Maybe life on the road is better, bouncing back from their frustrating home loss to the Dallas Mavericks with a 102-95 win against the crumbling Charlotte Hornets, showing once again the strength of this unit as a team, not having to rely on an especially great day from Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler or Pau Gasol.
The Bulls have four players in their lineup that can end up in the All-Star game, but they don’t have to rely on one of them carrying them on his own. Pau Gasol led the way this time with 19 points and 15 rebounds, as five more players scored in double figures: Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler both with 15, Joakim Noah also finished with a double double (14 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists) while Kirk Hinrich added 12 from the bench, and Nikola Mirotic scored 11, grabbing 12 rebounds as well.
Gasol made his way though Al Jefferson and a tough interior defense to score against, but these Hornets, losing 10 games in a row, are failing due to their inability to stretch the floor on offense. Lance Stephenson did score 20 points, but he has been a disappointment overall, especially considering he hasn’t been able to introduce his outside shooting to the team’s offensive system. The Hornets shot 2-of-15 from beyond the arc, resulting in a lot of easy rebounds for the Bulls.
Chicago were a lot more efficient with their outside shooting, hitting 42.9% of their shots. Kirk Hinrich rebounded well from the scathing criticism from Dirk Nowitzki, who has already apologized for going a bit too far with his words after the Mavericks escaped with a win from Chicago. Hinrich went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and Mike Dunleavy scored all of his nine points on 3-point attempts, making 60% of them.
Nikola Mirotic hit a couple as well, not having a problem with a hand or two in his face while shooting. He has been making the most of his added time since Taj Gibson’s injury surfaced, making him one of the more efficient rookies in the league so far this season, leading all of them in PER. Doug McDermott, a less successful rookie up until now, didn’t even play. The Bulls shot well despite Derrick Rose and Butler going a combined 3-of-11 from beyond the arc.
One of the refreshing things to see about the Bulls this season is the way the ball moves around. The more Joakim Noah touches the ball the better it gets as the center finished with 7 assists, and the Bulls had 27 overall. They didn’t do too well in the paint, but instead got plenty of shots from a bit further away. Jimmy Butler even didn’t get to the line too much, making just four free shots on four attempts. After years of being just a defensive mastermind, Thibodeau’s team is actually doing even better on offense.
The Hornets should have been one of the teams that gives the Bulls and the Cavaliers a hard time at the top of the East. Things haven’t exactly worked out as planned, falling to 4-15, giving up more than 100 points in six of their last seven losses. This is the East, so nothing is lost, but with every bad result and performance, the more it seems that the ambitions and hopes put on this group after last year’s success seem to be like a pair of weights dragging them down.