though he didn’t win he took his teams far. You’re not riding a 35 year old the same way you are a 22 year old.

    “If he wants to push them, then do it when it matters, not when it doesn’t”

    I can agree with that, but as of right now I see more positives, one of them being Rose’s improved stamina, than negative.

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