May 21, 2013
Former Heat player Alonzo Mourning was speaking to group of people at the opening of a Microsoft store in Miami when he was asked to comment on the endlessly spinning LeBron James versus Michael Jordan debate. Instead of taking a pass — probably the smartest move he could have made — Mourning said:
“You know, Scottie Pippen and I, we were just at Michael’s 50th birthday party, hanging out for a week, and we were talking. I’m going to tell you what Scottie said. I’m going to tell you what Scottie said. Scottie said that LeBron would’ve kicked MJ’s ass.”
After the expected cheering and applause, Mourning continued:
“I said, I said ‘Scottie, you’re right.’”
Following the laughter elicited by that comment, Mourning provided a little clarification:
“I said, ‘but because LeBron is my size.’ I mean, he’s 265, so when he’s playing point guard, it’s like a freight train coming. I couldn’t imagine doing the things he’s doing at my size.”
Nothing groundbreaking here. This is the standard response by people in the Pro-LeBron camp of this particular debate. Size and strength would be LeBron’s primary advantage in this theoretical one-on-one battle. But it’s all theoretical and not really worth digging into too deeply, even if people will never be able to stop taking about it.
Hey, I was a kid once, so I know action figure battles are crazy fun. When you have the toys, you want to see Hulk versus Superman. Snake Eyes versus Storm Shadow. Optimus Prime versus Megatron.
Past that, you sort of expect Mourning — who is considered one of the great players in Miami Heat history — to side with LeBron. That said, it was a little surprising that dragged Pippen into it, given that this was probably a private comment Scottie never intended to see in print. He’ll see it now.
Of course, Pippen did provide his own public commentary on this debate a couple years back:
“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game. But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved. You have to be on your P’s and Q’s on defense. No guy on the basketball court is a threat to score with LeBron James out there. Not only will LeBron dominate from the offensive end as well, but he’s also doing it on the defensive end, which really makes him the complete package. He’s able to get in those passing lanes, shoot those gaps and create transition opportunities where he is pretty much unstoppable.”
Naturally, the Pro-Jordan camp exploded at this seeming betrayal, and even former Bulls player Horace Grant (and good friend of Pippen) spoke up:
“Pip is my man, and we will always be close but I totally disagree. LeBron is going to be one of the top players to ever play the game. But Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who we bumped heads with at times, is I think in my era, the best who ever played the game. I’m kind of at a loss for words because Michael Jordan … when you win numerous MVPs and you’ve taken the team to six championships — and probably could have been eight if he didn’t retire those two years — and MVPs in the playoffs … and he made us better. Believe me, he made myself, Scottie, B.J. [Armstrong], even Bill Cartwright who I love, he made us better players. He gave us that confidence. But first we had to earn his trust. And once we earned his trust you saw championship after championship.”
Things got ugly enough that Pippen eventually defended himself with the following tweets:
“For all of you that don’t know, I played the game you keep watching and cheering.”
“Don’t get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest. But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday.”
None of what any of these men said is all that unreasonable. People have opinions and they’re free to express them. Personally, I think these “versus” debates do a disservice to NBA history and the players themselves, but they’re always fun talking points…even if in the end none of it really means anything.
But MJ was the best.
May 20, 2013
Now that the season has passed, it’s time to start looking forward. Ironically, to begin doing that, we first need to look back at who did what last season.
Rose missed the entire season due to recovery from knee surgery. And he lost a little good will along the way. Nonetheless, everybody from Jerry Reinsdorf to the most casual Bulls fan is hoping and praying that Rose returns — and returns to his old MVP form — next season. He is the foundation of this franchise.
In many ways, Noah had his best season ever. He was selected as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He made the NBA All-Defensive First Team and was fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He had one of the franchise’s best-ever regular season performances in a road win over the Pistons (30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots) and one of the greatest playoff performances Game 7 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn (24 points, 14 rebounds, 6 blocked shots, 2 assists, 1 steal).
Unfortunately, Noah’s season was once again plagued by an injury, this time an ongoing case of plantar faciitis in his left foot. Noah missed 16 regular season games and simply wasn’t himself in several others. He averaged career-highs in minutes (36.8), points (11.9), rebounds (11.1), assists (4.0), blocks (2.1) and steals (1.2), but he also set career-low marks in field goal percentage (.481) and turnovers per game (2.7). And believe it or not, his Offensive Rebounding Rate (12.2) and Total Rebounding Rate (17.3) were lower only during his rookie season.
