Bulls using offensive balance to push through hot stretch

Bulls using offensive balance to push through hot stretch
March 1, 2014, 12:00 am
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By: Michael Florek

DALLAS — All year the Bulls’ identity has been as a defensive team. They’re second in the league in points against, allowing a little more than 92 points per game. But after the Bulls’ 100-91 win over the Mavericks -- Chicago’s third straight 100-point game -- Tom Thibodeau faced the media and talked about his team’s new-found offensive prowess.

“We’re an offensive juggernaut,” Thibodeau deadpanned.

It’s been more than a one- or two-player thing for the Bulls. They had five players in double figures against the Mavericks with two more, Carlos Boozer and D.J. Augustin, registering nine points. The team’s leading scorer, Taj Gibson, tallied 20 points.

The Bulls had seven players score 10 points or more against Atlanta and four players accomplish the feat against Golden State. In the past three games, the Bulls’ highest scorer hasn't recorded more than 26 points.

“I think when that happens and the game is going to tell you what shots are there,” Thibodeau said. “So whenever a second defender comes, hit the open man. Don’t predetermine what you’re going to do. Don’t hold the ball. Make quick decisions.”

[MORE: Bulls use late run to get past Dirk, Mavericks]

In the first half on Friday it was Gibson who became the recipient of the quick decisions. He was fed the ball constantly in the post in the first half and ended up scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first two quarters.

Thibodeau singled him out after the game as the reason the Bulls stayed within reach before they mounted a second-half comeback. But he struggled in the third quarter, only taking two shots and missing both of them.

“My teammates, they want me to shoot the ball sometimes,” Gibson said. “They want me to be aggressive. It was tough, I was sitting down, I didn’t really have a rhythm but they just stuck with me.”

That’s when guard Kirk Hinrich’s stepped up. He scored 12 of his 17 points in the final two quarters. In the third, Hinrich and center Joakim Noah combined for nine straight Bulls points, bringing the Mavericks' seven-point lead down to three. Noah finished with 10 points.

[WATCH: Jimmy Butler swats Jose Calderon's shot off the glass]

But when it came down to the fourth quarter, it was yet another player hitting a clutch shot. Mike Dunleavy’s 3-pointer with five minutes left began a run that effectively put away the game. He finished with 16 points, while Jimmy Butler rounded out the quintet, adding 19 points.

“We’ve got this farm system,” Gibson said. “We’ve got guys that put in the work each day in, each day out and every body just keeps developing. Mike’s knocking down big shots, D.J., we’ve got a lot of guys that’s not scared to take the fourth-quarter shot.

“It’s just great to be out there when you’ve got guys with confidence like that.”