No Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler, but the Chicago Bulls always find a way to pull through, led by Nikola Mirotic in scoring and Joakim Noah in everything else, beating the crashing Washington Wizards 97-92.
Rose is out, presumably, until close to the playoffs. Jimmy Butler is gone for a slightly shorter time. Translation? The Bulls are without their starting backcourt for quite a while. Will it work? Aaron Brooks looked good as the starting point guard in the win with 22 points and the Bulls went with Tony Snell as a starter, despite being a bit out of his comfort zone when playing at shooting guard. Snell is a good defender and a solid shooter, finishing with 11 points, and overall going through something of a breakout in the last couple of months.
But the best came from Mirotic, scoring 23 points to go with 8 rebounds, once again showing his versatility on the offensive side of the ball. The Bulls, if you remember, are also playing without Taj Gibson, and although that takes away from their size and defense under the basket, it gives Mirotic more minutes to do what he knows and so far this season he has been a bit more useful than Gibson, finding it difficult to come back from injuries and find some quality minutes between Mirotic, Gasol and Noah.
Noah had a very good game with 14 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. He got hit in the face hard by Nene, and there’s no love loss in that “relationship”; not between the two players or the teams, especially after the Wizards beat the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last season. It’s been rough on the Wizards lately, winning just one game out of the last eight, drifting further and further away from having some sort of home court advantage in the playoffs.
John Wall didn’t get the interesting point guard duel with Derrick Rose that might have been, but he didn’t actually outplay Brooks. Wall scored 21 points to go with 11 assists but like the rest of his teammates, was often frustrated by the Bulls’ defense which also held Nene at 0 points, coming after saying he hates the Bulls. Foul trouble and simply playing like his mind was elsewhere got to him, and when he picked up a flagrant foul for his hard offense against Noah Paul Pierce picked up a technical foul.
The less talent the Bulls have to use, the more we see their “old” style, which relies on very strong defense, something that hasn’t been a part of their M.O. as much this season. Playing shorthanded doesn’t make them better, but it does allow for some other talented players to shine, and year after year, seems to be something that brings these players together to do a lot more than they’re expected to. They need to hold on for a few more weeks.