The Bulls scored 100+ points for the ninth straight game en route to a solid 101-92 victory over the Celtics on Thursday night. Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Pau Gasol led the way once again, with balanced contributions from down the roster.
Rose turned in another very encouraging night, scoring 18 points on 9/16 shooting with three assists and seven rebounds. Rose has been aggressive lately, attempting more shots around the basket and converting at a good rate. He only took one three in this game.
Rose played 34 minutes for the second straight game, a little too much after coming off a soft tissue injury (hamstring) in my opinion. Muscle tweaks are the easiest to reinjure and can lead to a domino effect of injuries that only get more serious. It’s a little weird that Hoiberg has pushed Rose since returning while electing not to play Aaron Brooks or E’Twaun Moore at all. A bit Thibs-ian, and something to continue monitoring.
Jimmy Butler tied his career-high with 10 assists for the second straight game. He struggled from the floor but was still able to add 19 points. Butler is evolving into an even more complete player after winning Most Improved Player last season. Even on nights when he can’t get his own offense going–the Celtics did a fantastic job swarming Jimmy–he’s finding ways to leverage his talent into positive offense for the Bulls. Go vote for him for the All-Star Game!
Pau Gasol continued his run of inspired play. He grabbed 18 boards along with 17 points in 35 very effective minutes. While the big guy still struggles to move laterally on defense, there has been a stark change in his effort and effectiveness. After playing better with Gasol off the floor early in the season, the Bulls have thrived with him in the game lately. Aside from the defensive adjustments, it seems Pau is doing a much improved job fitting into a motion offense and embracing the new system. I do not think I would trade this guy if you care about winning this season.
Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson each had quiet, but effective games. Mirotic hit a couple big shots on his way to 11 points and eight boards. He got absolutely torched by Jae Crowder to start the game, and it’s somewhat concerning that Fred Hoiberg hasn’t discovered the futility of playing Niko at small forward. Gibson finished with 10 points, five boards, and three dimes. The increased passing from Gibson of late has wildly improved his offensive value; he’s no longer a black hole of turnovers every post possession.
Another effective game from Tony Snell, who is finally starting to find a bit of consistency on the offensive side of the ball. He had 10 points, though still only 1/3 from inside the arc. Doug McDermott also encouragingly hit 3/4 from deep after struggling for the last week or two. Hopefully that got him back on track going forward.
The Celtics were without Avery Bradley, one of their best players. Still, Boston is a frisky team without a true star, so the absence of any one player doesn’t altogether change their identity too significantly. Jae Crowder continued to play excellent “three and D” ball, though at this point we should acknowledge his growing offensive abilities. Jimmy Butler-type leaps basically never happen, but Crowder is quickly developing into a potential All-Star type player.
Coming up: the Bulls take on the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday afternoon.