By Ben Golliver
The Bulls blew out the Warriors 103-87 at the United Center on Friday night, winning their third straight game to improve to 26-16 on the season. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Golden State, which dropped to 26-16.
• The Bulls and Warriors entered Friday's game dead even in overall rebound rate, corralling 51.6 percent of missed shots, tied for sixth in the league. The undersized Warriors, playing without Andrew Bogut all season, have cleared a league-leading 75.1 percent of available defensive rebounds; the Bulls have feasted on second-chance opportunities thanks to the active, physical and long Joakim Noah/Carlos Boozer/Luol Deng front line, which averages nearly eight offensive rebounds combined per game.
Those numbers suggested the first meeting between the teams this season should have been fairly even on the glass, or at least hard-fought. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Even with Deng out nursing a hamstring injury, the Bulls dominated the interior on both ends, winning the rebound battle 56-37 and outscoring Golden State 30-6 on second-chance points. This was one team simply bullying the other. Jimmy Butler, starting in place of Deng, tallied a career-high 12 rebounds, combining with Boozer and Noah to outrebound the trio of Carl Landry David Lee and Harrison Barnes 41-16. Warriors coach Mark Jackson tried zone looks on defense and gave early playing time to Andris Biedrins and Draymond Green, but nothing could stop the pounding.
That minus-19 rebounding differential shattered the Warriors' season-low of minus-11, set on three separate occasions in losses to the Lakers, Nuggets and Clippers. The Bulls nearly matched their season-high rebound differential of plus-20, set in January wins over the Heat and Hawks.
• So what happens when one team has one of its best rebounding nights of the season and the other team has its worst? A laugher, of course. Chicago doubled up Golden State on the scoreboard through virtually the entire first quarter and held a 43-21 advantage more than 15 minutes into the game. The Warriors kept competing but never mounted a real comeback, and the Bulls' lead never got below 10 points in the second half.
The Warriors, ranked No. 11 in defensive efficiency after finishing No. 26 last season, shouldn't lose too much sleep after conceding 103 points. Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich hit for a season-high 25 points, including 6-of-7 on three-point attempts, and Nate Robinson added 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, his second-biggest scoring night of the season.
Before Friday, Hinrich was shooting 36.7 percent from the field while Robinson was shooting 42.0 percent; they combined to shoot 66.7 percent on the night. Perhaps the Warriors find a way to make this a competitive game if only one of those two goes off. When both put up season-best efforts, what can you reasonably expect? The combination of the pounding inside and the bombing from outside was just too much. The Warriors' likely postgame message: "Forget about this one as quickly as possible."
• Much of the pregame chatter centered on Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who was not selected as a reserve on the Western Conference All-Star team. Jackson (here) and teammate Jarrett Jack (here) both lodged public complaints on half of Curry, suggesting that he should have been selected for his first career appearance, given that he's averaging more than 20 points and shooting better than 45 percent from three-point range for a team that is cruising toward a playoff berth.
Also "snubbed" was Boozer, whose All-Star merits generated very little discussion nationally over the past few weeks. The two-time All-Star hasn't been selected since 2008 and he was boxed out of a selection to this year's team, in part, because both Noah and Deng were named as reserves. His selection likely would have meant the exclusion of one of his teammates or Heat forward Chris Bosh. The latter scenario would have been problematic because Miami has a better record than Chicago and it would have been strange for the Bulls to be the only team with three representatives on the East squad.
In my view, Noah's two-way play and contributions across the board make his selection a slam dunk over Boozer's. The Boozer/Deng discussion is closer, but Deng's reputation as one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league helps serve as a very reasonable tiebreaker. Still, Boozer is averaging 16.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the season; he went for 15 points and 13 rebounds against the Warriors. Chicago, now atop the Central Division by a half game over the Pacers
, is well-positioned to enjoy the full fruits of Derrick Rose
's comeback from knee surgery. Boozer, a common target of fan frustration and media mocking, deserves some thanks for that.