The Chicago Bulls might not have the best offense in the NBA, but every time they score 100 points it means a victory. In a tough, as expected, road game against the Boston Celtics, they needed overtime and a prayer of a game winning shot from Marco Belinelli to reach that mark.
The most impressive thing about the win? Not that it’s on the road; the Bulls have no problem winning away from the United Center. In fact, they’re 9-2 away from home since the start of December, shooting 45.9% from the field when away from home this season, second best behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern conference.
No… losing Luol Deng, the team’s best player when you add up all the all-around intangibles and abilities, who had a hamstring injury carried over from the dramatic win against the Raptors, in the middle of the third quarter and still coming up with the W against a hot Celtics team is much more impressive.
It was about dramatic shots for the Bulls, who reached overtime off Kirk Hinrich of all people hitting a jumper. Hinrich finished the game with 8 points and 5 assists, and was among a few Bulls point guards who couldn’t stop Rajon Rondo. The Bulls didn’t mind – Rondo usually plays well against them, but the Bulls are 2-1 against Boston this season. Rondo finished with 30 points and 7 assists, but the rest of the Celtics were a terrible 37.1% from the field. Rondo was especially efficient in scoring after getting into the paint with 14 points from close range; he’s averaging 13.3 paint points per game against Chicago and 6.5 against all other teams.
Carlos Boozer continues to be the pleasant surprise of 2013, finishing with 19 points and 20 rebounds, improving to 23.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in January. Boozer is one of the only two players in the NBA to be averaging 20-10 since Christmas day (22.3 points, 12 rebounds) along with David Lee from the Golden State Warriors. Rip Hamliton led the team in scoring with 20 points, looking to be in better form than he’s been for this team since joining the Bulls in 2011, but he did turn the ball over 7 times as well.
The hero, despite everything, was Marco Belinelli, having an up & down season, but there shouldn’t be any thing new about him hitting clutch shots. It was his sixth go-ahead shot in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in his six-year career. Belinelli is 6-for-9 in such situations in his career and 2-for-3 this season. With a game winning shot in overtime and a game tying one at the end of regulation, the Bulls are the first team to make a game-tying shot with 5 or fewer seconds remaining in the 4th and a go-ahead shot with 5 or fewer seconds remaining in OT since the Nets did it on November 21, 2008.
The win for the Bulls continues to add to the comfortable landing Derrick Rose will or at least should have once he makes his return, to a team much more confident and simply better than it was a month ago, with a 23-15 record. The Boston Celtics realize, not for the first time, that trusting Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to still be what they used to (combining for 10-33 from the field) isn’t such a good idea.