The Bulls beat the Charlotte Hornets 102-95 to improve their record to 12-7. It was an impressive win given that the Bulls were playing the second leg of a back-to-back on the road and were without Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson. 7 of the 9 Bulls players that played scored in double figures, led by Pau Gasol’s 19 points and 15 rebounds. Joakim Noah is starting to look like the multi-faceted threat he was last season, with a line of 14 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists on 6-9 shooting.
Yes, the Hornets are not a very good team at the moment, but this is still a team with a lot of talent and winning games on the road in the NBA is still a difficult task for any team, especially one that is missing 2 key cogs of its rotation. The backcourt of Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker combined for 43 points on 16-36 shooting, so if there is one thing that Thibs will hammer out, it will be the isolation defense of the Bulls backcourt. Still, there were far more positives than negatives to take from this game. Harassing Al Jefferson into a 13 points on 5-13 shooting night is quite impressive, and a big reason why the Bulls did let Walker and Stephenson have big games was because of the concerted effort to limit the Hornets’ inside game. Walker and Stephenson are both high volume, low efficiency scorers, and putting the offense in their hands seemed to be Thibs’ gameplan.
Some things to note are Nikola Mirotic’s 11 points and 12 rebounds, with 9 of his points coming in the 4th quarter. Now, Mirotic is not going to overnight entrench himself into Thibs’ crunch-time lineup, but it is a good sign that the rookie is becoming more comfortable with the NBA’s gameflow and that he is looking for his own shot. Rose had a quiet 15 points on 5-12 shooting, but at this point, the fact that he played 28 minutes one night after a 2OT game is the more important takeaway from this. The Bulls now get a much needed break, as they host the Warriors on Saturday night in what should be a great “measuring stick” game for them.
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