The Bulls have made a habit of limiting opponents below 90 points, doing so a league-best 14 times since the New Year.
Doing so to a Western Conference power like the Warriors goes beyond habit and into headlines.
The Warriors had been below 90 points just six times all season before Wednesday night at the United Center and entered averaging 103.3. But denying and demoralizing Stephen Curry on seemingly every cut, the Bulls ended the Warriors’ four-game winning streak with an impressive 103-83 triumph.
Which team was finishing a back-to-back and which chilled in Chicago on Tuesday night again?
Winning for the seventh time in eight games, the Bulls played the part of the fresher team with one of their more well-rounded games of the season. They topped the century mark in consecutive regular-season games for the first time all season.
But the story of this one was defense, which limited the Warriors to 35.7 percent shooting and Curry to a season-low-tying five points on 2-for-10 shooting. That’s 19 points below his 24.2 points-per-game average, which ranks seventh in the league.
“He’s such a tough cover,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You give him any space at all and he has all the tricks to get a shot off. A guy like that, you try to guard with your whole team and try to make him work.”
No Warriors starter scored in double figures. That’s the first time that happened to their franchise since Feb. 12, 1999.
How bad did it get? Longtime Bulls fixture Pete Myers, now Mark Jackson’s lead assistant with the Warriors, drew a third-quarter technical foul. By the time Joakim Noah’s sweet backdoor bounce pass found a cutting D.J. Augustin for a layup, the Bulls capped a 15-2 run for a 28-point lead, the night’s largest.
Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 21 points, while Carlos Boozer posted a double-double in just 24 minutes and Noah again flirted with a triple-double. Noah finished with eight points, seven assists and 17 rebounds in just 32 minutes.
Jimmy Butler returned from missing two games with bruised ribs to contribute 16 points.
“Getting Jimmy back gave us more depth and you need that against them because of their depth,” Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau said the game was among the Bulls’ best defensive efforts of the season.
“We came out with the right mindset and guys played hard,” Gibson said in an on-court interview. “We wanted to take Steph Curry out of the game. We frustrated him a lot. Kirk Hinrich did a great job.”
Indeed, Hinrich made life miserable for Curry, who had torched the Bulls for 34 points in the Warriors’ blowout home victory Feb. 6. Hinrich consistently denied Curry and bumped him off screens.
“He gives you that toughness all the time,” Thibodeau said. “That’s why I always say with Kirk: You can never measure his true value by statistics. He sets the tone for the team with his defense and ball pressure.”
The Bulls are now 13-1 in those 14 games in which they have limited opponents below 90 points.