Noah is an elite center — one of the best in the league — and he is the team’s emotional leader. However, he’s missed 70 games over the past four seasons and and the plantar faciitis injury is recurring. When healthy, Noah is among the best there is at his position. Can he stay healthy? We’ll see.
For the second year in a row, Deng led the league in MPG (38.7) and made the All-Star team. He is one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders and provides leadership by example. And, of course, everybody knows that coach Tom Thibodeau believes Deng is absolutely indispensable.
That said, there are some concerns. For example, his three-point percentage sunk to its lowest mark since 2006-07 and he accumulated the second-worst field goal percentage of his career. He also had a league average Player Efficiency Rating of 15.1 and ranked sixth on the team in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.105).
It’s hard to determine whether the heavy minutes and a lingering injury to his left wrist account for his struggles with shooting and overall efficiency, but they probably figure in there somewhere.
The good news is Deng will have the entire summer off to get healthy (and have wrist surgery if necessary), which means he might be even better next year than he was the previous two seasons.
One thing worth noting: Deng is one of the team’s better trade chips. He is worth less to the Bulls than Rose and Noah. He doesn’t carry the same stigma as Carlos Boozer. And his $14 million salary comes off the books after next season. Therefore, if the Bulls make any kind of major deal, there is at least some likelihood Deng will be involved.
Although fans (and even some experts) use him as a lightning rod for abuse whenever the Bulls fail to live up to expectations, Boozer had another steady season. He ranked first on the team in both Points and Rebounds Per 36 Minutes (18.1 and 10.9, respectively), and he was third (behind Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson) in PER (17.1). Despite his previous history of being an injury risk, Boozer has missed only three games the past two seasons, and he has also been a consummate professional on and off the court.
Of course, Boozer is still a statue on offense.
Despite his reliable productivity — his Per 36 Minute stats have been pretty constant over his entire career — Boozer’s contract is considered untradable. He is reportedly owed just over $32 million over the next two seasons, and the general feeling is that today’s NBA team won’t pay that kind of money for a defensive liability whose past is marked by injuries and big game disappearances.
Due to salary constraints, the Bulls wouldn’t gain much by using the amnesty provision on Boozer’s contract this summer. There’s a far greater chance they will do so next summer, which Deng’s and Kirk Hinrich’s contracts expire.
By most statistical measures, Captain Kirk had an awful season. He notched career-lows in field goal percentage (.377), Effective Field Goal Percentage (.461) and True Shooting Percentage (.493). Even his free throw percentage (.714) was almost 10 percentage points off his career average (.805). His PER of 10.8 was well below the league average and he missed 22 regular season games due to a variety of injuries. He also missed the final three games of first round of the playoffs and all of the second round due to a calf injury.
That said, his coaches and teammates were always high on his contributions in terms of defense and leadership. And there’s also the bottom line argument: During the regular season, the Bulls were 38-22 when Hinrich played and 7-15 when he did not. That’s a pretty dramatic swing.
The team still wants and believes in him. More importantly, it’s unlikely any other team would trade for him. So expect him to return next season. If he stays healthy, he’ll make a great backup for Rose and whoever starts at shooting guard (my guess is Jimmy Butler).
Hamilton missed 32 games due to injury and set career-lows in PER (10.6), True Shooting Percentage (.481), and Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.016). Rip dropped out of the rotation before getting dusted off for the final two games of the Heat series. He showed he could still be somewhat useful in those games, but his ongoing injury issues combined with the general decline in his productivity and the emergence of Jimmy Butler have made him expendable. The Bulls will buy out his contract this summer. He won’t be back.
May 16, 2013
The Bulls went into their do-or-die Game 5 in the Miami both with and without the usual cast of characters.
Derrick Rose missed the game and by extension missed the entire season, leading at least one writer to describe his much hyped “Return” packaged by Adidas as a hoax. On top of that melodrama, Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Luol Deng (illness) never recovered enough to play a single second round game, which had to be extremely frustrating for the both of them.
Meanwhile, four starters — Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson — logged 40+ minutes, with Robinson sitting for less than a minute and a half and Butler again going the full 48.
The only surprise of the night was the unexpected resurrection of Rip Hamilton. Not only did Hamilton log 35 minutes off the bench in place of an increasingly ineffective Marco Belinelli, he scored 15 points on 12 shots and compiled a game-high plus-minus score of +12.
