The Bulls came out strong on Thursday night and never looked back, outscoring the Lakers in every quarter, and holding a 15-20 point lead nearly the whole game. In Kobe Bryant‘s second-to-last game against the Bulls, Chicago was out to make a statement after a terrible late-game loss against the Heat whose result meant they’d won won just three in their last ten games. Let’s get into it:
- Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and Jimmy Butler led the charge with aggression, ball movement, and efficient scoring. They combined for for 63 points on 27/46 FGs with 24 rebounds and 22 assists in the 114-91 win. They looked like they were comfortable with each other out there, finding cutting lanes, and making nifty passes in creative ways, beyond just the standard pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, unimaginative offense that we’ve been accustomed to seeing of late. The Bulls showed flashes of this against the Heat, but the Bulls kept the pedal to the metal in LA.
- With Kirk Hinrich (bruised thigh) and Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) out, Fred Hoiberg decided to give E’Twaun Moore the start over Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell (who played just four minutes). It’s a group that hasn’t seen much action together, but they got the game started on the right foot. E’Twaun demonstrated his athleticism and the dynamic off ball movement he can bring when he’s out there with the backcourt of Rose and Butler.
- Pau Gasol was nearing in on a triple double for the second straight game, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. He’s shown much more flexibility and consistency in the last three games, averaging 22/13/5, and has shown more mental fortitude and focus on the defensive end, along with physicality on contested boards.
- More on Jimmy Butler because he’s impressive literally every night now. The All-Star reserve (snubbed of the starting spot by Dwyane Wade): in just 31 minutes (phew), he posted 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and no turnovers with +31 on the night. He was flying high, playing D, running fast breaks, and had back to back steals for lay-ins on the other end. He’s playing at such a high level – Bulls fans: appreciate what this man is doing right now. Don’t take it for granted.
- Derrick had a very efficient game. He was attacking with vigor, and although he settled for a couple of threes, was a scorer (16 points on 7/12 shooting), passer (5 assists), stole it once, and only turned it over once, which is impressive considering he was making passes like this:
- The Bulls really shared the ball well tonight. Part of this is the atrocious, swiss cheese defense of the Lakers, who allow a third-worst 106 points per game, and look lost out there, but a lot of it had to do with the Bulls being proactive in their movement and court vision, and it was a breath of fresh air. This was not a boring game to watch – not by a long shot. Rose was lightning fast, his passes were darts; Pau managed to give Butler a few alley-oops; there were plenty of steals and fast breaks, and only the very rare occasion of an iso fade away (and really only when the shot clock was getting low, or when the game was out of reach)
- Bobby Portis had his role expanded with all the injuries, playing nearly 22 minutes, but only putting up a +1. He’s providing energy off the bench, but struggles in double teams and court awareness. But a big guy that can rebound, shoot, play in the post, and run the floor is so essential going forward. He had a nice hustle put-back, and pulled down seven rebounds.
- Kobe didn’t have it tonight – not that he has it most nights anymore – 10 points on 4/13, and he was torched by Butler. He’s more than on his last legs. Side note: it’s still strange to see Roy Hibbert in a Lakers uniform – man, has he dropped off a cliff. Don’t take too much away from this game, since the Lakers are just flat out awful, but it certainly was nice finally seeing the Bulls maintain a large lead against a team they’re supposed to annihilate.
- Coming up: the Bulls will enjoy a weekend in Los Angeles before taking on the Clippers on Sunday afternoon.