Because broadcasters Bill Wennington and Stacey King were otherwise occupied and unavailable to sign emergency 10-day contracts, the Bulls took another route Saturday night when Drew Gooden and Tyrus Thomas sat with injuries.
Playing against a Utah team that features Memet Okur, a 6-foot-11-inch center who launches three-pointers more than he posts up, the Bulls used four perimeter players around either Aaron Gray or Joakim Noah and sometimes chucked it all to use five perimeter players.
The result? Chalk one up for small ball in a 106-98 victory, the Bulls' fifth straight at the United Center.
With Utah leading 85-83, check out the lineup Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro used for all but 59 seconds of the final 8 minutes 40 seconds: Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha, Larry Hughes and Andres Nocioni as the man in the middle.
"Sometimes when we go with our smaller lineup we have to be scrappier," Del Negro said. "I just felt we had a nice rhythm defensively. We were switching well. Guys knew their assignments."
Despite playing small, Luol Deng sat for the final 17:24.
Though they were playing their fourth game in five nights, the Bulls had more energy, racking up 35 fast-break points and turning 20 Jazz turnovers into 29 points.
No wonder Utah coach Jerry Sloan, in his typically blunt manner, dismissed a question about the Jazz playing a double-overtime game the previous night and cut to the chase.
"They just outhustled us," he said.
The Bulls led 95-92 when Rose converted a fast-break layup with 4:25 left. Then, as Deron Williams stayed behind to protest a no-call by official Gary Zielinski, Gordon drilled a three-pointer at the other end.
Okur, well guarded by Sefolosha, converted a conventional three-point play to make it 98-95. After Andrei Kirilenko's wide-open three-pointer rattled in and out, Hughes was fouled with 2:23 left and sank both free throws.
Gordon then made 3 of 4 free throws sandwiched around a Williams turnover and layup miss.
The Jazz, playing without Carlos Boozer, made 3 of 4 free throws around a Gordon miss. But Rose iced matters with a tough lefty layup in traffic with 39.4 seconds left.
"He's not playing like a rookie," Williams said. "He's one of the best point guards in this league, and he definitely took over."
Rose scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half. Gordon led the Bulls for the 12th time this season with 26.
"That small lineup worked well for us," Gordon said. "We were able to get out and run on the break. And we even rebounded it pretty well."
Indeed, thanks to eight offensive rebounds from Noah, the Bulls outscored Utah 54-42 in the paint.
"When you struggle with interior defense and you lose your two most athletic big guys, it puts even more pressure on you," Del Negro said. "We're not as deep or have as much length. We have to find ways to play the style we want."
Despite 23 points from Okur, mission accomplished.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times