The Bulls were coming off the worst offensive performance in their playoff history, so virtually anything would have been an improvement, but they were actually pretty effective on offense. thanks largely to strong games from Boozer (26 points, 10-for-19, 14 rebounds), Robinson (21 points, 4-for-7 on threes, 6 assists) and Butler (19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), the Bulls scored at a rate of 108.7 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).
And, believe it or not, the Bulls were in good position to win this game.
Despite a disastrous first seven minutes that saw them fall behind 22-4, the Bulls did what these Bulls have done for the entirety of the Tom Thibodeau era.
They refused to panic.
By the end of the first quarter, Chicago trailed by only nine points. After outscoring Miami 32-17 in the second quarter, the Bulls took a six-point lead into halftime. That lead expanded to 11 points (75-64) with just under two minutes left in the third quarter. And it seemed like the miraculous was about to happen.
Then Miami cranked up their intensity.
On offense, the Heat went to their old standbys. Shane Battier knocked down two threes thanks to a couple drive-and-kick moves by LeBron James. Norris Cole had a brief hot streak, hitting from 17 feet and then serving up a facial at the rim. Dwyane Wade — who had to retreat to Miami’s locker room between the third and fourth quarters to have his knee re-taped — emerged from his funk to hit two of his patented running one-handers and later had a putback dunk of a missed Cole jumper. And between all those plays, LeBron was directing traffic, driving the ball and drawing fouls.
In all, the Bulls were outscored 24-15 in the fourth quarter but still managed to be down only three points and have possession of the ball with 26.4 seconds left. Unfortunately, Thibodeau had already used all his timeouts, and the Bulls were forced to freelance on that final possession.
It was not a smooth possession by any stretch of the imagination. The Bulls players were running around helter skelter in a frantic attempt to get any kind of clean or dirty look at the rim. Robinson squeezed off a three-pointer that missed badly, but Boozer corralled the offensive rebound. The ball ended up in Butler’s hands. After freeing himself up with a few ball fakes, Butler jacked a triple of his own, which also missed badly. Robinson somehow ended up with the rebound, but there wasn’t enough time left to get any kind of shot.
Said Noah: “We kept fighting. And kept fighting.”
Added Boozer: “We grinded it out. We had chances. We just fell a little bit short.”
Just a little bit short in this game. And a lot short in this series.
And yet, despite the loss, Chicago’s performance in this final game far exceeded expectations. Which is something the Bulls had been doing all season.
Said Thibodeau: ”Obviously we’re disappointed in losing the series. But I was never disappointed in our team. I thought our team fought hard all year long. There was no quit in them.”
Added Boozer: “We’ve got warriors here. If we’re healthy next season, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Of course. But good enough to defeat the Miami Heat?
ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell doesn’t think so. Not as presently constructed. Of course, the Bulls won’t return next season as presently constructed.
For starters, barring an unforeseen calamity or setback, Rose should return in 2013-14.
Furthermore, Hamilton probably won’t be back — the third year of his contract isn’t guaranteed and I just can’t see the Bulls paying Rip $5 million next season — leaving the former Piston to wistfully consider what might have been.
There’s also a good chance Robinson won’t be back. Although he’d like to be.
Said Robinson: ”I would love to [come back]. Honestly, I really would. But knowing the guys that we have here, I know it’s probably limited space for me, but we’ll see how it goes. [I'll] talk to my agent and stuff like that and figure out what’s the best plan for me. God has blessed me this far [to] continue to play the game that I love. I love this team, I love these guys, and if I could stay here it would be wonderful.”
Although Robinson had a strong season and was often the team’s best offensive player, there are several reasons the Bulls might not bring him back. For starters, there could be a logjam in a backcourt that includes Rose, Hinrich, Butler (at times), Belinelli (if he is re-signed) and Marquis Teague.
Will the Bulls — a notoriously fiscally responsible team (read that: cheap) — want to pay him? Especially if they end up bringing Belinelli back?
And will Belinelli be back? Management likes his skill set, but Marco shot a career-low 35.7 percent from three-point range, and his Effective Field Goal Percentage also dipped to a career-worst mark.
Then too, the Bulls desperately need more three-point shooters. They ranked 21st in three-point percentage and 29th in attempts this season. That won’t cut it in today’s NBA. And anyway, Rose will need shooters to space the floor for his drives, assuming he returns to anything like his old form.
There are big questions and big if’s heading into this offseason. And, for better or worse, most of the improvement will have to come from within. The Bulls don’t have the financial flexibility to sign any high-caliber players, and they still wouldn’t be able to do so even if they used the amnesty provision to offload Boozer’s contract, so you can probably expect Carlos to return for at least one more season. My guess is that the Bulls will amnesty Boozer in the summer of 2014 when Deng and Hinrich’s contracts come off the books.
