The Chicago Bulls came into tonight's game against the Atlanta Hawks with a skeleton crew. Entering the second night of a back-to-back after playing Luol Deng and Taj Gibson basically the entire game on Friday night, the Bulls went up against the Hawks with no Carlos Boozer, no Joakim Noah and no Kirk Hinrich.
It didn't matter, because they're the Bulls, and none of their players get tired. Chicago ended up blowing out the opposition 93-76.
Deng was amazing, leading all scorers with 25 points in 46 minutes, and Gibson dominated the interior on both ends of the court, grabbing 19 rebounds in 45 minutes. Two other Bulls (Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler) also crossed the 40-minute barrier, and yet the Hawks still couldn't find an answer.
This was a game where the Bulls sorely needed an offensive punch to come from an unlikely source if they wanted to win. Nate Robinson gave them that punch.
In the second half, he took a few questionable shots from behind the arc, but his first three attempts went in. One of his heat checks came midway through the fourth quarter, and the miss immediately led to a Hawks basket the other way. But this is Nate Robinson we're talking about, and with him you always have to take the good with the bad.
Tonight his overall play was definitely a positive. He scored 20 points in 40 minutes.
Hamilton's first half of play was incredibly disappointing, as he finished 1-for-6 from the floor with no trips to the free-throw line. He was also routinely slow delivering the ball in pick and rolls, which really hurt Chicago's offense the few times he was asked to run one.
Hamilton finished the game 3-for-14 from the floor in just 22 minutes of play. He had six points.
Butler was an effective defender, as he usually is. But his hustle on the boards was awesome, finishing the game with 10 boards and 16 points on 16 shots.
The youngster continues to impress on both ends, allowing Chicago to go small when they're either forced to do so or pressed into it by a certain matchup.
Where he finds the energy is unclear, but after playing nearly all 48 minutes Friday night in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Luol Deng was absolutely incredible tonight. He played 46 minutes, grabbed 14 rebounds and scored a game-high 25 points (on an efficient 10-for-21 shooting night nonetheless!).
I'm realizing there's risk for hyperbole in the following statement: Deng's overall performance tonight (don't forget he was forced to defend Josh Smith for much of the contest) might be the most impressive by any player this entire season.
Tonight he proved just how incredible his sheer will can be.
Not sure you can write enough positive things about what Taj Gibson did tonight. Getting the rare start at center, he was an absolute monster from the opening tip, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds in 45 minutes. (This was less than 24 hours after playing all 48 minutes in a tough loss against the Brooklyn Nets.)
Gibson protected Chicago's rim, and imposed his will on Atlanta's, scoring 19 points on 14 shots. He had three blocks and just three fouls on a night when his team needed him to play big minutes. Such an amazing performance from him.
Late in the first half, Belinelli continued to show he's more than a three-point shooter by driving hard to the basket and drawing a shooting foul. Unfortunately, that was basically all the offensive production he'd give for a while, missing six of his first seven shots.
He finished with five points on 1-for-8 shooting in 28 minutes. Uncharacteristically positive, however, were the five assists.
With Chicago's bench stretched thin, names that don't normally play, such as Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague, were pressed into major minutes earlier than usual. And by more minutes than usual, I mean the two combined for 12, scoring just two points on a collective four shots.
Despite all those injuries at multiple positions, they were the only two Bulls to enter from the bench on a night when Tom Thibodeau probably could've gone deeper.