He won’t lead the team in points, rebounds and assists, but he’ll produce all three in impressive numbers and hit the game winning shot. Luol Deng has hit buzzer beaters before for the Chicago Bulls, and there was nothing surprising about another game winner from him in overtime against Toronto.
Deng hurt his hamstring in the first quarter, but that didn’t stop him from playing 48 minutes for the Chicago Bulls. Yes, injured, he played 48 minutes, just like Joakim Noah. Deng does a little bit of everything in his attempt from time to time to come out as the leader in the absence of Derrick Rose.
While Deng can’t consistently get his offense going the way Rose does, he certainly has the ability to do pretty much anything on the floor, and having a bad shooting day doesn’t stop him from using his long arms to create separation and good shots above outstretched arms with the clock ticking down.
Deng finished the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists, taking a secondary role as Carlos Boozer, in great form, lead the team in scoring with 36 points and 12 rebounds, added to another double double from Joakim Noah (16 points, 14 rebounds) as the Bulls simply celebrated in the paint with 54 points.
It wasn’t all fun and games; the guards were as usual the weak spot when it came to scoring, except for Rip Hamilton, with 15 points in 18 minutes, 6-9 from the field. The rest: Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson and we’ll throw in Taj Gibson just to hurt their stats even more, combined for 6-24 from the field.
There’s something about the Bulls on the road, going 11-5 away from home this season. They are the only NBA team with a better away record than home record at this stage of the season, which kind of makes you think about how this team is affected by energy levels and home support, or non-support. Their defense carries them to wins on the road, but that same defense is often not enough when playing at home (11-10).
The Bulls also scored more than 100 points (107-105 win) for the ninth time this season. Guess what: whenever they go past the triple digit mark, it’s a guaranteed win.
Defense, in this case, wasn’t such a thrill. The Raptors didn’t shoot in high percentages, but got a lot going through Alan Anderson and Kyle Lowry, as the two combined for 53 points on 18-33 shooting off the bench. Jose Claderon started at point guard, having a rough night with only 9 points and 6 assists, including missing the last shot of the game, a potential game-winning three pointer.
The Bulls are in a good place right now, winning 7 of their last 10 games and seeing a future with a returning Derrick Rose on the horizon. Maybe that is what the recent form is all about: Sudden hope pushing this team to the level it needs to be playing at from the beginning of the season, getting closet to actually making some sort of run for the Eastern title. If they could just get a more consistent Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer on offense, the problems they have at point guard won’t be even mentioned.