So while the roster will likely be shifted around and tweaked where possible, management will probably field mostly the same team with an eager eye toward the following offseason. Meaning the Bulls and their fans will have to rely on improved health, internal development and maybe one or two key role players who might be able to contribute.
To what result? Nobody knows.
Said Noah: ”It’s hard right now because we just lost. And it’s always hard to sit here knowing that your season’s over but there are a lot of positives. We’re a young team that has experienced a lot at a young age. When you see what a guy like Jimmy Butler brought to the table. … We’re going to come back healthy, we’re going to be able to compete with these guys for a long time and I think that one day we’ll get our shot.”
Only time will tell.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
May 15, 2013
Rather than the normal rapid reaction, this one will just be a few quick thoughts.
First, a lot of credit to this Bulls team. They were shorthanded the entire season, but never used that as an excuse. They had their nights that they faltered and fell flat, but it’s games like tonight that show you how much fight and effort this team put in every time they went out on the court. When I look back in a few years, that’s what I will remember. That and Game 4 against the Nets.
The effort was always there from the players on this team. From the new guys like Nate Robinson (who when he was signed I thought he was just an overconfident shooter, but actually bought into Tom Thibodeau’s system pretty well—and provided much needed scoring), to Jimmy Butler (taking a huge step forward into a starting role, developing a reliable three-point shot and shutting down perimeter players), to Joakim Noah (who has been giving the effort his entire career but emerged as Chicago’s MVP this season, often facilitating the offense and leading the defense). Even guys who were planted on the bench for long stretches of the season like Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed stepped up into huge roles at times, including the playoffs.
This Bulls team wasn’t always the most exciting team, but they had their moments, and all you can ask of a team is that they fight until the very end. Chicago did that.
A long, injury-riddled season with tons of off-the-court news has finally ended for the Bulls. Here’s to a better 2013-2014.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the season below in the comments
In pretty much a must-win game, Chicago put in its worst performance of the year, as well as one of the worst postseason games in the franchise’s history. Now they find themselves in a true must-win situation, facing elimination as they hit the road.
You can’t blame the Bulls too much, I guess, considering the number of injuries they are fighting through and that their third string point guard, who is known only for scoring, wouldn’t have been able to hit a shot on a Fisher Price net (which is more his size, actually).
Nate Robinson went 0-12, the Bulls shot 25.7 percent as a team, scored just nine points in the third quarter and finished with 19 made field goals. Oh and the Bulls point guard combo of Nate and Marquis Teague scored more points for Miami (two) than for Chicago (zero).
Tom Thibodeau was so desperate for offense that he played Rip Hamilton 22 minutes. Rip hadn’t seen the floor since Game 6 of the Brooklyn series—a series in which he played ten total minutes. So Rip Hamilton played 22 minutes in a single game after playing ten minutes in a seven game series—a series which included a triple overtime game. And the worst part about it: Rip ended up as the Bulls’ third leading scorer.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Robinson said. “We’re professionals for a reason. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure it out.” I’m not sure what the Bulls can draw up that will win them three straight games, unless Vladimir Radmanovic turns into a LeBron James clone. I’m not ruling that out, but I’ll say it’s unlikely.
The worst part about Chicago’s Game 4 no-show has to be the timing. Not just that it came at home in the postseason, but because this was a very winnable game. Miami didn’t play all that well, but then again, they didn’t have to. Dwyane Wade continued to struggle, finishing 3-10 from the field with six points. Chris Bosh shot well (7-10), but didn’t have a huge stat line (14 points, six rebounds). Norris Cole wasn’t hitting everything in sight (2-4, seven points). And Shane Battier could have been a member of the Bulls with his shooting (1-6).
“I don’t want them looking backwards,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t want them looking ahead. Just lock into the game that’s in front of us and concentrate on winning that game. We know we’re capable.”
The Bulls seemed capable to make this an entertaining series coming in and actually stole home court after Game 2, but they’ve lost the three games in this matchup by an average of 23.3 points per game. Too much might be piling up against the Bulls: too much talent on Miami, too many injuries for the Bulls.
Kirk Hinrich, still dealing with a calf bruise, and Luol Deng, recovering from an illness, are both expected to be out of Game 5.
