Pau Gasol returned to action Monday night after being sidelined recently by a knee injury. With Gasol in the starting lineup, the Bulls were able to trot out their theoretically best five man group (sans Joakim Noah) for just the second time all season. Pau, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy give the Bulls effective offensive options across the board. If this group stays healthy, the Bulls will be tough to deal with down the stretch.
- This game was decided in the latter half of the fourth quarter. With 6:34 left to play, the Kings led the Bulls 95-90. Over the next four minutes, the Bulls went on a 10-0 run and never looked back. The surge was fueled completely by the Bulls big three of Rose, Butler, and Gasol.
- Rose was a team-high +18 in 33 minutes with 18 points on 9/15 shooting. He missed his only two free throw attempts and was 0/1 from three, but he flashed a series of slick moves off the dribble to free himself for quality shot attempts. Rose rounded out the stat sheet with five rebounds, four assists and just a single turnover.
- Jimmy Butler let the game come to him Monday. Shooting just 3/10 from the field, Butler did not hijack many possessions with over dribbling and slow developing pick and rolls. Instead, he generally operated as a cog in a beautiful machine. Jimmy dished out a team-high eight assists in the win. Butler also came up huge on the other side of the ball, racking up five steals and consistently finding himself in the right place at the right time.
- Taj Gibson co-lead the team with 18 points on 7/13 shooting. On a night where the Bulls struggled from the line, Taj was the only player to make all of his attempts at the stripe. Gibson only managed to grab three rebounds, but all three were offensive. Taj had his hands full all night defending All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, but he managed to hold the cantankerous center to 19 points, far below his average 27.2.
- The return of Pau Gasol was a huge boost for Chicago. I will resist critiquing Gasol’s effort on defense as it was a pleasure to have the Spaniard soak up offensive possessions and take a huge burden off the starting guards. Gasol’s size and shooting touch make nearly all of his shots good in theory, an incredibly rare trait for a guy in his mid-30’s. Pau played just 24 minutes in his return to action, but he still managed to score 14 points, grab 14 rebounds and block three shots.
- It’s pretty uncommon for a team to score 109 points in a game and not have a single player score more than 20, but that is precisely what the Bulls did tonight. The entire team did not hesitate to make the extra pass, assisting on 28/41 field goals, an assist ratio that would tie the league-leading Warriors over the course of the season. There’s truly nothing more beautiful than unselfish play leading to easy offense:
- The Bulls were lights out from beyond the arc in this game, shooting 50% as a team. They attempted five fewer three point shots than the Kings, but connected on twelve compared to Sacramento’s nine. Doug McDermott started the game 4/4 from three and scored 16 points. Mike Dunleavy was 3/6 from three and Justin Holiday hit 3/4 of his attempts. Who said the Bulls need depth on the wing?!
- Sacramento has a way of making mediocre offenses look elite. The Kings defensive effort was miserable all game, especially that of Rajon Rondo. On one critical play in the fourth quarter, Rondo seemed to pick up Justin Holiday at the top of the key, only to pass him off to a nonexistent teammate. The sequence reminded me of football miscommunication where a corner incorrectly believes he has safety help over the top. In this case, Holiday drifted unguarded to the corner and knocked home a wide open three.
- Coming up: the Bulls host the Knicks on Wednesday night.