Marco Belinelli isn’t exactly lighting it up for the Chicago Bulls this season, but he certainly is coming up big when it matters most, hitting his second game winning shot in five days, as Joakim Noah with some amazing hustle gave him the chance to come up with another “ugly” win.
Yes, there’s nothing pretty about the Bulls offense. The NBA isn’t a league where you can work on things during training, not really. Not with a game every two or three days, not to mention the travelling. The Bulls are what they are since the preseason, which is tough as nails on defense, and hoping that enough hustle and a bit of luck will carry them through without the talent on the offensive side.
Sometimes, just sometimes, Nate Robinson is someone to count on. The tiny point guard, who is shooting only 42% from the field is always a coin-flip of a player when it comes to what you’ll get from him on any given day, finished with 11 points and 7 assists, most of them coming in the fourth quarter as the Bulls came back from a double digit deficit and held the Pistons to only 14 points in the final period.
My biggest asset to the game is energy. We needed a lift and I just had to force the crowd to get out of their seats and give us a boost. I just felt like I was invincible, unstoppable. It’s the Peter Pan theory — you can’t fly without happy thoughts.
And when you look at the Pistons’ road games this season and their overall recent history with the Bulls, it wasn’t a big surprise they couldn’t pull off the win. Despite winning 9 of their last 13 games, they’re only 4-15 on the road this season, while still looking for their first win in the United Center since 2003, and their first win against the Bulls since December 23, 2008.
Nate Robinson wasn’t the only one to come up big for the Bulls. It’s hard to put the finger on just one player that is responsible for everything that’s happened until Derrick Rose comes back, but Joakim Noah is probably the first on the list. Not just his dive after the loose ball to give Belinelli the chance to win the game, but his passion and energy on the floor, not to mention the numbers, grabbing 18 rebounds and scoring 10 points.
Jimmy Butler has been a surprising addition while Luol Deng is nursing his hamstring injury; the small forward scored 18 points to lead the Bulls in the game, averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and some fantastic defense on almost 46 minutes per game since getting his chance in the starting lineup. Carlos Boozer, scoring 16 points and grabbing 6 rebounds may not be worth the money he’s being paid, but he’s certainly having some big games, rotating with Taj Gibson in the frontcourt.
The Bulls aren’t a championship caliber team, but they’re better than we thought they were. Defense and team cohesion, along with relentless coaching from Thibs are keeping them very strong near the top of the Eastern Conference, still without their best player, who’s going to get an easier time when he returns because of all the work that’s being done without him.