Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau keeps telling his players that regardless of who’s playing – Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, or Nate Robinson, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, they have what it takes to win every night, against anyone. Most of the time, they seem to actually believe his preaching.
This season isn’t going to end with an NBA title to the Bulls. Fairy-tales don’t exist, and teams that have no offensive identity and not a single guy who can create points when needed to on his own don’t win NBA titles. They barely win playoff series. But the Bulls are built for playoff basketball, at least defensively. They’re an excellent rebounding team, not to mention filled with defensive stopped, individually and as a group. And from time to time, Carlos Boozer puts on the ability that brought him $15 million a season in salary, and Nate Robinson actually looks like a superstar point guard.
Robinson finished with 22 points and 10 assists on 4-8 from beyond the arc. The man is a little wonder, but sometimes he can destroy your entire offensive game. The Bulls are effectively playing without a point guard, putting on a very big lineup, with Kirk Hinrich or Nate Robinson as the only guards on the floor for many minutes, which worked pretty well against the soft Minnesota Timberwolves, beating them 104-97 on the road.
It worked well because the players who should have the ball in their hands, Boozer and Deng, actually got to make decisions. They both finished with 4 assists, while Nazr Mohammed and Jimmy Butler did an excellent job in the paint and on the boards. Despite the Timberwolves making 50% of their field goals in another big game for Derrick Williams scoring 28 points, the Bulls outrebounded the home team 52-32, including 20 offensive rebounds shared between their five big men.
The Timberwolves know what it’s like to be without key players this season, being a walking field hospital with more injuries than anyone else this season. Still, there’s a lesson or two they can learn from the Bulls, as Rubio said after the game.
They could complain about how many guys they’ve got hurt and they don’t do that. They just play aggressive. We have to learn from that. If they can do it, we can do it, too.
The Timberwolves never got closer than 5 points from the Bulls (in the fourth quarter), and it was the first time in two months with a back-to-back road win for Chicago. Again, it doesn’t come with the prettiest of basketball. They’re not even a fast break team that causes tons of turnovers. They just physically overpower anyone in their way aggressive way, which more than 50% is enough to get a win. That might not sound that impressive, but going an entire season without their MVP, who’s probably not going to return this season because of various reasons, makes it actually quite an outstanding feat.
Defense, hustle, defense and rebounding. Every game, for 48 minutes. It’s impossible to comply 100%, but that’s the only way we’re going to see the Bulls beyond April – if that kind of basketball and effort works out for them each and every time. For those who like to see scrappy basketball with a lot of randomness to it, rooting for these Bulls to keep on winning is the thing for you.