One assist away
CHICAGO – Last week, Luol Deng joined Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Sloan and Tom Boerwinkle as the only players in franchise history to appear in 10 seasons with the Bulls.
Friday night, Deng came a Nazr Mohammed missed reverse layup away from joining more history.
Deng narrowly missed becoming the 25th Bull to post a triple-double, settling for 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 97-73 victory over the hapless Jazz.
And, yes, Jordan, Pippen, Sloan and Boerwinkle all had at least one.
Shortly after Mohammed’s miss, Jimmy Butler replaced Deng, who was appearing in his 619th career regular-season game. Deng also added five steals.
If Friday didn’t mark Deng’s best all-around game, it at least entered the team picture.
The Bulls committed 20 turnovers, but otherwise looked better offensively against a Jazz team that treated defense as if it were optional. They shot 52.8 percent, with 56 points in the paint and 16 fast-break points.
Joakim Noah dunked off a pretty feed from Deng on the game’s first possession. Derrick Rose swished a 3-pointer and scored on 6-foot, 11-inch Enes Kanter on the Bulls’ next two. All five starters scored in the first 6 minutes as the ball moved with precision.
The Bulls committed seven turnovers in a 3-minute, second-quarter switch that almost prompted Thibodeau to turn over the scorer’s table.
But ultimately, Carlos Boozer joined Deng in double-double land, posting 18 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Rose added 12 points with five assists in just 28 minutes, and didn’t appear in the fourth.
Overall, no starter but Deng logged heavy minutes because of the blowout. Whether this is a good development given the rust Thibodeau keeps alluding to is debatable. The Bulls don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Cavaliers at the United Center at 7 p.m.