Bulls Over Nets – Energy and Defense Beat Dirty Old Players

Taj Gibson

Some teams aren’t built for prolonged success within a season and can’t wait for the All-Star break to come around, like the Brooklyn Nets. The Chicago Bulls wouldn’t mind to keep things going for another week or two, looking not just like a younger and fresher outfit, but a simply better group of players in their 92-76 win.

Maybe the defining moment of the game came in the second half with the Bulls leading by 9 points. Jimmy Butler wasn’t allowing Joe Johnson anything on the perimeter, so Johnson hit Butler with a forearm to the head, getting called for an offensive foul. Butler said some words and then Johnson tried poking Butler in the eye, before Joakim Noah of all people took Butler away from the scene. The Bulls were hungry, aggressive, fast and excellent on defense. The Nets simply looked like the wanted to get it over with. I don’t say too much, so if I’m mad, you must have really done something to get underneath my skin. He poked me in the head then backed backwards. I don’t think he wanted any of that. I don’t play to fight, but come on, man, just play basketball.

The Bulls shot a rare 50% from the field, getting out in the open court a lot more than usual, forcing 15 turnovers and a 36.7% shooting night from the Nets. Maybe it was Thibodeau’s orders or maybe simply Hinrich and Augustin realizing the Nets were very slow getting back on defense. It didn’t result in alley oops and highlight players (except for one), but Chicago pushed the tempo to base their lead and cling to it even when the Nets got close.

We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied. We’re hungry. We’re playing very well. It’s good to have a chance to have a break and get away and come back ready for the finish.

Carlos Boozer was back in the lineup after missing three games, scoring 15 points and adding 10 rebounds in 28 minutes. Taj Gibson scored 16 points off the bench and Joakim Noah was at the heart of everything with another great all-around performance, scoring 14 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and adding 7 assists. Noah is one of only 5 players who played primarily at center to lead his team in assists at the All-Star break in the last 25 seasons. He is averaging 4.4 per game, he most APG by a center since Brad Miller averaged 4.7 APG for the Kings in the 2005-06 season.

Jimmy Butler with 14 points did a lot more with his defense, not for the first time against Joe Johnson. Johnson was 4-of-14 for 11 points, continuing his very poor shooting form, shooting 36.7% from the field over the last five games. Johnson wasn’t the only one doing that badly, as Kevin Garnett had only 4 points, struggling to find open shots or get anyone to create them for him.

I think everybody needs a break right now. Everybody’s played a lot of games. Every team in the league has played over 50 games. I wish the break was a little bit longer, especially for us older guys. But it is what it is and guys can go home or do whatever they’re going do over the weekend and recharge their bodies and get ready for a second-half run. We’ve got to get to the point where we’re playing better defense, especially when Kevin comes out the game. That’s seems to be one of our glaring weaknesses right now. We can sustain an acceptable level of defense when he’s in the game, but he’s not going to be able to play 48 minutes a night, so we have to have guys ready to come in and sustain the type of intensity he brings to help this team win.

The Nets were up by six points in Garnett’s 25 minutes, but if their entire defense is based on Garnett’s minutes and ability at his advanced age, there’s not too much to expect from this team in the second half of the season or the playoffs.

Image: Source