The Chicago Bulls aren’t slowing down and win for the fourth straight time, this time beating the Toronto Raptors 94-92 after another brilliant two-end performance from Joakim Noah, making his team look a lot easier on the eyes in his current playmaker form.
Noah had only 8 points and 4 rebounds, but his 13 assists showed once more just how vital he is to the Bulls – a center who is also the team’s best passer and smartest player. He also happens to be their most important defensive piece, making everyone around him better on both ends of the floor.
Carlos Boozer led the scoring with 20 points, adding 8 rebounds, but it was the Bulls’ excellent inside-outside game that brought them the win. Kirk Hinrich couldn’t miss, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-11 from the field and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. D.J. Augustin also had 19 off the bench with 4-of-5 from beyond the arc while Jimmy Butler added 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Butler wasn’t able to really stop DeMar DeRozan throughout the game (scoring 32 points), but he did make it difficult enough for DeRozan on his final shots to keep the Raptors from tying or even winning the game. The Raptors were awful on the perimeter, shooting 3-of-17 from beyond the arc, finishing with 42.2% from the field. They found it very difficult to get points consistently, finding it too crowded inside, while the Bulls moved very well to close the gaps on the perimeter as well.
The defense is something that comes every game from the Bulls, no matter who is playing. But something that’s been catching on in recent games is an offensive flow, something we’ve rarely seen from them this season or throughout this whole ‘waiting for Derrick’ era if you might call it something like that. Noah on the top of the key orchestrating everything. Hinrich, Augustin, Dunleavy – it all goes through him, and it seems that the more he touches the ball, the better the Bulls look.
The game had something of a playoff atmosphere to it. Right now, it seems that both teams are battling for the 3-4 spots in the Eastern conference, as the Bulls find themselves only 0.5 a game behind. They’re the other two in the East aside from Indiana and Miami to have a above .500 record, which probably means home court advantage for one series in this conference. It’s hard to imagine either team making it to the conference finals with such a huge disparity between the top two and the rest, but we’ve seen stranger things happen.
The Raptors are almost like a team that worked out well by mistake thanks to taking out a player who only disrupted them and letting Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan run the team. The Bulls had all the expectations in the world going into the season before another crushing injury to Rose. The Deng trade should have sent them into tank mode, but this group makes for the lost talent with defense, effort, discipline and a lot of intelligence, all things installed onto the program by Tom Thibodeau.