Fresh off a 34-point drubbing of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors continued their jaunt through the Eastern Conference's supposed elite with a 125-94 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night at the United Center.
The defending champions made a grand opening statement by dropping 34 points in the first quarter, and they never looked back as Stephen Curry paved the way with 25 points and a team-high 11 assists in 34 minutes.
In fact, the Warriors coasted so easily that Curry threw down a left-handed flush in the waning seconds of the third quarter:
As ESPN.com's Ethan Strauss explained, Curry's dunk served as an exclamation point as Golden State opened up a 24-point lead through 36 minutes of play:
It's weird everybody's still here. Thought Steph dunking with his left out of the half court means we all go home— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 21, 2016
Wednesday night was hardly the Warriors' most prolific statistical display of the season, but they received steady contributions across the board to hold a double-digit lead throughout the second half. Klay Thompson finished with 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting, and Harrison Barnes added 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three.
Draymond Green (six points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) and Andre Iguodala (10 points, seven rebounds, three assists) also thrived as the Warriors shot 52.6 percent from the field and assisted on 38 of 50 made baskets.
Ball movement was a major reason the Warriors were able to build a lead early and sustain it. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Warriors tallied 20 assists in the first half—marking the eighth time this season Golden State has recorded at least 20 dimes in either half. All other teams have done so nine times.
As for the Bulls, Derrick Rose actually put forth one of his best individual displays of the season in the blowout loss. The streaky floor general scored a game-high 29 points (12-of-22 shooting), 21 of which came in the first half.
Despite the loss, how about this Rose crossover? https://t.co/oJ6b65WqXk— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 21, 2016
ESPN Stats & Info broke down why Rose's early offensive explosion was so surprising:
Derrick Rose: 21 points in the first half He's scored less than 21 points in a GAME in 29 of the 34 games he's played this year— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2016
Conversely, Pau Gasol mustered a single point on 0-of-8 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Wednesday marked just the third time in Gasol's entire career that he failed to record a made field goal.
Jimmy Butler poured in 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, but it wasn't enough to stabilize a Bulls offense that shot 37 percent from the field and 1-of-20 from three.
According to StatMuse, Wednesday represented the Bulls' second-worst three-point shooting game ever (minimum 20 attempts):
Chicago has now lost five of its last seven games, with the lone wins during that stretch coming over the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls will attempt to snap out of their funk Friday against the Boston Celtics, but head coach Brad Stevens' squad always comes ready for a slugfest. If the Bulls can't get past Boston, they'll have to deal with the Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Warriors, on the other hand, are headed home for a showdown with the Indiana Pacers following a 2-1 road trip. Once Golden State's cross-conference matchup has been decided, the NBA universe will turn its attention to Oracle Arena on Monday night, when the Warriors host the San Antonio Spurs in a possible Western Conference Finals preview.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons, the Warriors have been historically great over the past two games:
The Warriors hadn't won consecutive road games by at least 30 points since 1972-73. The current Warriors did it at CLE and at CHI.— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) January 21, 2016
"If you don't have communication at the defensive end against a team like this, it gets ugly," Rose said, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson.
As a result of Rose's improved play, Chicago's backcourt achieved a rare feat, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Steph Curry & Klay Thompson (45) were outscored by a starting backcourt for the 1st time this season (Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, 52)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2016
"He was tremendous tonight," Green said of Rose, per Bleacher Report's Sean Highkin. "He looks like that guy we used to watch. When he's like that, it's tough to stop."