It’s not just Game 5 the Bulls need to win now though. It’s Game 5, Game 6 and Game 7…against the defending champs. It’s been an uphill battle all year for Chicago, playing without their best player, working through a variety of injuries to a number of different players, but this particular hill is too big to climb.
There aren’t any moral victories in the playoffs, and if the Bulls continue to play like they did at home in Games 3 and 4, there won’t be any actual victories either.
If the Bulls do go down, they’ll go down fighting. But I tonight is their last game of the season, let’s just hope they shoot at least 30 percent.
The word that best describes the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls is resilient.
If you follow this team, you know what they’ve endured. The season-long absence (and continued distraction) of Derrick Rose. The dismemberment of the Bench Mob. Injuries (and re-injuries) to key players. Long minutes. Little rest. Everything short of hordes of locusts and meteor storms.
Through it all, the Bulls have endured. They won 45 games. Earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Beat the Nets in a do-or-die Game 7 in Brooklyn. Won Game 1 of their second round playoff series against the Heat in Miami.
And while the Bulls have talent, even without Rose, they have not been as talented as their playoff opponents. Having Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng out of action has only widened the talent disparity.
But what the Bulls lack in talent, they make up in sheer will power. That has been the defining characteristic of this team under coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibs always says the Bulls have more than enough to win — he probably would say that even if they had to suit up a few ball boys and a couple janitors — and the players believe it. Buy into it. Live it.
That said, Game 4 was the game when cracks began to form in that seemingly impenetrable wall of mental fortitude Thibodeau had built around his players. It was as if the team as a whole suddenly and unexpectedly realized how badly the odds were stacked against them.
It showed in every facet of the game. Yes, even the defense, despite the fact that Miami finished with only 88 points. The Heat still converted better than 80 percent of their shots at the rim (per Hoopdata) and scored at a rate of 106.5 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).
Where the breakdown really showed was offense. Mind you, the Bulls have been a poor offensive team all season, and Miami certainly picked up their D in this game. But the Bulls were historically bad in Game 4. They compiled playoff franchise lows in points (65), field goal percentage (25.7) and third quarter point total (9). According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bulls had never shot less than 30 percent in a playoff game, and they had scored below 70 points only once before, in a 95-69 loss to the Detroit Pistons back in 2007.
Check the shot chart if you have the stomach to do so. They Bulls were ice cold from everywhere.
Nate Robinson’s performance was symbolic of this group meltdown. Robinson — who has been the team’s best offensive player much of the season and certainly throughout these playoffs — went 0-for-12 from the field and was held scoreless in 32 minutes. He also had as many turnovers as assists (4).
As ESPN Stats and Information put it: “Nate Robinson’s 0-for-12 was two shots shy of the worst 0-for in NBA playoff history, a dubious mark shared by Chick Reiser (1948) and Dennis Johnson (1978).”
By the second half, Nate was gasping for breath and actually looked hesitant to shoot, which are two things I’ve never seen from him. It didn’t help that Miami’s defense was swarming him at every opportunity.
Said Shane Battier: ”Nate’s the one guy on their team who can put pressure on our defense off the bounce. He can create havoc. He gets inside the defense, he scores, he gets the crowd going and suddenly … It best serves us if we make him work, if we make him take a few more dribbles. It starts with Mario and Norris … when we get up into the ball handler we’re an entirely different team.”
Added Robinson: ”They did a good job defending of course. But I had a lot of open shots that I usually make and a lot of floaters that I usually make that I missed, but you can’t make every shot. At the same time you just have to know when it’s not your night and it wasn’t my night tonight. I just have to try to bounce back.”
Nate wasn’t alone in his offensive misery. Carlos Boozer led the team in scoring in Game 4 with 16 points but shot 3-for-14 from the field. Minus his Game 3 performance (21 points on 10-for-16 shooting), Boozer is averaging 9.3 points on 9-for-34 shooting. The Heat are pushing him out of his comfort zone near the basket and forcing jump shots over outstretched hands. And those shots aren’t falling.
But Boozer nixed the idea that he or the Bulls are running on fumes.
Said Boozer: ”Nah, not at all. It’s not over by a long shot. You saw what happened last series. We were up 3-1 against Brooklyn and there was a Game 7. For us, we just have to regroup and get the next game and bring it back here for Game 6.”
That’ll be a lot easier said than done.
If you want to talk about signs of offensive desperation, Rip Hamilton — who had logged a total of 10 minutes and 20 seconds of playoff action in two token appearances against the Nets — played 22 minutes in Game 4.
