Things are staring to look better and better for the Chicago Bulls, beating the Atlanta Hawks 91-84, making it their fifth win in seven games, as they seem to finally realize how they should be playing and overcoming the shock of losing their best player for the season once again.
Injuries are still haunting the Bulls, with Carlos Boozer out due to a sore right knee. However, it meant more minutes to Taj Gibson, who felt quite comfortable in the Hawks’ paint. The Hawks have their own injury problems, playing without Al Horford for the foreseeable future. More minutes to Pero Antic and Elton Brand isn’t going to make up for his absence.
Gibson scored 10 points, most of them coming with some impressive dunking, grabbing 12 rebounds and adding 3 blocks. The Bulls dominated the boards 52-43, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. Luol Deng scored 17 points, but it was probably a bit more impressive seeing him crash the boards time after time, finishing with 11 overall and 7 on the offensive glass.
The best player for the Bulls on the day was Mike Dunleavy, back to playing off the bench, where he feels a lot more comfortable coming from. He scored 20 points, as 11 of them came in the final quarter. Not just shooting (9-of-14 from the field). Dunleavy provides another player who isn’t a point guard that knows to do more than just shoot and roll off screens.
It was a big defensive display from Joakim Noah who continues to do a bit of everything for Chicago, this time distinguishing himself with 5 blocks. Paul Millsap did provide a bit of a counter resistance with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but the Hawks didn’t really play hard and smart enough to break the excellent Bulls defense, once again standing as the foundation to their recent success, finding themselves only four games below .500.
We have a defensive system and we work on it a lot. It’s crazy how much we work on it. We work on defense every day. We have a core of guys that understand it and are really good at it. We know if we defend and rebound and keep our turnovers down, we’re going to be in a position to win. Right now, when you’re short-handed, that’s really what you have to do. It’s also what you have to do in every game, even when you’re completely healthy. The big thing is getting everyone back and healthy. Hopefully, Carlos will be short term, which I believe he will be. This is the first time we’ve had the group relatively whole.
Not everything is about defense though, which almost taken for granted in Chicago. Besides Dunleavy’s impressive shooting. D.J. Augustin has been a very big part of their revival over the last two weeks, giving a lot of energy coming off the bench and making the Bulls look respectable no matter the lineup, no longer having to improvise when it comes to a point guard, or force Joakim Noah play in a role and position that takes away too much from his qualities.