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Game 12: Bulls 78, Wizards 64

12 Jan 2012

Three Stars
1. Kyle Korver: 14 points (.643 TS%), 6 rebounds, 4 assists
2. John Lucas: 25 points (.433 TS%), 8 rebounds, 8 assists
3. Omer Asik: 8 points (.463 TS%), 14 rebounds, 5 blocks

We’ve secretly replaced their usual MVP point guard with a 29-year-old third-stringer who’s played in only nine NBA games over the past five years. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference …

Yeah, there was a pretty big difference. John Lucas III gave everything he had, playing 46 minutes at point guard with Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson resting injuries, but we saw, generally, how ordinary the Bulls look without their young MVP.

Big surprise, right? We knew Rose was the sun and the moon for this team, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s kind of the whole idea behind having a superstar player.

Yet it was instructive to view a horrifying alternate reality in which the Bulls are just a bunch of good but not great players.

In this world, they still have the intelligence, skill and work ethic to fight off the woeful Wizards, who might be the sloppiest and most careless team in the league. They get a plucky, gutty effort from Lucas, even as he needs 28 shots to score 25 points and seems a bit out of his depth at times.

They get characteristic hard work from Omer Asik and Taj Gibson and Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer. Joakim Noah tries hard, despite not accomplishing much. Kyle Korver submits a revelatory performance, displaying an all-court game usually subsumed by the team’s need for him to run endlessly off baseline screens.

Carlos Boozer, like Noah, contributes only four points and a few rebounds, playing 26 minutes before joining his fellow eight-figure big man on the bench while Asik and Gibson help clinch the win with their superior play. Fans mutter and shake their heads, amazed that even on this night, against a notoriously casual defense, with his team in clear need, Boozer remains unable to step assertively into the breach.

In this world, Derrick Rose waves a towel and laughs on the sideline, enjoying his teammates’ (eventual) success and a brief appearance by Brian Scalabrine, the 33-year-old man Bulls fans have patronizingly made their mascot.

The opponent, the fourth in Chicago’s four home games this season to score less than 75 points, is the sort of team that will take wild shots all game, some defying all logic, and will allow the Bulls five offensive rebounds on oneĀ embarrassing, 96-second possession in the waning minutes.

This world, in other words, is not too dangerous for one night. But let’s hope we don’t have to stay here long.

Box Score

Record: 10-2
Next: Friday 1/13 at Boston, 7:00 CT

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