Said Hamilton: ”A lot of stuff in life you don’t understand. This is what I was brought here for. To not be able to play and help my teammates, it’s hard, it’s rough. But I try to stay positive. I don’t try to rock the boat. I just try be positive with them and let [teammates] know what they need to do out there and things like that. Tonight I got lucky. I got to go out there and play.”
Hamilton knocked down a couple threes, going 4-for-11 overall is unlikely to get him out of Thibodeau’s doghouse. If Rip plays in Game 5, his role and minutes will be limited.
ESPN’s Scoop Jackson warns not to give up on the Bulls in Game 5, but it’s hard to imagine what the Bulls could possibly have left. Rose isn’t going to suit up until next year. That much is obvious. Hinrich probably won’t be able to go. Deng might, but how much will he be able to contribute after losing 15 pounds and suffering through a debilitating illness?
Said Taj Gibson: “It’s hard to believe [all the injuries that have happened]. I don’t know, we’re just kind of putting screws and bandages everywhere. It’s frustrating. Every night, every day, we’re just trying to push through it.”
To a man, the coach and players will put everything they have into forcing a Game 6. But, unless they have one more miracle left in them, Game 5 will most likely be remembered as the last stand of the 2012-13 Bulls. There’s no shame in that. But it is a bummer.
May 13, 2013
MVP (Most Valuable Player): LeBron James did what an MVP does. He recorded 27 points (9-20), seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals. The Bulls as a team recorded just 12 assists, although Chicago only had 19 baskets—so not many chances to get an assist.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): No one player earned this. It should go to the entire Bulls team. They started 1-12 from the field, were even worse in the third quarter (more on this in the next section) and put up some historically bad numbers. Nobody shot well for the Bulls, who went 25.7 percent from the floor. Nate Robinson did go 0-12 from the field, so only a handful of people in history shot worse than him. We really shouldn’t be surprised that Nate came crashing back down to earth.
Defining Moment: The nine points in the entire third quarter are probably a pretty good summary for this game. The Bulls went 2-13 from the field in the third frame, or 15.4 percent. They also turned it over seven times for good measure.
X factor: The Bulls point guards score scored more points for Miami (two), than for Chicago (zero). Shout out to Adam Reisinger for pointing this out. Marquis Teague tipped in a pass on defense to score two points for the Heat, but went 0-2 at the end he was actually supposed to score. That was nothing compared to Nate Robinson’s 0-12, though.
That Was … history: The Bulls set franchise records for fewest points and lowest field goal percentage in a playoff game. Their nine third quarter points were also a franchise low for the postseason. It was the worst shooting percentage for a playoff team since 2004 (Hornets, 24.4 percent). The Bulls worst playoff field goal percentage coming into tonight was 31.1 percent against Detroit in 1990.
In short, that was one of the worst playoff performances ever. At least he Bulls have an excuse of being injured. This very long, frustrating season could have just one game remaining, as the series heads back to Miami.
On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago forced the Heat into exactly what they wanted: midrange jumpers in Game 3. The only problem is, Miami didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to miss those shots—or at least not all of Miami did.
Tom Thibodeau’s game plan worked against LeBron James, who went just 1-7 from midrange. That’s 14.3 percent. James didn’t have a great shooting night from the field, going 6-17, but hit all 11 of his foul shots and added eight boards and seven assists because he’s LeBron James. Stopping the MVP is where it starts, but that’s just part of the battle.
Miami’s third banana, Chris Bosh, hit 5-9 from midrange, and went 8-16 overall. As a team, the Heat hit 50.0 percent of their midrange jumpers (13-26), nearly 10 percent better than the league average from the area.
The unfortunate part of all this is that Chicago did a very good job of defending the rim. The Heat went just 11-21 (52.4 percent) at the basket, almost 20 percent lower than their season average. Miami led the league in field goal percentage at the rim, hitting 71.5 percent of their shots from in close, according to Hoopdata. LeBron shot a staggering 77.7 at the rim on the year, but the Bulls held him to 50 percent (3-6) last time out.
Unfortunately the Bulls couldn’t capitalize because of the midrange jumpers mentioned above and the fact that Stephen Curry is wearing a Norris Cole skin-suit for this series. Cole is a perfect 8-8 from three in the three games, and was 6-7 overall in Game 3, contributing 18 off the bench.
So what can the Bulls do next game? Well, maybe closing out on Cole at the three point line a little quicker would be a start. But other than that, they probably won’t change much. Chicago will always give their opponent the midrange jumper, because it is the least efficient shot in the game. They showed this in the Nets series, when Brook Lopez hit three consecutive 20-footers but there was absolutely no change in the way they defended it.
