After what can really only be described as depressing performances in games two, three and four by the Bulls, they returned home and managed to not totally embarrass themselves, although the game itself was ugly beyond belief. Game six will be in Philadelphia on Thursday, and there’s a possibility that Joakim Noah could be back in time to play. But for now, it’s on to the game balls for the guys that are largely responsible for tonight’s win.
OVERALL — PF Taj Gibson (8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks)
Sure, his statline isn’t particularly impressive, but he came into the game in the first half and completely changed the dynamic of the game. A Bulls team that had looked flat for much of the previous three games and was showing more of the same to start things off suddenly started to show some life and managed to take a nine point lead into halftime. Taj also rolled his ankle in the third quarter and returned to give solid minutes in the fourth quarter after entering to a solid ovation from the United Center crowd. Just a great overall performance. The Bulls will need more of the same to survive game six in Philly.
I feel bad not mentioning Ronnie Brewer here, who also provided a huge energy boost and was an integral part of the Bulls’ winning effort, but them’s the breaks. There’s always game six, I suppose.
OFFENSE — SF Luol Deng (24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals)
Luol really stepped up when the Bulls needed him tonight. He turned the ball over a few times early on, but nailed some HUGE threes down the stretch to bail the Bulls out of frankly poor offensive possessions. He shot over 50% from the field and went 4 of 5 from downtown. Oddly enough, the only three he missed was the most open of the five, when he ran into the shot in transition off of a steal and couldn’t put the shot down. But the others definitely made up for that.
Also, we’re honoring him for his offense here, but he was in contention for the defensive game ball too, for his work on Andre Iguodala. Iguodala managed to go just 4/19 from the field and 1/6 from downtown today and was largely a non-factor offensively.
DEFENSE — C Omer Asik (4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks)
Much like Gibson, Omer’s statline really doesn’t do the performance justice. Filling in admirably for Noah, Asik was able to consistently force Philadelphia’s penetrators to shoot over his incredibly long arms. Those three blocks go along with countless contests of shots at the rim, forcing the Sixers out to the perimeter, where they regressed hard to the mean after being on fire over the last few games.
Also, much like with Deng, we’re talking about Omer’s defense, but his offense is worth mentioning as well. He was actually catching passes and finished a few layups around the rim, something the offense-starved Bulls could really use going forward.