Its midnight and usually the time when I begin to start writing these things. Waiting a few hours allows me to reflect on the game and process what actually happened. But tonight feels different.
An unexpected win against a formidable Bulls team will do that to you and I guess there is only one place to start. James Johnson was a Chicago Bull Tuesday morning and he was the starting Small Forward of the Toronto Raptors by Wednesday night. It wasn't a surprising move given that Bryan Colangelo recently told the media that if DeMar DeRozan hadn't been available in the 2009 draft they would have traded down to take Johnson.
Johnson finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Not flashy numbers, but he brought toughness, grit and energy to the starting lineup. His night included a couple of stare-down's towards the Bulls bench and let's hope that this type of performance will happen against other teams as well.
In his post-game presser Triano spoke highly of Johnson's contribution:
"From the opening tip I thought he brought an aggressiveness that we want him to bring and want him to have...He gets up and knows how to play the game."
Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan had strong games themselves and each finished with 24 points. The pair were constantly attacking the basket and DeRozan hit some clutch free throws late in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Dunk Contest had really affected him and this performance defined "going HAM." He had multiple slam dunks and it was a refreshing sight to see him demanding the basketball when the game was on the line.
Not to be outdone, Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson also had solid games. Calderon was involved in a tough matchup against MVP candidate Derrick Rose but he managed 17 assists. Amir had 17 points on 8/8 shooting and made 2 great plays to seal the win. The first was an old-school up and under against Carlos Boozer and the second was a monster block on Rose.
This was a complete team performance and the bench play reflected this. Chicago, under Tom Thibodeau, are renowned for their defence and rank as one of the top team's in the league in defensive categories. The Raptors shot 58.1% on the night and it was the highest field goal percentage of any Chicago opponent this season.
Chicago will view this game as a missed opportunity to get a win before they face the Miami Heat on national television Thursday night. Joakim Noah returned from injury and managed to pull down 16 rebounds. Rose didn't have the best of starts but delivered an MVP-like performance in the 4th quarter to take his team on the brink of victory. He finished with 32 points and 10 assists and was involved in an intriguing duel with DeRozan late in the game.
A team performance like this can be attributed to many factors but it would be impossible to ignore the positive impact that a full and healthy roster can have on this team. When HQ went one-on-one with Julian Wright he highlighted the importance of having enough bodies to practice with. With upcoming games against Western Conference teams like Phoenix, Dallas and New Orleans the team will need to stay healthy to come away with some wins.
- I would like to see the cage the Bulls keep Noah in during their breaks between games. Once he gets let out he gives nothing short of 100% in terms of effort. He had 10 rebounds with 4 minutes to go in the 1st quarter.
- Alexis Ajinca had a couple of nice moves in the post. Seeing him use his length in that part of the court makes you wonder why he has been mainly utilized as a pick and pop player.
- I have been very critical of Barbosa's shot selection throughout the season. There was a sequence in this game where he took a terrible fadeaway three pointer but ran back and blocked Taj Gibson on a Bulls fast break. Maybe things have changed?
- DeMar DeRozan ended the 1st half with a dunk and opened the 2nd half with a dunk. You think he might be a little bit angry about what happened on Saturday night?
-Should we expect any more deals from the Raptors on deadline day? It doesn't sound like Toronto's trying to do anything major if you believe what Bryan Colangelo told the media yesterday, but considering
-Sonny Weems was playing with a purpose last night. With Johnson's acquisition you have to wonder if Sonny is feeling the pressure to perform seeing as how he is not under contract for next season.