The injury keeping Carlos Boozer out of the lineup does wonders for Taj Gibson and generally the Chicago Bulls, getting the Gibson-Joakim Noah frontcourt to display its hidden potential in what might be a sign for the direction the franchise needs to take in the future with these three players.
The Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks 100-85, backed by a triple double by Joakim Noah, finishing with 19 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and 3 blocks, while Taj Gibson added 24 points and 12 rebounds, facing off against a Hawks team playing with Paul Millsap as their only big man in the lineup.
It was the fourth career triple double for Noah, making him fourth on the all-time list for triple doubles on the Bulls, a list led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Tom Boerwinkle before we get to Noah. He’s also third on the list of players with triple doubles over the last three seasons, trailing only Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo.
We’re playing with a lot of defensive intensity. We got guys great looks. We were real unselfish. Usually when you come back from a West Coast trip like that you exhale. Nobody exhaled. We played hard and it was a good win for us. It feels great to play well. There’s no better feeling, especially when you win. A lot of guys stepped up.
The Bulls had a rare night of shooting over 50% from the field (50.6%) and 40% from beyond the arc, although that mostly had to do with a strong shooting performance from D.J. Augustin, finishing the game with 13 points, including 4-of-6 from the outside. He was one of six players in double figures, as Mike Dunleavy scored 15, Jimmy Butler had 12 points and Kirk Hinrich finished with 10.
Where is all of this going for the Bulls? They’re now 26-25, which means home court advantage for one round at the moment. It’s slightly hard to believe that after the Luol Deng trade the Chicago Bulls didn’t go into tank mode, but it has something to do with the personality of their head coach, and what he has projected over the last few years onto his players. This team is out there to win against anybody no matter who is playing, and how short the bench seems to be.
Derrick Rose isn’t coming back this season, and Boozer might be out for a little while longer with his injured calf. It just means Taj Gibson gets to play like a starter, something that possibly should have happened a while ago. He might not be as versatile as Boozer is offensively, but he’s also tough to guard and is a much better defender.
As for Noah, it’s weird to see a center being the team’s best passer and playmaker, but there’s nothing ordinary about the Bulls over the last few years – a team built for a championship that made one conference finals but can’t seem to shake the spiral of injuries, as their best player and the one everything’s been built around can’t catch a break, leaving the rest of his teammates to fight and defend their way into the playoffs, but without a chance of doing something meaningful.