Bulls cruise to blowout win over Warriors

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Bulls cruise to blowout win over Warriors

Forget their recent history of struggling at home or their difficulties maintaining early leads, from the start to finish Friday night, the Bulls (26-16) played with a purpose.

Multiple players, including the point-guard tandem of Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson and the big-man duo of Carlos Boozer and recently named first-time All-Star Joakim Noah, as well as fill-in starter Jimmy Butler, all contributed to a 103-87 shellacking of Golden State (26-16) at the United Center.

The hosts jumped out to a quick start, scoring the games first eight points, buoyed by the play of Boozer (15 points, 13 rebounds), who was perceived as a slight All-Star snub Thursday evening and armed with some motivation, logged a first-half double-double.

Propelled by point guard Stephen Curry (21 points), viewed as the consensus biggest omission from the All-Star roster, the visitors fought back to make a double-digit deficit more manageable for the time being.

Aside from Boozers solid play on offense and on the glass, as well as the energetic play of both Butler (16 points, 12 rebounds) starting in Luol Dengs place for the fourth consecutive game with the All-Star sidelined due to a strained right hamstring and Noah (14 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots), the Bulls also got a lift from floor general Hinrich (25 points on 8-for-11 shooting, five assists, 6-for-7 three-point shooting), who knocked down his first three shots from the field and two first-quarter triples to give the home team a formidable early lead.

With veteran Rip Hamiltons playmaking also influencing matters and the hosts defense and rebounding dominating their guests besides a 21-7 edge on the glass, Golden State was held to 22.7 percent shooting from the floor, with Curry and All-Star power forward David Lee (23 points) combining for 3-for-13 shooting the Bulls had a 31-13 advantage through the opening period.

Backup point guard Robinson (22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, four assists), who played for the Warriors last season, was the Bulls catalyst at the outset of the second quarter, as his instant-offense ability the diminutive scorer notched double figures in the period tormented his former teammates.

The hosts were efficient offensively and stifling on the defensive end, all the while owning the backboards, en route to securing a comfortably wide winning margin of over 20 points and at times, doubling up their guests.

While a determined Curry eventually got some shots to fall, Lee was able to get to the free-throw line and sleeper early-season Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jarrett Jack came off the bench to provide some scoring and playmaking, Golden State struggled mightily to stay in the contest, as the Bulls, a team thats had its issues at home all season, evidenced by their 13-11 mark at the United Center, threatened to run the visitors out of the building in the first half.

However, the Bulls are also a squad thats experienced problems maintaining big leads and despite Hinrichs continued hot hand the veteran scored 19 first-half points to lead the way the Warriors gradually chipped into the deficit and by virtue of a 37-point quarter, at the intermission, the hosts led by the more reasonable margin, at least for the visitors, of 63-50.

After the break, Golden States momentum carried over, as the visitors cut it to a 10-point deficit, behind the play of Lee and Curry, as well as second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson, though they were helped by the Bulls inefficiency.

But the hosts got out of their malaise, led by the athletic Butlers all-around play, rebounding and finishing at the rim, not to mention Noah, who joined Boozer as having a double-double, but added his uncanny playmaking to the equation.

Butler eventually notched the same accomplishment, helping the Bulls lead balloon and resuming their early-game dominance of the contest against a Golden State team that looked spent from the effort to get back into the game.

Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls had an 84-66 edge, capped by Robinsons dribbling display and deep jumper late in the third quarter.

Robinsons effectiveness as an off-the-dribble scorer came to the forefront at the beginning of the fourth period Hinrich played point guard, allowing Robinson, more of a natural scorer than a playmaker, to be off the ball as the Bulls again flirted with a 20-point lead.

The Warriors looked disjointed on both ends of the floor and the end of the contest evolved into extended garbage time, as well as Robinsons personal showcase.

As time wound down, Golden States deep reserves saw action, while the only drama in the arena was when, not if, the Bulls would reach triple digits, which they did on a Hinrich shot from long distance with 3:17 left, giving him a season-high point total.

Eventually, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau realized the contest was in the bag and inserted the likes of seldom-used veteran forward Vladimir Radmanovic, rookie point guard Marquis Teague, backup center Nazr Mohammed and the teams newest acquisition, sharpshooter Daequan Cook, who knocked down a late three, the home teams final basket of the blowout victory.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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