Somewhere, Mike Krzyzewski is smiling down from his perch atop basketball’s Mt. Olympus after that Bulls game. Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy (all former Coach K disciples) propelled the Bulls to their most impressive win of the season Monday night, a 96-81 victory over the talented Cleveland Cavaliers. The trio, who combine with Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson to form what I call the “Dukie Dandy Line” for Chicago, earned the game ball for their outstanding stretches of play that propelled their new team to victory.
While questions remain about the Bulls depth, Tom Thibodeau has identified a proficient second line that brings Hinrich, Dunleavy and Gibson onto the floor to join Deng and Boozer for short 5 minute intervals at the end of the first and third quarters. Tonight, Thibs was forced to use the group to close the game after foul trouble forced Joakim Noah out early in the 4th quarter and Derrick Rose hobbled off with an apparent hamstring injury with three minutes to play. The group proved to be up to the challenge, outscoring the Cavs 13-6 over the last 3:15 to close out a win. On the night, the group combined for 59 points, 27 boards and 16 dimes.
The “Dukie Dandy Line” is an interesting mix of players. While they don’t have Derrick Rose playmaking ability and Joakim Noah’s fulsome energy, the line offers great offensive versatility. Boozer and Gibson’s passing ability allow the Bull’s to play inside out, forcing double teams and creating open shots for Hinrich, Dunleavy and Deng. The line has also proven to be effective at spacing the floor to open space for down the lane cuts that create kickout and penetration opportunities. This motion offense happens, coincidentally, to be the staple of Coach K’s offense at Duke.
It will be interesting to see how this group continues to develop as the season progresses and if Thibodeau continues to use the “Dukie Dandy Line” in the rotation together. He will be hard pressed to find a reason to break the group up after their strong statement Monday night.