Monday, January 10, 2005

Ugly games, pretty record.

In my last post I looked at the Bulls upcoming homestand and saw a bright future. So far, so good, with wins against Utah, Boston, and Golden State. If these games have taught me anything, its that the Bulls can win ugly. Their defense remains a constant, and that alone can keep them in games, especially against the mediocre teams in the league. Its nice to know that they can win with contributions coming from unlikely sources.

For Monday night's game against Golden State I was again relegated to radio, but I tried my best to follow along through that and the internet stattracker. The Warriors have now lost 6 straight since leading scorer Jason Richardson went down. Beyond simply being their best player, Richardson would've had a big advantage against the smaller Bulls guards, and instead the Warriors had to go with spurts of Speedy Claxton and backup PG Derek Fisher in the same backcourt. Again, it wasn't a pretty win, with the Bulls staying true to form with too many turnovers (18), but they still lead at the half due to their rebounding advantage (and when the opposing starting center is Uncle Cliffy, that is expected) and a little help from the Warriors' awful foul shooting. Not long after the 2nd half began, starter Luol Deng was pulled early and Chris Duhon left soon after with foul trouble.  So with a lineup of Hinrich, Piatkowski, Griffin, Harrington, and Chandler (who continues to dominate the end of games defensively), the Bulls built an insurmountable lead with the now-famous defense holding the Warriors to 2 field goals. The Bulls almost lost their grip, leading to some tense moments after a lackadaisical 4th quarter saw a 21 point lead dwindle to 6 at one point. But nowadays I wasn't even worried about a collapse. What a difference a few wins can do to a fan's confidence.

The upshot of so many minutes for the veterans tonight is the inverse effect on both Deng (who had 2 great games over the weekend) and Ben Gordon. Gordon especially has seen his workload decrease as of late, with only 16 minutes against the Celtics and 11 Monday night.  In this particular game Skiles probably went with an "if it aint broke" philosophy to reason for not putting them back in, but in the big picture it shows once again the quick hook Skiles has with his turnover-prone rookies. I would hope that if the game weren't out of reach the rooks would've been back in, so this way the Bulls get a win with a message still being sent (and re-sent, and re-sent), that turnovers won't be tolerated. (Note: Just heard on ESPN1000 after the game said that Ben Gordon was suffering from a back sprain, which was why he didn't come back into the game)

In addition to the bench production, a former bench player has been tearing it up. With Antonio Davis out for the past 2 games after injuring himself setting a nasty pick against Utah, Othella Harrington has been a revelation in the starting lineup. After 19pts, 10Rebs against the Celtics, Harrington put up 20 more points Monday night. I called for this change a couple of weeks ago, and maybe Harrington's performance can keep AD as a reserve as he eases his old self back from injury. Now if Skiles only listens to my other suggestions...

Coming up: Wednesday against the Sixers followed by the Knicks on Saturday. Near the end of the week look for a special post for the Knicks game.....

Update: Jeff over at Celticsblog has started a message board thread to discuss the Bulls/Celtics matchup from Saturday. Since the two teams have 2 more matchups this month and appear to now be both fighting for the lower rung of the playoffs, what a perfect time to get some discussion going. So go over there, have fun, and contribute so its not all about Al Jefferson :).