This one was sure better than the last game against the Charlotte Hornets eh? The Chicago Bulls certainly got up for this one after the debacle that happened in Charlotte the other week, by playing a well rounded game that included big stops and scores when needed.
The first quarter started out like most Bulls first quarters do, rather slow, but as usual Pau Gasol is a guy the Bulls commonly go to for the beginning of games to get him going. Gasol would impose his will in the first stanza, scoring seven of the Bulls first 11 points. The score at the time was 13-11, Hornets.
Nikola Mirotic was a disappointment in this one after having a nice game against Philadelphia. The Hornets went time and time again at Mirotic and more teams are noticing he is the man to go at when the Bulls are on defense. Teams have been regularly putting him in pick and roll scenarios and he looks lost at times helping or edging. Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg would be displeased with the effort from the starters and called a timeout with the Hornets leading, 19-14.
Hoiberg then decided to shuffle things up a bit at the 4:47 mark and went with Kirk Hinrich, who played for only the second time this year, along with Tony Snell and Joakim Noah. Hinrich played a solid 10 minutes of action and looked good moving out there. Instead of going with Aaron Brooks, Hoiberg decided to give his vet some run.
Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin had their way with Brooks on the floor in their last meeting, but that didn't happen tonight as Hinrich did his job, helping the Bulls race back and tie the game at 23 by the end of the first quarter.
Derrick Rose would check back in to start the second and the front court would be manned by Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah who were cleaning up the glass on fellow bigs Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes. The Bulls would get their first lead of the game at 31-30 after a Doug McDermott three.
The Hornets played into the Bulls hands and decided to go really perimeter oriented and shot a lot of jump shots rather than going at the Bulls defense. Steve Clifford saw enough as the Bulls' lead got as high as eight with 5:57 remaining in the first half. The Hornets would not let the half close the way the Bulls wanted and crept back, cutting the deficit to 42-40 after a Nicolas Batum three-pointer, who torched the Bulls all night.
Hinrich in timely fashion answered and brought the lead back up to five. Aside from the lack of defense Aaron Brooks usual brings, Hinrich brought no stagnation to the offense and it looked crisp in his limited minutes. With Aaron Brooks it's all or nothing and no in between. Fred Hoiberg would be smart to play Hinrich more especially when matchups dictate play.
Chicago didn't keep their foot on the gas and the Hornets would come back to make it 50-46, still in favor of the Bulls. The half would close on a Pau Gasol jumper who played the best for the Bulls, nearly notching a double-double at nine points and nine rebounds. The Chicago Bulls as a whole look better when they are winning the rebounding category as they did in the first half, 30-25.
The second half brought lots of excitement, but the most came in the final quarter. Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol really have good chemistry with their pick and pop and it was on full display in the second half. The Bulls just could not stop Charlotte from nailing three's. as the team hit six out of their 15 for the game in this quarter.
The Hornets would take their first lead of the game since early in the second quarter from Nicholas Batum free throws to put the game at 64-62. Aaron Brooks made his first appearance at 4:56 remaining as Hoiberg looked for a spark to stop the bleeding. By the end of the third quarter, Charlotte would lead 75-73.
Batum would keep the Hornets alive the whole second half, but the Bulls have a man of their own in the form of Jimmy Butler.
The fourth and final quarter brought the fans of Chicago a back and fourth entertaining bonanza. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson continued to look like the better duo that Hoiberg typically deployed in this game, and the defense was stifling.
Joakim Noah may not do it on the scoreboard but he makes the championship plays that typically go unnoticed. Noah in Noah fashion had six assists and cleaned up as usual on the glass notching 18 rebounds in 23 minutes, seven being offensive. As for his partner in crime down low, Taj Gibson may be the most consistent Bulls big night in and night out. When he checks into the game you know what you're getting and rarely do you complain as a fan.
For the Bulls in this game it was not Jeremy Lin giving them trouble, it was Jeremy Lamb who is starting to make a name for himself in his new setting. Lamb would score eight big points in the quarter, having two of the three three-pointers the Hornets would make. The score would stand at 88-87 in favor of the Bulls after a Lamb layup that prompted a Bulls timeout. After that timeout the Bulls big three awoken, starting with Jimmy Butler getting a basket and two free throws. Then his big money backcourt teammate Rose got a basket of his own to make the score 94-89. After that timeout it was all Bulls as their big three would finish with the last 12 points (four points from Gasol).
Batum who would be the high man for the Hornets, scoring 28 points and making a huge three to make the deficit 98-95 Bulls. Pau Gasol would go to the line the next play and make two clutch free throws to make it a two possession game at 100-95. Marvin Williams soon after made a quick jumper. The Bulls would get possession only to have Butler get a quick turnover with a chance to seal the game. The Hornets would call timeout and never have a chance after that as Lamb missed a bad three-point attempt. Jimmy Butler would then close the game on the ensuing possession after a smart timeout and drawn up play where Rose isolated the defense then kicked to him to end the game at 102-97.