If only every trip to Minnesota could be like this one. At a time when Chicago needed a relatively easy victory, The Bulls jumped to an early 11-point lead and never looked back as they dominated the hapless Timberwolves at the Target Center, 108-91.
For only the second time in the Bulls last 25 games, Carlos Boozer notched more than 20 points, going off for 24 points and 14 rebounds. Unfortunately for those Bulls fans who were hoping to see such productivity in tandem with the Bulls starting center, Joakim Noah sat out the contest with a sprained ankle suffered Monday night against the 76ers.
Nevertheless, the Bulls took care of business against the T-wolves, who are so atrocious at defense that coach Kurt Rambis must be suffering from a baker's dozen of ulcers at this point in the season. Chicago emphasized Boozer in the offense early and often, and while he acted a bit of a fool, drawing a tech for throwing the ball at a referee and kicking a ball post-dunk as far into the stands as I've ever seen, he was efficient and effective for the first time in a long time. The Bulls offense is so much more efficient when it operates inside-out, and Boozer's effectiveness allowed the Bulls to establish a comfortable rhythm that never abated.
Derrick Rose made the most of his 30 minutes of floor time, scoring 23 points and 10 assists and finally (FINALLY) finding the range from downtown. After going 0-11 over the past three games, Rose hit four of nine from behind the arc. Luol Deng showed improvement from his past two sub-par performances with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists, although he still hasn't rediscovered his outside range.
With a consistent double-digit lead, the bench mob got a chance to log quality minutes and didn't disappoint, scoring 39 points. C.J. Watson had another quality game scoring 13 points to go with four assists. I must say, after doubting Watson all of the preseason and early in the regular season, he has really settled in as a quality backup point guard that the Bulls can count on to bring the ball up the floor and provide an offensive spark. Taj Gibson did what Taj does: providing energy and creating extra possessions, finishing with eight points and six rebounds. Oh, and then there's what Omer Asik, aka The Turkish Plow, did to Kevin Love:
With Boston idle and the Heat winning against the Wizards, the Bulls now hold a 2.5 game lead in the Eastern Conference with eight games to go. Chicago finished the month of March 13-3, with an overall record of 54-20. It seems a 60-win season, nearly unfathomable in November, is a realistic goal for this overachieving ball club.
The Bulls hit the road once again to face the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Expect Joakim Noah to rejoin the starting lineup as Chicago fights to hold its perch atop the Eastern Conference.