They don’t want to give up easy shots, which they didn’t in Game 3, although the Heat did get to the line 30 times. The Bulls also want to run you off the three-point line, which they didn’t do great, but when the defense is over-compensating for LeBron James some open threes will happen. Also when Nate Robinson is on the court or when Carlos Boozer has to guard a small forward.
The Bulls were right there, they just faded down the stretch, which isn’t surprising considering their short bench. Don’t expect them to have any more healthy bodies for Game 4.
According to K.C. Johnson, Luol Deng couldn’t practice on Saturday without throwing up, and on Sunday stopped after just warming up.
“I did some individual work (Saturday) and I started throwing up a little bit. I couldn’t finish the workout,” Deng said, probably with a trash can within reach. “I tried to practice with the team (Sunday) and the same thing. My body, my system is not reacting well to anything I’m doing right now.”
Of course to Thibs, this mean Deng is “day-to-day.” I can’t believe they haven’t shut down Deng when he is having trouble eating solid foods.
Kirk Hinrich didn’t do much either, riding a stationary bike and getting a few shots up and is officially the same status as Deng.
With that news, Chicago will have the same guys healthy to play as they look to even the series at two games apiece (presumably with more than just two and a half minutes of Nazr Mohammed).
Among the “things that went right” for the Bulls was Carlos Boozer finally getting word that the second round started. Boozington scored 21 points on 10-16 from the field after scoring just 14 points in the first two games combined. He was finally being somewhat aggressive, and it paid off when he did. Boozer went 4-4 at the rim and 7-8 overall in the paint. If that right there doesn’t jump out to Boozer to start getting to the hole, then I don’t know what will. And while he was 7-8 in the paint, he was just 3-7 from midrange. That’s not a terrible midrange percentage, but he often has a size advantage in this series and he needs to take advantage of that (without throwing elbows and getting called for charges).
Don’t wake the beast: The Miami Heat are 10-0 following losses in Game 1 of playoff series during the Big Three era. After dropping Game 1, they won four straight against Chicago in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, four straight against the Thunder in the 2012 Finals and have now won two straight against the Bulls in this series.
May 12, 2013
The Bulls haven’t been thrilled by the officiating so far in their second-round playoff match-up with the Miami Heat. After losing the fiercely contested Game 3, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau spoke out about it.
Said Thibs: “When you play this team you have to have a lot of mental, physical and emotional toughness. Things aren’t going to go your way. That’s the way it is. You’re not going to get calls. That’s reality. We still have to find a way to get it done and we can.”
Thibodeau will have to help his team find a way to get it done with a little less walking around money, because the NBA fined him $35,000 for his comments.
No surprise there. If Marco Belinelli isn’t allowed to do Sam Cassell’s “Big Balls Dance” after a clutch basket, the league isn’t going to allow his coach to question their officials’ authoritah.
Thibodeau was particularly irked about the Three Stooges-style dive LeBron James took after a reactionary shove from Nazr Mohammed in the first half. Probably because it resulted in Mohammed’s ejection.
Said Thibs: “From my angle, I saw a guy basically flop. I don’t think it warranted an ejection. I understand a flagrant foul, I understand that, but ejection, no, nope.”
Added Nate Robinson: “You see LeBron in a lot of commercials, a lot of good acting.”
Of course LeBron flopped. He’s the most imposing physical specimen in the NBA…you’re telling me Nazr shoved him hard enough to send him sprawling at least 10 feet? If you believe that, I know a Nigerian prince who would like to give you bags and bags of free money.
Said Mohammed: “It was a soft foul; it’s not like a fouled him hard. It was a stop-the-break foul. I thought it was a cheap shot throwing me down when all I was doing was trying to stop the break. … I’m disappointed in myself because I let my teammates down. And I’m also disappointed because my son probably was watching the game and I don’t want him to see that type of behavior on the court. I’m also disappointed that it warranted an ejection for a push — when I got pushed down first.”
Added Taj Gibson: “[Michael Jordan] would get fouled and he would just keep playing. That’s old-school basketball.”
Yes, but LeBron is not MJ, and today’s league is not the NBA of the 1990s. That’s just the way it is. The Bulls have to realize that and play on.
Just don’t expect them to get all soft and cuddly because of it. Quite the opposite.
