The best team in the East right now? The Chicago Bulls. They might also have the best of the point guards after a long time, with another great game and fourth quarter from Derrick Rose, outplaying John Wall in a 99-91 win over the Washington Wizards.
On the road, of course. The Bulls seem to thrive and play their better brand of basketball when away from the comforts of home for some reason. Rose scored 25 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter to make if our wins in a row for the 19-9 Bulls, the last three coming against some of the best in the league – Memphis, Toronto and now Washington, struggling to make shots from close range or stop the Bulls from scoring inside.
This time there was no Jimmy Butler with a tremendous game. Pau Gasol scored 18 points with 9 rebounds to help him, and a few players added a bit: Jimmy Butler scored 11 points but was only 4-of-13 from the field. Taj Gibson scored 12 points in just 19 minutes, not missing a single field goal attempt and Aaron Brooks, possibly the best backup point guard in the NBA right now added 13 points and 6 assists in the 26 minutes of basketball he had.
It wasn’t a bad game from Wall, scoring 18 points and adding 9 assists, but this was more than just two great point guards going at it. The Bulls superiority in the paint and around the rim, something they didn’t have last season when both Nene and Marcin Gortat proved to be too much for them in the playoffs, made the difference. It’s not just the big men who give a team that advantage, but the additions of Gasol and Mirotic (7 points in 14 minutes) have certainly turned and changed the balance of power.
The Bulls were once again not in their full lineup. This time? Kirk Hinrich with some knee pains, which should probably keep him out of the Christmas game (vs the Lakers) as well. Doug McDermott according to Tom Thibodeau isn’t making any progress, and won’t be back for at least another month if not more. He hasn’t been an integral part of the Bulls’ success so far this season, but it never hurts to have another shooter.
Interestingly enough, Rose and the Bulls have beat the Wizards in each of the five times he was healthy and on the floor to face John Wall. Wall tried to downplay the whole rivalry thing that probably doesn’t even exist, but it’s difficult to forget about the two players being in the same position and the stars of their teams. Wall has been establishing his presence and dominance while Rose has been away, but it seems the former MVP is making his way back to the forefront of the positional battles.
The Bulls just might be the best team in the NBA, although certain results against Western teams show that to be false. However, the last few games, with the lineup and rotation finally coming together and sticking through for more than one or two games, are showing the potential of this group and what they can achieve. Obviously, it’s all about Rose remaining healthy, but unlike last year, the rust if off, and for the most part, he’s playing like the point guard they were missing for so long.