It’s not always pretty watching the Chicago Bulls go about their business this season, but there’s an undeniable level of efficiency to their system and especially defense, coming out looking better than usual when it’s a soft and depleted opponent like the Los Angeles Lakers facing them.
Joakim Noah did the job on both ends of the floor for the Bulls, a team that knows a thing or two about being crippled by injuries, making them less than sensitive to the Lakers’ predicament. Noah finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, including a nice double-ended finish with a big block on Chris Kaman and a dunk on the other end in the span of 16 seconds, with Thibodeau deciding that keeping Noah on the floor with 5 fouls is going to get him the win.
It was too tight. Either we were going to win it with him, or that was going to be it. At that point, I didn’t think we could afford two or three minutes with Noah on the bench, so we rolled the dice and were fortunate. We’re a little short-handed right now — and the way they spread you out on the perimeter, you need guys that can cover ground.
The Lakers fought back from a 19-point deficit, getting a big performance from Chris Kaman, scoring 27 points. It was mostly about the bench guys for the Lakers bringing them back into the game: The players in the starting lineup combined to shoot 28.6% from the field and score 24 points, while Jordan Hill with 15 points and Kendall Marshall scoring 13 and adding 11 assists helped put the Lakers in a position where they could have won the game.
More bad news for the Lakers besides the loss, which is pretty much normal? Steve Nash is injured again, tweaking the same leg he fractured last season after running alongside Kirk Hinrich and getting hit along the way. The Lakers don’t think it’s going to be something with long-term consequences, but they a really aren’t in a position where they can afford to lose more players, even if their only goal this season is to look respectable on the floor.
Chicago used only 8 players, and got a strong performance from Taj Gibson, in the lineup once again, scoring 18 points. Kirk Hinrich added 17 and D.J. Augustin put in another strong performance off the bench with 15 points. The Bulls, holding the Lakers to 87.9 points per 100 possessions were also perfect from the line, making all 17 shots, while the Lakers managed to shoot only 11 free throws.
We wanted to throw the first punch. We started off the game just going to Taj and he set the tone for us in the post. It was very important to close this one out, being the last game of the trip. That’s something we have to work on — keeping our foot on the gas pedal and not relaxing. We didn’t do that today, but we’ll definitely take the win. The whole time I’ve been here we’ve had some real tough injuries and we’ve always been at the egde, but we always crawl and fight our way back. That’s our mindset. We’ve got young guys, new guys, and they believe in the same thing. We believe we’ve got a shot at the playoffs. We believe in each other. And that shows by the way we play.
The Bulls are now at .500 again (25-25), putting them at 6th place in the Eastern conference. They are four games ahead of the Detroit Pistons at 9th.