With Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Nikola Mirotic all out with ailments, the roller coaster Bulls (30-26) showed some depth in an impressive 109-104 win over the Washington Wizards (26-30) at the UC Wednesday night. With the W, the Bulls moved up to sixth from eighth in the neck-and-neck Eastern Conference standings.
- The Bench Mob was the star of this one, with seven players (and only three regular starters) scoring in double figures for the Bulls. It was the first time they had accomplished that feat since December 2014. With their two best players out, many wrote this game off as a throwaway against the frisky Wizards. But thanks to Taj Gibson (17 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and under-the-weather Pau Gasol’s playmaking abilities (10 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists) the Bulls were able to consistently get easy baskets against a defensively challenged Wizard’s squad.
- Speaking of the Bench Mob, the M&M brothers (patent pending) stepped it up down the stretch to ensure the Bulls didn’t blow a 15 point lead late. Who are the M&M brothers? Glad you asked; Doug McDermott and E’Twaun Moore absolutely tore it up in the fourth quarter for the Bulls. The duo combined for 18 of the Bulls 20 points in the quarter on 8/12 shooting. Seeing these two close out a big win at home makes Bulls fans giddy of what this team could do once Rose and Butler get healthy again.
- Tony Snell also showed some much needed signs of improvement in the win. Snell had his best outing in over a month draining four of his five attempts from deep to end up with 16 points. Snell’s ability to spread the floor left the heart of the lane open for several cuts that led to easy baskets. If Tony finds his shot, the Bulls could find themselves with a knockdown trio on the wings of Dunleavy, McDermott, and Snell.
- While the offense hummed along without its stars, the defense continued to plague Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls. I know the rookie coach isn’t exactly a defensive specialist, but the Bulls have now surrendered at least 100 points in an astounding 11 consecutive ball games. That’s not going to get it done come playoff time. The Bulls forced a respectable 15 turnovers but allowed the Wiz to get to the line 26 times. Playing without Jimmy Butler certainly hurts in this aspect, but allowing over 100 points to the Lakers and Nuggets is unacceptable no matter the situation.
- Another small knock on the game on Wednesday was the performance of struggling guard Aaron Brooks. Brooks came into this one making only 14 of his last 54 shots (25.9%). This one would be no different. Brooks ended the game 5/15 for 11 points and countless wasted possessions on his usual spotty shot selection. Turnovers and poor defense also led to the guard’s -7 rating on the night. It’s no wonder Moore has taken the majority of the minutes with Brooks’ play of late.
- The Mystery Bulls. We were introduced to a couple new, and rarely used members of the Bulls against the Wizards. Newly acquired Justin Holliday (Jrue’s older brother) played seven minutes, hitting his first trey before turning the ball over and missing a defensive assignment that led to his quick departure from the game. Meanwhile, the unknown Cristiano Felicio played his second-most minutes this season with 12. The Brazilian forward scored two points but was a disastrous -17 on the night due to some lackluster defending. Not sure we’ll be seeing these two again anytime soon, so I hope you got a nice glimpse Wednesday.
- It really is a wonder how the Wizards are below .500 at this point in the season. This team is too talented with John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt combined with Marcin Gortat down low. However the rebounding has been bad and the defense has been worse. Add John Wall shooting 16/49 in his last three contests (32.6%) and you start to get an idea of why Randy Wittman is on the hot seat.
- Coming up: The Bulls take on the Hawks in Atlanta on Friday night in an important matchup of playoff contenders.