Bulls-Nuggets: Notes From Wednesday Night’s Win


It wasn’t the most inspiring performance from the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night in the second of four straight games at United Center, but it was a 99-90 victory to clinch their 11th win of the year.

Who are the Chicago Bulls? You’d have a better idea finding Carmen Sandiego than trying to give a full explanation of the Bulls’ identity.

But, through 16 games, the Bulls have won 11 of those games, including seven of eight at home after a 99-90 win against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night. Pau Gasol led all scorers with 26 points and pulled down 19(!) rebounds in the nine-point win for the Bulls.

To put Gasol’s big night in a different perspective, the starting five for Denver grabbed 21 rebounds as a five-man unit.

Wednesday wasn’t the prettiest night for the Derrick RoseJimmy Butler backcourt duo, as the pair combined to shoot 8-for-33 for 31 points against Denver. Rose did have nine assists, while Butler made all eight of his free throw attempts and grabbed six rebounds.

The bench chipped in 33 points, led by Doug McDermott‘s 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson combined for 17 points and 22 rebounds in their reserve roles. (Once again, Denver’s starting five grabbed 21 as a unit.)

There were some notable things from Wednesday, starting with Gasol’s superb performance on the offensive end.

#FIBAPau back

Wednesday was Gasol’s best performance of the season for a trio of reasons. First off, Denver had no legitimate options to cover him on that end of the floor. Second, the Bulls did a good job of getting him going early (which is something they like to do). Third, he got to his spots on the floor (and the ball found him).

This was the opening set of the game for the Bulls on the offensive end. Gasol got a couple good screens in the paint by Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler that helped Gasol get to the left block with no troubles at all. Nikola Jokic did a good job to contest Gasol’s opening attempt of the night, but once Rose made the right pass to Gasol, you could put it in the books.

Plays like the one above is one of the spots on the floor that Gasol can thrive in the offense. He’s a great option on either block and when the Bulls got him going in “the pop game” (as Gasol likes to call it), Denver really had no answer for him.

Green is good.

Joakim Noah might be Joakim Noah again

It’s been tough for Joakim Noah since finishing fourth in the NBA MVP voting two seasons ago. But, in the last two games since the Bulls have returned home from their “Circus Trip”, Noah has really shown flashes of his old self.

In games against San Antonio and Denver (both Bulls wins), Noah has scored 17 points, grabbed 22 rebounds and has dished out eight assists in roughly 58 minutes of game action. The numbers may not be as high as some of the games during his dynamic 2013-14 season, but his energy and defensive presence are still there.

(This wasn’t great from Denver defensively, but seeing Noah make plays like this one is encouraging for the Bulls moving forward.)

Nikola Mirotic‘s injury could be Bobby Portis‘ gain

On a drive by Emmanuel Mudiay on Wednesday, Nikola Mirotic was inadvertently struck by Mudiay’s right elbow and suffered a concussion and a facial laceration during the first quarter.

It didn’t look too bad at first, but when you watch Mirotic after the elbow, you could tell he was woozy and a little bit out of it. He laid on the baseline for a few minutes after the play.

Just like the National Football League, Mirotic will have to pass the league-mandated protocol to play again, which could mean more time for rookie Bobby Portis.

The Bulls have one of the league’s most crowded frontcourts, but Portis has the versatility to play both positions up front (should the Bulls ever decide to play “small ball”). Portis has only appeared in three games all season and two of them were at the end of blowouts. He’s a confident and passionate young player, so even though the Bulls are losing a piece in Mirotic for a bit, they may gain a vital one in Portis.

Next: Pau Gasol is Finding Comfort in Fred Hoiberg's Offense

Final thoughts:

Wednesday night wasn’t exactly what should have been expected for the Bulls. Yeah, they won their 11th game in the first 16, but this team still has that “play down to the competition” syndrome. They trailed by four points after three quarters to a banged-up Denver team that had lost seven straight games coming into Chicago.

The Bulls flipped the switch (sort of) and scored 31 in the fourth quarter and held Denver to 11 points in the final 7:37 of the contest, but this team still seems like it’s missing their stride. It’s December and they’re only a game out of first in the East, so it’s not like the panic button is being pressed. They’re doing fine, despite not looking that impressive in the process.

This team is just … weird.