CHARLOTTEIn a matchup of the leagues best and worst teams this season, the Bulls outclassed the lowly Bobcats from start to finish Thursday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, blowing out historically awful Charlotte, 100-68.
Propelled by Rip Hamilton tying his season high in scoring, the Bulls bounced back from a surprising defeat in their previous outing to hand the Bobcats their 18th consecutive loss, even without the services of All-Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng for the second consecutive game.
The visitors didnt immediately jump on their inferior hosts, as one might expect after Mondays disappointing home loss to Washington. Young Bobcats (7-54) like emerging big man Byron Mullens, athletic swingman Gerald Henderson Jr. (13 points) and rookie point guard Kemba Walker (team-high 16 points, five assists) each made an early impact; in fact, the trio scored all of the home teams points in the opening period.
But while the Bulls (47-15) eventually clamped down on the defensive end, offense was never a problem, as starting post players Carlos Boozer (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Joakim Noah (12 points, five rebounds) got off to quick starts, much of which was due to the playmaking of wings Hamilton (22 points on 9-for-13 shooting, 4-for-5 from three-point range, six assists) and Ronnie Brewer. The latter was also a force as a scorer, showing off his versatility in leading the Bulls to a 34-20 lead through a quarter of play.
The Bench Mob maintained the Bulls substantial edge in the second stanza, as the big-man tandem of Taj Gibson (nine points, 12 rebounds) and Omer Asik (nine points, 15 rebounds) dominated the interior, while rookie Jimmy Butler was an active presence in a rare early stint for the short-handed squad.
John Lucas III (12 points), thrust into a backup role in Roses absence and utilized earlier than usual due to fill-in starter C.J. Watsons early foul trouble, was also effective, while sharpshooter Kyle Korver kept the Bobcats defense honest. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau rode his reserves until the intermission and the guests went into halftime holding a 52-37 advantage.
Hamilton resumed his offensive exploits immediately after the break, with a focus on his torrid outside marksmanshiphe knocked down his first four attempts from beyond the three-point arcin another of his recent returns to his former All-Star form. Meanwhile, Boozer and Watson were also productive for the visitors, who extended their lead to over 20 points.
Chicagos balanced play and stifling defensive effort frustrated the young hosts, who seemingly couldnt catch a break and just couldnt get the ball to bounce their way, let alone get defensive stops consistently, hit open jumpers, finish around the basket or control the backboards. However, perhaps the Bulls starters got bored, as Charlotte mounted a late-period run to narrow the gap to 77-59 heading into the final stanza.
The entire fourth quarter was extended garbage tome, as the Bulls reserves got a chance for more action than usual, though that didnt improve the lot of the woeful Bobcats. The visitors lead ballooned to more than 30 points against their helpless hosts, giving the likes of Asik, Lucas and Gibson the opportunity to work on their games.
By the end, the only drama for the sparse crowd was whether fan favorite Brian Scalabrine would see any playing time, which he did, to the enjoyment of the dwindling number of fans in attendance. With the expected blowout victory in hand, the Bulls could now fully turn their focus to Thursdays showdown with the rival Heat in Miami.