Hey, so you know how the Bulls were supposed to win games without Derrick Rose by grinding them out defensively? Every game was going to be 85-81? Ringing any bells?
Yeah, well the Bulls aren't buying it.
Going on the road to face the Cleveland Cavaliers should have been a close game. The Bulls are probably better than the Cavs, but not by a ton, and being in Cleveland should have mitigated that.
But then the game started, and things got ugly fast.
Carlos Boozer hit some shots early, even throwing down a pair of first quarter dunks (!!!). He finished 7/11 from the field for 19 points and went 5/7 from the free throw line, showing a lot more aggressiveness than he's shown the last two years. He also notched 6 assists.
And after a first half that the Bulls dominated, Cleveland tried to get back into it before Rip Hamilton took over and pushed them back. He finished with 19 points on 8/12 shooting, including 14 points in the third quarter. Nate Robinson produced off the bench, putting up 16 points and 12 assists after Kirk Hinrich struggled with foul trouble.
Really, this was an all-around team effort. Five players — Boozer, Hamilton, Robinson, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng — scored in double figures. Hinrich had 9, and Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli all had 8 off the bench, although Belinelli's points came mostly in garbage time.
The most important stat? The team shot 63.8% from the field. No, that's not a typo. Cleveland, on the other hand, shot just 40.5%. Hinrich and the rest of the defense basically shut down Kyrie Irving — 14 points, 6/15 from the field, 4 assists — and the Cavs offense basically crumbled from there. The defense looked great. The rotations were sharp, and they forced 17 turnovers, which turned into 21 points on the other end.
Of course, the offense won't play like this every night. John Hollinger summed it up best:
Cleveland gave up 64% shooting, at home, to Rose-less Bulls. How is that even possible?— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) November 3, 2012
This won't last, but it was certainly fun for a night.
Player o' the Game: Carlos Boozer. 19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists.
Boozer set the tone by scoring the first points of the game and subsequently putting down the two aforementioned dunks. He got to the free throw line, he made jumpers, he shared the ball. He only played 27 minutes, too, so his stats could have been even more impressive. He was exactly what the Bulls want him to be tonight.
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