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Friday, January 26, 2007

Fear the 'Fro: Bulls Gore Mavericks

Chicago had too many "Bens" for Dallas in a 96-85 victory in the first game of TNT's Thursday night doubleheader. Ben Gordon scored 30 points and Ben Wallace snared a game-high 17 rebounds. Gordon also had six rebounds and five assists, while Wallace blocked four shots, passed for three assists and grabbed four offensive rebounds--showing that a player can make significant offensive contributions even on a poor shooting night (1-5). Speaking of poor shooting, Dallas shot just 29-93 (.312). Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 28 points and 11 rebounds but he shot only 7-22 from the field. The Bulls hardly burned up the nets (36-84, .429), but if you bring it on defense every night then you don't have to depend on your shooting. That was the formula that Larry Brown's Detroit Pistons used to win the 2004 NBA title, with Ben Wallace the centerpiece of a stifling defense, and Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton providing timely offensive contributions.

Chicago roared out to a 23-6 first quarter lead. Despite their poor shooting, the Mavericks chipped away until they only trailed 79-76 with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter. An 11-5 Chicago run in the next three minutes sealed the victory for the Bulls. P.J. Brown scored three baskets during that stretch.

There is a lot of talk about the Bulls possibly acquiring Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol but I think that the Bulls should stand pat. Team chemistry is a delicate thing and, after their customary slow start--which is exacerbated every year by the "circus road trip" at the beginning of the season--the Bulls seem to be putting things together. Who is to say that adding Garnett or Gasol at the cost of subtracting guys like Gordon, Luol Deng or Andres Nocioni would really improve the team? Obviously, Garnett and Gasol are more talented than the players that the Bulls would trade for them but if all it took to win a title was acquiring talent on paper then the turn of the century Portland Trail Blazers would have cruised to a championship. This Bulls team is certainly good enough to win the East. Granted, the West may have several teams that seem to be better than any of the East's squads but if you make it to the Finals you only have to beat one Western team, not several of them. Miami did it last year and, as Thursday's game indicated, the Bulls may be capable of doing the same thing. The next step for the Bulls is to play this way on the road. John Paxson should give this unit an opportunity to make one playoff run before he does any further tinkering.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:08 AM

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