It was a playoff atmosphere night – Linsanity and the Knicks in town to take on Derrick Rose and the Bulls. A preview of the matchup that would indeed take place if the playoffs started today. The Bulls were without Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, and CJ Watson tonight – so as the saying goes: when one goes down, another steps up. And that was tonight’s theme. This was a grind it out game from the start, neither team able to pull away. But if it wasn’t for the hustle plays from the Chicago Bulls, diving for loose balls and winning 50/50 balls on the offensive glass- this game could have slipped away. The Bulls battled and won it 104-99 sending the Knicks home on a 6 game losing streak. The Bench Mob came through big tonight.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about the MVP. He was a bit frustrated tonight with no-calls as he weaved his way to the rim – he only shot 5-15 in the first half of the game for 13 points. But that didn’t stop him from playing his game. He was on fire in the second half. And he did this:
That monster jam was 2 of his 32 total points – he also had 7 assists and 6 rebounds. He fueled the Bulls with 19 second half points on a more efficient 7-14 shooting.
Taj Gibson was enormous – his energy level paired with pure will and determination was off the charts – he had 15 points and 13 hard earned rebounds – including 8 on the offensive end. Tom Thibodeau remarked post-game that Gibson’s ”second shots in the second half was the difference in the game”. His energy was contagious as the Bulls pounded the Knicks on the boards 56-38, especially the offensive end 22-9. It’s thrilling to see Taj playing his best basketball of the season, and it couldn’t be at a better time.
Jimmy Butler knew he was going to see quality minutes coming into tonight’s game with Luol Deng out – who told him to play hard. Butler, who played lock down defense against Carmelo Anthony in the previous matchup, picked up right where he left off. Jimmy Butler was big time tonight and I think it’s safe to say Thibs can trust him in crucial games. He is a force defensively and though his stat line may not be jam packed, it’s the hustle plays that really made him stand out tonight. Butler said post game that he mirrored his play from that of Taj Gibson tonight: “When I see Taj do it, I’m like ‘Be like Taj’”. Jimmy was essential to tonight’s win – and I can see a future player saying “When I see Jimmy do it, I’m like ‘Be like Jimmy’”.
“That’s the reason why we won. I definitely take off my hat to both of them guys.”
- Rose on Taj and Jimmy.
It wasn’t only these three guys tonight – contributions came from everybody. Ronnie Brewer had a complete all around game with 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Joakim Noah had 12 points and 10 rebounds plus 5 assists – and it should also be noted that his energy from tip-off really ignited the Bulls – he got them started offensively with his aggressiveness under the basket. He should be given a lot of credit for that – he was focused tonight. Kyle Korver was hustlin’ tonight – 9 points and 7 rebounds – plus a lot of diving and grabbing loose balls. Boozer contributed 15 and 7.
The Bulls will look to use their momentum from tonight to thrust them into Wednesday night’s BIG TIME rematch with the Miami Heat.