The Chicago Bulls seem to be waking up at the right time while possibly finding an answer to some of their offensive problems. And no, it isn’t giving the ball to Derrick Rose and/or Jimmy Butler and getting out of the way.
The Bulls beat the Utah Jazz 92-85 in a battle between two teams quite desperate to make the playoffs. The Bulls are fending off the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards (both winning on Saturday), while the Jazz remain behind the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz were coming in backed by four straight wins. The Bulls have now won three of their last four games, hoping to get by the Indiana Pacers soon too.
Rose led them with 22 points on an excellent 10-of-15 from the field. Jimmy Butler scored only 14 points but did have six assists while doing a very good job on the defensive end. Gordon Hayward scored just 9 points (4-for-13) and the Bulls played some of their best defense in a while, holding Utah to just 40.7% from the field. The Bulls weren’t great from long range, but even without Pau Gasol playing, managed to score a lot of easy points in the paint against a team that’s known for its ability to protect the rim.
The Bulls aren’t used to playing without two big men, and while they did start with Brazilian rookie Cristiano Felicio, he played just 12 (good) minutes, scoring 4 points. The Bulls were better in the stretch 4 kind of look, which might be their version of small ball, but worked against the Jazz, who kept pulling away from the rim and allowed a lot of easy baskets for Taj Gibson (15 points, 10 rebounds) and anyone attacking the hoop.
Rose was hitting shots from everywhere, but he didn’t venture too far from the basket. He never had to. The Bulls did a good job of creating mismatches with some very favorable switches, including putting Rose in front of Rudy Gobert a number of times, having no problem making mid range pull up jumpers over him. Rose had a couple of three pointers as well, and so did Nikola Mirotic, scoring 15 points in 33 minutes, although not all of the minutes with him were great.
With the games left for the Bulls to play this season, and especially their clashes with the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks (twice), New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers among more difficult opponents, there’s plenty of opportunity to at least erase some of the bad memories from the previous months. Their win over the Jazz wasn’t pretty basketball. But it was smart and even efficient, something the Bulls have rarely been this season, but might be finally figuring out how to do.