The last few years have never brought us battles of beautiful basketball between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics. The latest edition? No different, but with an almost full roster and Joakim Noah playing the point-center role to perfection, it wasn’t a very fair fight.
Both teams combined to shoot 40.6% from the field, but while Chicago seemed like they’re actually trying to play team basketball, which meant set plays and someone actually running the show, things looked very disorganized on the Celtics’ side of the floor, turning the ball over 20 times, while Jeff Green was selfish and awful with a 5-of-18 shooting night.
Joakim Noah was one assist short of a triple double, scoring 17 points, adding 11 rebounds and dishing out 9 assists. Alley Oop dunks with Taj Gibson, back door screens he saw with D.J. Augustin or simply serving as the passer and the screener on some plays, Noah made the Celtics’ defense look foolish and slow almost every time he had the ball in his hands.
The Bulls were with the full lineup (not including Rose who won’t be back this season, probably) for a second straight game. Luol Deng still isn’t playing his regular minutes, but he did provide a solid 14 points on 6-of-12 from the field, while Carlos Boozer had an easy time down low against Sullinger and Bass, finishing with 16 points and 7 rebounds.
Brad Stevens, who has been going through the ups and downs of the Celtics trying to make them look like a basketball team and not just a bunch of individuals trying to bump up their stats, wasn’t surprised with Noah dominating the game with his passing as well.
I coached against Noah as an assistant in college in the Sweet 16. He’s a guy who makes his teammates better in all the different ways. He even made the plays that will never get on the stat sheet — pulling over and helping, being long and forcing us to make another pass or forcing us to miss a shot. All those things add up at the end of the game. They’ve had their struggles, but that’s not a 13-18 team. As they get fully healthy, they’ll continue to have success because they execute on both ends of the floor as well as anybody in the league. That being said, their offense is going to find itself, the shooting will find itself. It did a little bit tonight.
The Chicago Bulls don’t have many excuses left to use. They’ve dropped six of their last eight games at home, but after playing with a depleted roster through December, things need to start going in the right direction, and they actually should. Jimmy Butler, as most of the team, has his ups and downs, but he and Deng are back in the lineup together. There’s a decent situation at point guard with both Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin, while Tony Snell is going to have better nights (Second consecutive game with 0 points).
Without Rose, no one expects the Bulls to be a championship team, but they’re better than their 13-18 record suggests. The same can’t be said about the Boston Celtics (13-19), who are only in the playoff picture because of how awful the Eastern conference is this season. Rajon Rondo might be a bit closer to return, but it’s going to be a while longer before he has any affect on their record, for good or bad.