OAKLAND—After losing by 42 points Wednesday night in Sacramento, the Bulls, to a man, pledged to make a change, and Friday evening, they followed through on that promise, trouncing the Warriors, 113-95, at Oracle Arena.
Playing an up-tempo style on offense and suffocating their foes on defense, the Bulls (36-29) used balanced scoring—all five starters were in double figures—and intense play on both ends of the floor to take out their frustration on a higher-quality opponent in a game they led by as much as 36 points during a phenomenal third quarter.
The visitors got off to a sorely-needed quick start, making their first three shot attempts from the field to build a cushion in the early going, something very necessary against their high-scoring hosts.
All-Star center Joakim Noah (16 points, 13 rebounds) led the way, reaching double figures before the opening period was even halfway through, while fellow frontline players, Carlos Boozer (21 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals) and All-Star Luol Deng (23 points, six rebounds), also made their respective scoring presences felt, as the frontcourt scored the Bulls’ first 22 points.
But the Warriors (37-30) remained within striking distance, utilizing balanced scoring to keep pace with their guests, then gradually narrowing the gap to make it a one-possession game late in the first quarter.
The Bulls were able to hang on and prevent Golden State from overtaking them, clinging to a 28-27 advantage at the end of the frame.
Behind the play of underrated sixth man Jarrett Jack (20 points), the home team did gain the lead early in the second stanza, though the contest evolved into a back-and-forth affair.
The Bulls’ offense struggled mightily to have any semblance of cohesion, but their stout defense against the Warriors made up for it, before the contest suddenly transformed into a run-and-gun, quick-trigger, transition-heavy matchup.
Nate Robinson (20 points, 3-for-4 three-point shooting, seven assists), who played for Golden State last season, was erratic, but as he’s prone to do, caught fire and along with second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, helped the Bulls acquire some separation, despite Warriors All-Star power forward David Lee (15 points) asserting himself offensively.
At the intermission, the Bulls not only owned the game’s momentum, but built a double-digit halftime lead, 56-46.
After the break, the visitors built upon their positive first-half play, going on an 8-0 run to begin the third quarter.
Even after the hosts got on the board, they were overwhelmed by the fast-breaking Bulls, who were fueled by Robinson and Marco Belinelli (10 points, six assists), who broke into the league with the Warriors, and helped the guests’ winning margin balloon past 20 points.
Solid ball movement against Golden State’s set defense, Robinson’s dynamic, scoring, playmaking and open-court ability, Belinelli’s outside marksmanship, the frontcourt starters continuing to do damage and suffocating defense that hounded the home team into a 1-for-15 stretch were all catalysts in the period for the Bulls.
The Bulls’ onslaught persisted throughout the entire period and heading into the final stanza, they held a commanding 94-63 lead, as Noah, Belinelli and Boozer, who atypically threw down multiple dunks, carried the offensive load, in a 38-17 frame.
The fourth quarter also began with a flourish, as the Bulls quickly cracked the triple-digit mark, with Deng serving as the team’s offensive focal point.
Golden State went to a lineup featuring young players and seldom-used reserves, such as former Bulls summer-league player Malcolm Thomas, signed to a 10-day contract with the Warriors, and while the visitors removed most of their regulars, Deng and Belinelli remained on the floor.
Deng eventually took a seat, but nothing changed in the lopsided contest, even as the Warriors reduced their deficit to less than 30 points.
However, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau refused to let up—he called timeouts during the garbage time that masqueraded as the game’s last period—when he saw lapses such as undrafted Warriors rookie guard Kent Bazemore showcasing his offensive abilities, setting the tone for what could be a turning point in his team’s season as the playoffs approach.