So apparently I can just never write Bulls-Heat games up on the day of. At least we won this one, it would have been not fun to write a blame game about last night. But we'll get to the unpleasantness later, let's start with the fun stuff.
CJ Watson- 30%
CJ earned every bit of that +38. It's been a little bit rough for CJ as of late, what with JL3 more than occasionally outplaying him with Derrick out, but last night he was great. And I don't think just because Derrick was making him look good by comparison. CJ was taking smart shots and playing strong defense (even on Wade for a few possessions).
There were a lot of good players last night, but CJ gets an extra 10% for having the presence of mind to pump fake and get out of D-Wade's way. I was getting ready to go off on him for making himself unbalanced, but upon further review if CJ shoots right away it would have been thrown into the 5th row.
Speaking of "throwing things into the third row", Taj was sensational. He only had 1 block in the box score, but he altered way more shots than that and as usual changed the game when he was in defensively. I firmly believe Taj could be a DPOY candidate if he was averaging more than 20 minutes a game.
My big worry with Taj, although it's a few years off, is that Taj is going to play his way into a contract too big for us to offer him. Boozer and Noah are going to be pulling down 8 figures for the Bulls for the next several years, but if I was playing a pickup game and had my choice of Bulls big men, I'd pick Taj first right now. Again, I know this isn't a concern for today, but I can't help but wonder if it's part of the reason he's averaging 20 minutes per game.
After posts like this one from last year, I didn't think I'd see a Heat-Bulls game where Kyle and Boozer were our two leading scorers. But Kyle is turning it on at the right time from the field right now, dropping 5-6 from downtown, including that Dan Majerle-esque dagger from about 30. More importantly, Korver has been so much improved defensively it's absurd. I used to be stressed out about Fredo's defense when he was on the court. Now he's an improvement over Rip Hamilton, and is almost making TBN expendable against most NBA teams.
Turkish D- 10%
How do you go 0-2 from the field and end up +25? By altering every shot Taj doesn't, and pulling down huge rebounds. I feel like we forget that Turkish was hurt for some of the Heat series, and it's not a little matter. Making Wade and James throw up more difficult shots when they go to the hole all game is going to wear them down over the course of a long playoff series, and it's nice that the Bulls always have at least one above average defensive player on the court at all times, and sometimes two. Three of the four 5-man units that have a defensive rating under .9 (which is pretty darn good) have Asik in for Noah. (All 4, of course, have Gibson)
Don't let the -15 fool you, Boozer is the only reason the game wasn't over by halftime. Smart, open shots, mixed with some aggressive basket-attacking, which is when Boozer is at his best. Boozer was actually in line for a lot more credit, but then he went back to Dr. Jeckyl in the 2nd half and started taking stupid contested fallaways until he was pulled. As Sam says all the time, "towards the basket, Booze!"
Luol Deng- 5%
I suppose I'm shortchanging Lu a little, since he hit some clutch shots and played much improved defense over the Melo torch-job the other day. But we saw some of the bad Deng, too, settling for too many jumpers instead of finding lanes to the basket, especially when LeBron wasn't guarding him. It might, of course be a result of him playing 43 minutes last night, which we'll get to shortly.
Low? I give credit to TT for sitting Derrick at the end of the game and overtime, and completely rolling with the Bench Mob to win this game. That being said, I think if Derrick doesn't come back in late in the 4th at all, the Bulls win comfortably. He said after the game CJ needed a rest, but I'm calling BS on that since Taj came in at about the same time, and he wasn't getting pulled for Noah until he fouled out in OT. No, the best case scenario for TT was Derrick coming in for the last few minutes and helping the Bulls win, so there's no story about it the next day. Instead it was obvious Derrick was actively hurting the Bulls on both ends, and TT probably held on a possession too long. If the Heat go with the Wade-LeBron-Battier-Bosh-Turiaf 5 in crunch time in the playoffs, I hope TT follows the pattern of this game. On the most important possession of the game for the Heat, the 5 on the floor to defend them was TBN-Deng-JFB-Taj-Asik. That's why I love TT. But if you have that much trust in those guys, why not see them more often?
I said Korver was making TBN obsolete against most teams, but not the Heat. Ronnie guards Wade as well as anyone in the NBA, and some of those late shots Wade hit by praying them in, through no fault of Ronnie's. We might not need him more than 12 minutes a game to beat the Knicks and whoever we'll see in round 2 (knock on wood), but we'll need Ronnie against the Heat.
JFB was on the court for some of the most key possessions of the game (which I fully support, TT). So why the hell can't he play for 6 minutes in the 2nd quarter and get Deng a little more rest? I really need this explained to me.
Derrick- I'm just going to skip the negative stuff we can talk about here and focus on the positive. Derrick got a lot of love from ESPN today for being a true professional and team player, and being "the first off the bench to congratulate guys" last night. But that's not entirely true. JL3 and Boozer were always the first ones up. Derrick said and did all the right things, and was in the huddle at timeouts and encouraging CJ and whatnot. But you could tell inside he wasn't happy with the game. And I like that about Derrick. I want my alpha dog to be angry when he has a bad game, regardless of the outcome. I want him to take ownership of it. That's the way Derrick's wired, and it's going to help in the long run.
Joakim- I don't know what to say about Jo, though. There have been too many games lately where Jo has been our 4th best big man for my tastes. You can't use the "he's not in shape" excuse anymore, it's mid-April, Jo. I want to see this Joakim back, soon. We need him for the playoffs: