Seriously, burn those green uniforms.
On a night when the Bulls leapfrogged Boston to take a half game lead in the Eastern Conference, wearing green seemed like an homage to the Celtics, not St. Patrick's Day. In tandem with their red warm-ups, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and the rest of the Bulls came out of the tunnel looking more like the Chicago Santa Clauses than the team we've been watching all year.
Despite the basketball equivalent of Heinz's failed green ketchup experiment, the short-handed Bulls pulled away late from the depressing Washington Wizards to win their 7th in a row, and their 30th of the season at the United Center. Even though the Wizards played without 3/5 of their starting lineup, the Bulls only held a four-point advantage at halftime due to a red-hot first half from Wiz rookie Jordan Crawford and shaky 2nd quarter offense by Chicago.
As predicted in our preview, the Bulls got contributions up and down the roster with Noah and Boozer sitting, with seven players scoring 8 or more points. Much-maligned guard Keith Bogans had his best game of the year, scoring 17 points and going 5-10 from downtown.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has brought this team together, clearly defined players' roles, masterminded a suffocating defense and will likely be among the finalists in the Coach of the Year conversation. But playing Luol Deng 43 minutes in a game that wasn't even close in the 4th quarter will not go on the list of this year's highlights. Already 5th in the NBA in MPG, Deng took a hard fall with two minutes left in the contest, landing on his hip. And while he turned out to be okay (not great, as he grimaced for the rest of the game), it seemed reckless to have him on the floor so late against such on over-matched opponent.
Rose played within himself, meaning he had by his standards an average game (23 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds) and distributed the ball well to his teammates. It seems crazy to think that such a box score has become mundane for followers of Rose, but being an MVP candidate carries with it lofty expectations. His best play of the night, however, was when he saved a ball while diving out of bounds with less than a minute left in garbage time, drawing appreciation from fans and teammates alike. He probably wouldn't want to hear it, but plays like that are what make him such a great leader at 22 years old.
For the Wizards, Javale McGee was equal parts impressive and depressing, putting up an amazing 12 blocks, the most in a single NBA game in nearly 10 years. However he also air-balled jumpshots, took plays off on defense and ultimately, got a technical for yelling/hanging on the rim after notching his first career triple-double while his team was down 20 points. The Wizards must be the unhappiest bunch of players in recent memory. Remember when John Wall did the Dougie dance at the beginning of the season and was brimming with excitement? Neither does he.
- Scalabrine got off the bench early to the delight of the crowd, but elected to run out the clock at the end of the game, disappointing fans to no end. Probably for the best, though, as a Scalabrine 3 to put the Bulls over 100 points and into free Big Mac territory would likely have blown the roof off the United Center
- Per @bullsblogger, Benny the Bull made sure to pants one of the Wizards players during pregame warm-ups. Still one of the best mascots in pro sports.
- After being fouled trying a tip-in with 1.1 seconds left in the first half, officials ruled Kurt Thomas was not in the act of shooting, much to the chagrin of announcers Neil Funk and Stacey King. So what happens? Kurt Thomas takes the inbounds pass and nails his first 3 pointer in 6 teams, 384 games and 7797 minutes.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks