With rookie phenom Derrick Rose missing his first game of the year, Kirk Hinrich rose to the occasion.
There were times I forgot Rose was out, as Hinrich continued to find teammates while hitting jumpers. Oh, and his defense was as effective as always, grabbing three steals.
Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah both continued their impressive years with double-doubles, again providing energy and enthusiasm for Chicago.
The announcers at TNT kept droning on about how Thomas should have 10 blocks a game. This was after the sequence where he blocked, saved, and moved the ball up to John Salmons for two.
I couldn't remember that Thomas had another block, and looking at the box score after the game, I was right. But for the last quarter I had to listen how Thomas didn't try hard enough to get 10.
From a fan's perspective, it would be incredible if Thomas was averaging five a game. Thomas has already come so far this season that I can get over that. Hell, he had five assists against the Pistons.
His shooting is getting better as well. After his steal late in the game, Thomas drove to the hoop connecting high off the backboard while driving the foul, another testament to his maturity.
I am continually impressed by Joakim Noah. There was one play late in the game where the Bulls recovered a defensive rebound up by double digits. Salmons had the ball and Noah noticeably told him to reset it back to Hinrich.
I thought trading for Salmons and Miller would be an excellent chance for the Bulls to really make a move in 2010. Rose would mature and they could have an impressive line-up.
However, this team has found a strategy that works. It has worked for five of the last six games.
It must be noted that three of those wins were at home, and struggles have continued on the road for the team.
The difference from the beginning of the season is without a doubt noticeable. If they continue their play, they could end up as the seventh. To me, it doesn't really matter whether the Bulls play the Cavaliers or the Celtics.
I am just glad to see this young team taste the playoffs again. They may go out the first round, but I think it is important to test them—especially Bulls franchise player Derrick Rose to see how he performs.
One last thought: Remember Ben Wallace at the line? Thomas, Miller, and Noah all made me smile when reaching the charity stripe, hitting 10-of-13.
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