The most amazing thing about the Chicago Bulls’ 132-92 win over the Sacramento Kings last night? Keith Bogans scored 15 points. 15 Points!! He has started 69 games for the Chicago Bulls this year and this is only his sixth double-figures game. He had a 17 points night against the Wizards a week ago, a season high, hitting 5 tre’s. He didn’t score more than 9 points from mid – November to mid – February. He’s had 11 games this season without scoring. Still, he’s the Chicago Bulls starting shooting guard. Why?
Because he can defend, and this team is first of all, about defense. Derrick Rose isn’t a super-defender. He should be, but he isn’t there yet. It takes time with certain players. LeBron became an elite defender only during his 6th NBA season. But again, Chicago are about defense. They are allowing 99.9 points per 100 possessions, the best in the league. They allowed 99.8 during the 1997-1998 season. However, they also allowed 99.6 in 2006-2007, as they year ended in a semi final loss to the Detroit Pistons. It 2006-2007 they led the league in that category as well. Another however – that 2006-2007 team was a pure jump shooting team. Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng. They based their entire game on streaks. This Chicago is first of all Derrick Rose and whatever the hell he wants to do. Mostly penetrate, but he can hit them from outside (33% from three point) and he’s an excellent passer.
That’s where the real keys to a title or title-less season come in – Boozer, Noah and Deng. First of all Boozer. He’s just coming back from another injury which put him out of 5 games. He had a nice comeback night against the Kings, but those are the Kings, maybe the worst team in the league. Still the Noah – Boozer combo in the paint is probably the most important element and factor to the Bulls’ title run. Their ability to dominate the paint, especially against the Celtics and their enormous depth and size down low will be the key. A regular season coming up soon will probably be a nice indication of where the balance of power is right now.
And then there’s Luol Deng, who needed some time to recover from those Kobe trade talks a few years back, but he’s playing the best basketball of his career. Outside shooting, defense, whatever they need. He’s beating buzzer if you need him to as well.
Back to comparisons – The Bulls reaching number 50 on the W columns immediately takes us back to the last time they won this much: The last season of the 90’s dynasty, 1997-1998, a season ending with Jordan-Pippen-Jackson’s sixth NBA title. Defensively, the teams were similar, with a 99.9 and a 99.6 defensive rating. Offensively the numbers aren’t that different as well, with the offensive rating exactly the same at 107.7. The similarities end here. Yes, the Bulls finally have an MVP front runner again. That’s it. Rose isn’t Jordan. The Bulls’ inside game is of All-Star caliber these days. Anyone playing in the paint during the Jordan years was there to do dirty work, nothing else. Deng isn’t Pippen, and I don’t see any Toni Kukoc or Dennis Rodman lurking. There’s just a very good team defense and an offense solely built on Derrick Rose.
I don’t want to count Miami out, but their regular season match-ups with the Bulls and Celtics have told us they’re not ready to beat them. Bulls and C’s? I think Rose is a better player than Rondo. Can the rest of the Chicago Bulls team raise its game and defensive intensity – The Celtics are intensive as you can get come playoff time – and hope the refs don’t blow the C’s way as they tend to do a lot of times (like last night’s Knicks – Celtics game)? If they can get double figure nights from Keith Bogans, the sky is the limit.