Said Joakim Noah: ”I expect the physical nature to continue [in Game 4]. It’s our only chance. … I think it’s very normal. You look at playoff basketball, it’s always physical. You look at every series, it’s physical. It’s just when you have somebody like LeBron James coming at you full speed, yeah, there’s a lot of contact. It’s just part of the game.”
Added Jimmy Butler: “We’re a hard-nosed, tough guy team. That’s what we label ourselves as. That’s what we pride ourselves on. We’re going to come out swinging. We’ll come out fighting. … Don’t give up any layups. I feel like when they get into the paint, we’ve got to make them earn it from the free throw line. If we do foul, we’ve got to make sure it’s not an ‘and one.’ I feel like they’ve been getting into the paint entirely too easy.”
Maybe. Although, according to Hoopdata, the Heat only 13-for-21 at the rim in Game 3. That 62 percent conversion rate is nearly 10 percentage points below Miami’s regular season average of 71.5. But limiting the Heat even further would obviously help.
What would also help would be the return of Kirk Hinrich and Luol Day. As usual, Thibodeau says both players are day-to-day, although it’s unlikely either of them will be ready for Game 4.
Said Deng: ”I did some individual work (Saturday) and I started throwing up a little bit. I couldn’t finish the workout.I tried to practice (Sunday) and the same thing. I just warmed up and couldn’t get through practice. My body, my system is not reacting well to anything I’m doing right now. It’s not as bad as it was before,” Deng said. “But I can’t even get through a regular warm-up.
“Just because you get a spinal tap doesn’t mean (the flu) goes away.I had that and then the reaction to (the spinal tap). It just sucks, man. It’s not like an injury where you can just play through it and it slows you down a little bit. It’s just one of those things where, not even basketball-wise, just doing regular stuff is hard.”
As for Hinrich, ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell reports that Captain Kirk has been limited to shooting and exercise bike work in practice. Which doesn’t make it seem as though his injured calf is ready for game action.
Meanwhile, the Derrick Rose speculation continues, but that’s all it is. Speculation. There are two camps: one that thinks Rose is a wimp and should be playing because he has been medically cleared to do so, and another that says he is fully within his rights as an athlete and a human being to decide when he’s ready to play. And of course there’s the organization’s troubling history of allowing (or even pushing) players to play with significant injuries further muddying the waters.
None of it matters.
Rose isn’t playing and won’t do so until he’s ready. Speculation — while tempting — won’t change that.
All of which means the Bulls will go into Game 4 the same way they went into Game 3: diminished by injury but determined to do everything they can to win.
May 10, 2013
MVP (Most Valuable Player): In a game where LeBron James (6-17 field goals) didn’t shoot great and Dwyane Wade (ten points) disappeared for stretches, Chris Bosh picked up the slack. He had an enormous double-double with 20 points, 19 rebounds and added two blocks and four assists for good measure.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Carlos Boozer finally showed up and got himself out of the LVP spot. But it was quickly overtaken by Nazr Mohammed. And I mean quickly. Nazr got himself tossed after playing just 2:31 in Game 3. He committed an odd foul on LeBron at mid-court, and then when LeBron was about to get a technical, Nazr decided it would be best to push James down. Nazr got tossed and it did the Bulls no good.
X factor: Going into the series, the Bulls’ biggest worries were Bosh, James and Wade. Well, add Norris Cole to that list because he hasn’t missed from three yet. Cole is averaging 14.3 points per game and is shooting 80 percent from the field. When you’re over-compensating for LeBron James, someone is going to be open and it shouldn’t be Ray Allen. But if Cole keeps knocking down shots, the Bulls’ will have to make an adjustment.
X factor 2: The Bulls held Miami to 52.4 percent at the rim, which is 7.5 percent worse than the league average (and the Heat have a guy named LeBron James). That is a huge win for the Bulls and the focus of their defense. However, Miami hit 50 percent (13-26) from midrange, nearly 10 percent better than the league average. The Bulls executed their defensive scheme, but Miami, led by Bosh, was hitting the shots they were given. If a team is connecting at that rate from midrange, it’s going to be tough to beat them. When that team is the Miami Heat, it’s even tougher.
That was … better: Heading into the fourth quarter, the game was tied. But Chicago got outscored by ten in the final frame, which has to do, at least partly, with rest. Following Game 2’s blowout loss, the Bulls responded well and even though they didn’t get it done, they stuck right with the defending champs. If Miami hadn’t been hitting so well from midrange, the Bulls could be the ones with a 2-1 series lead.