CHARLOTTEAs the Bulls nine-game road swing winds down, the results keep getting worse for the opposition. Even without Derrick Rose, who missed the contest with lower back spasms, the Bulls (23-6) annihilated the hapless Bobcats (3-23), 95-64, at Time Warner Cable Arena Friday night.
Were really doing a good job. Were just coming out from the start of the game, getting the lead and then playing with the lead, said newly-named Eastern Conference All-Star Luol Deng. Everyone is just doing their part, which makes it so much easier and its just fun to be out there playing like that.
C.J. Watson, starting in place of Rose, knocked down a three-pointer on the Bulls opening possession, and despite the reigning league MVPs absence, it appeared as if the visitors would pull off their fourth consecutive start-to-finish domination of an inferior opponent.
Our depth is definitely our greatest strength, but obviously we know that we need everybody healthy more than anything when that thing happens at the end, Joakim Noah remarked. This is definitely not a sprint; its a marathon and we need everybody right.
Balanced offense again marked Chicagos quick start, although it was partially mitigated by Bobcats swingman Reggie Williams and forward Boris Diaw getting loose for early buckets.
Still, behind Dengs (12 points) accuracy from deep, Carlos Boozers (16 points, six rebounds) work on the interior and Noahs (17 points, 14 rebounds) energetic play, the Bulls jumped out to a double-digit first-quarter lead. With a stingy defensive effort frustrating a young Charlotte squad, the guests took a 31-16 advantage into the second stanza.
It was just a fun game for us. We just tried to get out early on them, Watson observed. Boozer played great, Jo got some rebounds early and scoring early, and I think thats what really hurt them.
We just go to whoevers hot. Booz was hot early, kept trying to ride him throughout the game and all the open shots came off that.
Added Noah: Well, we play off Booz a lot and he demands a lot of attention out there, so he either scores and kicks it out, and it creates easy offense for everybody else.
Chimed in Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Defensively, the first quarter we were very good. Our big guys played with a lot of energy. C.J. did a great job running the team, making us play with pace. We had a number of guys contribute.
The Bench Mobminus Watson, who was replaced by John Lucas III (11 points) in the second unitextended the gap between the two teams, using typically solid defense, transition offense and more selfless play to flirt with a 20-point lead. Taj Gibsons inside play, Omer Asiks (12 rebounds) presence in the paint, Korvers outside marksmanship and Lucas usual aggressive scoring set the tone.
We did a great job of sharing the ball. We still want to go inside-out. We do a great job of making the extra pass on offense, explained Boozer. Defensively, were still very, very sharp, getting better at our defensive scheme and trying to do a good job of helping each other. Were a help-side defensive team and I think were getting better and better at our system.
I just think weve gotten better. Were not the same team we were. I think weve improved. Guys have gotten great experience to help us out, he continued. When we go to our bench, we dont lose anything. The starting five does a great job of setting the tone and then the second unit, our Bench Mob comes in and takes it up even another notch.
Added Deng: We just keep telling the bench, Dont play the score, just keep working on what weve got to do and try to get better while were out there.
To be honest, though, the inept Bobcats were their own worst enemy, as their inability to finish, keep Chicago off the glass or stop the visitors from getting either point-blank opportunities or open outside looks. As Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reinserted his regulars, his teams winning margin further ballooned, leading to a 56-34 advantage at the intermission.
Jo was great, in every aspect. Running the floor, defense, energy, rebounding, multiple effort, anchoring the defense, passing the ball. Then, Carlos got going, said Thibodeau. A number of guys played well. Lu was Lu. You can count on him every night.
Echoed Deng about Noahs performance: He was great, man. He had a lot of energy. He got second-chance shots. He was getting us second looks and everything. He played great tonight.
Things followed the same pattern after the break, as Boozer and Noah pounded the Bobcats inside and on the other end, continued to defend Charlotte into submission. With backcourt mainstays Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin both sidelined with injuries, the game was an opportunity for first-round draft pick Kemba Walkerlast seasons NCAA player of the year and a national champion at the University of Connecticutto gain experience, for better or worse, while fellow rookie Bismack Biyombo had the chance to battle in the lane.
Unfortunately for the home crowdmany of whom had likely turned out to see the injured Roseflashes from the teams future wasnt enough to prevent an onslaught, as the Bulls showed no signs of letting up. Through the conclusion of three periods, the hosts trailed Chicago, 79-51.
You have to learn how to play with a lead. You have to play tough with a lead, said Thibodeau. Theres a lot of areas where we have to improve upon, but were doing a better job with that as of late.
Extended garbage time, a recurring trend of recent Bulls routs, was the theme of the final frame. Chicagos lead swelled to over 30 points, even as deep reserves like veteran Brian Scalabrinewho, as in almost every city, got a huge ovation when he checked into the contestand rookie swingman Jimmy Butler saw action.
Late-game suspense came in the form of whether the Bobcats would have a double-figure scorerbackup forward Derrick Brown (10 points) finally cracked the barrierand would Scalabrine score (he did) before the final buzzer. In the end, it was just another night for the red-hot Bulls, who will face their first challenge in more than a week Sunday afternoon, when they take on the Celtics in Boston.
Were focused right now. Were just trying to play the right way. Whatever the challenge is, were just trying to play the right way. Were definitely getting better, said Noah. Its a good feeling and theres a big one coming up on Sunday, and we just didnt want to have any letdowns coming into this game. We handled our business.