Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Chicago
This game began in competitive fashion, which is exactly what Chicago fans needed to see. A blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets the night before was demoralizing at best, and they needed a confidence booster before heading back home to take on the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs.
The Bulls have been known all season for their defense, but it was their offense that got going early in this one. They shot 61.9 percent en route to a 31-point first quarter, and they were scoring both at the rim and out on the perimeter.
Unfortunately for Chicago, its world-class defense was allowing Utah to score points, and both teams found success in the paint throughout.
The second half began with Chicago up 58-50, but the Jazz would be the first group to establish momentum. A 9-2 Utah run cut the lead to one, and halfway through the third period, Chicago’s fast-paced offense began to play stagnant, half-court basketball.
The Bulls scored just 11 points in the entire third quarter, and the game ended up tied at 69 apiece heading into the final 12 minutes.
The fourth quarter proved to be the most competitive of the entire contest, as it came down to late-game execution and free-throw shooting. Chicago would ultimately sneak away victorious for a solid cap on a mediocre road trip.
Point Guard: Nate Robinson
Nate Robinson has proven this season that he's more than capable of scoring the basketball. He showed that once again against the Utah Jazz, and he showed it in different spots all over the floor.
When the second quarter began, Robinson went into heat-check mode. He took advantage when the defense backed off him from deep range, but he also showed he can score off the dribble in isolation sets.
Robinson scored the first eight points of the period for Chicago and went into halftime with a team-high 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
The best part about the point guard's play in this one is that he played with a pass-first mentality despite his jump shot falling. He split defenses and got into the lane, and as a result he was able to find teammates both down low and on the perimeter.
En route to an 18-point performance, Robinson dropped nine assists and nailed four of his seven shots from behind the three-point line. He also grabbed four rebounds and had an impact inside despite his frame.
Shooting Guard: Richard Hamilton
Entering this game, the Chicago Bulls were coming off a dreadful performance against the Denver Nuggets. Very few players found their shots in the one-sided battle the night before, and Richard Hamilton was as guilty as anyone when it came to missing open looks.
Friday night, however, saw Hamilton get going early, as he made his first three shots en route to six early points.
What Hamilton did especially well was make quick passes. He may be known as a catch-and-shoot 2-guard, but being known as a catch-and-passer is just as useful when you set up your teammates.
The problem is that after going 3-of-3, the shooting guard missed his next four shots and didn't score another point. Inconsistency has been Hamilton's biggest problem this season, and that ended up being the theme against the Utah Jazz.
Small Forward: Luol Deng
Luol Deng played a quietly efficient game Friday night.
Despite not excelling in any one category, the Chicago Bulls' starting small forward proved that he has the ability to contribute in an all-around manner. He helped crash the boards on both ends, and he scored at a decent rate while also helping facilitate.
The nicest part about Deng's performance for Chicago was that he attacked the rim. You have to be a tough player to attack the frontcourt of the Utah Jazz, and Deng showed that he at least has the mentality when it comes to taking it inside.
Deng finished the contest with 15 points on 42 percent shooting, while collecting an impressive 10 rebounds. Four assists is another great sign, as it shows scoring wasn't the only thing on his mind in this critical win.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer heard the boos all night long as he played in his former home arena. He was hoping to make an impact early in the contest, but foul trouble prevented him from doing just that.
In the first half, Boozer managed to play just 13 minutes. He tied Nate Robinson with a team-high eight shots through two quarters, but unlike Robinson, he managed to make just three of them.
The second half didn't prove to be much better, as he picked up his fourth foul about halfway through the third period.
Boozer picked up a fourth-quarter technical foul, but that seemed to energize him during the final minutes of the contest. It wasn't a pretty performance by any means, and you can't ignore the first three quarters, but the big man managed to score a team-high 19 points and collect five rebounds Friday night.
Center: Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah started at center Friday night despite "ongoing issues with plantar fasciitis in his right foot," according to ESPN's Nick Friedell. He didn't have his usual explosiveness, and that's a big reason he struggled to contribute on the offensive end.
Noah recorded 12 points in 34 minutes, but half of those points came at the foul line, as he missed five of his eight field-goal attempts. The bigger problem was that he had a hard time handling the ball and catching passes.
As good of a defender as Noah can be, he struggled to contain Al Jefferson in half-court settings. The craftiness of the Jazz's center challenged Noah from the game's opening possession, and Jefferson finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds.
Noah did bring down an impressive 11 rebounds, but Jefferson's performance has to be taken into account when evaluating what Noah did when it was all said and done.
Sixth Man: Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson was thrust into the lineup early because of Carlos Boozer's foul trouble, and he made an immediate impact.
In 19 first-half minutes, the backup big man scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and he managed to pull down six rebounds while collecting two steals and two blocks along the way.
He impacted the game down low on both ends of the floor, and he did it without making mistakes.
Gibson's energy was solid throughout, and while he wasn't on the floor at the end of the game, he gave the team toughness in the paint throughout his 31 minutes.
The 27-year-old finished with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, along with eight rebounds.
The Chicago Bulls only played three reserves meaningful minutes against the Utah Jazz, and of the three, only two managed to leave their mark on the final result.
The best game off the bench came from Taj Gibson. He did exactly what he needed to do with Carlos Boozer in foul trouble, providing energy and production on both offense and defense.
The other solid game was had by Marco Belinelli. After missing the game against the Denver Nuggets, the 2-guard shot the ball well in his first game back.
He took eight shots in 29 minutes and made half of them, scoring nine points.
The odd man out in the second unit was Jimmy Butler. This team saw some great play out of the forward while Luol Deng was injured, but his zero points on only one field-goal attempt did nothing to help the Bulls keep momentum.