It’s like a bad horror movie. Now that New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has officially passed on — that is, gotten sick and tired of — trying to trade for Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls have popped back up on the ‘Melo Trade Radar.
“Anthony has long been enthusiastic about a possible trade to the Bulls, but Denver and Chicago officials had been previously unable to come to terms on a deal. Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman have investigated the possibility of acquiring Anthony, but thus far haven’t been willing to include the one player the Nuggets most covet: center Joakim Noah. Anthony’s agents are under pressure to make a deal happen for the All-Star forward, who sources said has become an increasingly unhappy client.
“Nevertheless, William Wesley – Worldwide Wes – is expected to travel to Chicago for Bulls games on Thursday and Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, a source said. Wesley unsuccessfully pushed LeBron James to sign with the Bulls as a free agent, and now has an interest in Anthony ending up there. Wesley represents Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for CAA.”
Note the “Wesley unsuccessfully pushed LeBron James to sign with the Bulls” part.
Anyway, Woj goes on to say:
“Chicago has wanted the Nuggets to take forward Luol Deng as a cornerstone to the deal, but Denver hasn’t been interested in absorbing the three years and $40 million left on his contract after this season. The Nuggets want an array of young players and picks the Bulls will have a difficult time providing. Still, Chicago badly needs another scoring option and Anthony is one of the NBA’s elite offensive players.”
While there’s no questioning whether ‘Melo is an elite offensive force, the debate about his relative efficiency rages on. The Bulls could certainly use some extra scoring punch — although I’d prefer an upgrade at the shooting guard position — and Anthony could provide that.
But is ‘Melo an ugrade over Luol?
As of today, Anthony is averaging 23.5 PPG while shooting 43.5 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from downtown and 80.4 percent from the line. He has an eFG% of 44.9 percent, a PER of 20.3 and 2.6 Win Shares. His Offensive Rating is 105 and his Defensive Rating is 107.
Deng is scoring 17.8 PPG while shooting 45.3 percent from the field, 34.7 percent on threes and 72 percent on free throws. He has an eFG% of 50.2, a PER of 14.8 and 4.4 Win Shares. His Offensive Rating is 108 and his Defensive Rating is 103.
Note that Luol’s Usage Rate is 21.5 while Anthony’s is 32.0. ‘Melo has a more varied offensive skill set than Deng, and that has an awful lot of value. But in terms of pure production, Deng is on par with ‘Melo despite a lower rate of use. Plus, he’s shooting more efficiently and contributing more to Chicago’s wins than Anthony is to Denver’s (if you buy into the concept of Win Shares). Plus, Deng is a much better defender.
‘Melo may be an upgrade over Deng. He may be. But how much?
And, assuming the Nuggets would take Deng in a trade — and there’s no evidence to suggest they would — what else would the Bulls have to give up?
If Denver won’t take Deng, what would they want in return? Draft picks no doubt. They also want young players. That would probably mean Taj Gibson. But can the Bulls afford to lose Taj? Think about how critical he’s been with Boozer and/or Noah out. We all know about Boozer’s injury history, and Noah has now missed significant time due to injuries in back-to-back seasons. That makes frontcourt depth critical.
I’m not sure I feel comfortable relying on Kurt Thomas.
If the Bulls could do a ‘Melo-for-Deng-and-draft-picks swap, that might work. Although, again, I’m not totally sold on the idea that Anthony is a better fit than Deng. After all, would there be enough shots to go around for Rose, Boozer and Anthony? Would a guy who has averaged nearly 20 shot attempts per game and is used to being The Man fit into Chicago’s offense?
Here are the top 10 things I hated about this loss:
10. The Revenge of Tyrus Thomas: Heading into last night’s game, Thomas’ highest averages for PPG (14.3) and RPG (8.3) against any team were against the Bulls. Seriously. Check his career splits. If Ty had given the kind of consistent effort when he was with the Bulls that he now gives against the Bulls, he’d probably still be on the team.
Tyrus didn’t have big numbers last night — 8 points, 3-for-8, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist and a block — but he had a game-high plus-minus score of +11. Thomas was a spark for the Bobcats. Better late than never I guess.
9. Turnovers: Before this game, I had planned to mention how well the Bulls had been taking care of the ball lately. The team had been averaging only 12.1 in January, including a season-low seven turnovers last week against the Pacers.
Then they got careless, committing 14 turnovers, which turned into 25 points going the other way. I’m sure you’ll agree that 23 points are a lot to give away in a one-point loss. It also represents 30 percent of the points the Bobcats scored.
8. Stupid “and 1″ fouls: The Bulls committed ticky-tac fouls four times as a Charlotte player was attempting a layup. The most damaging of these was when Ronnie Brewer fouled Gerald Wallace in the act of shooting with 1:13 left in the game. Wallace converted both the shot and the free throw to transform a 78-76 Bulls lead into a 79-78 deficit. It was a killer play.
7. Time mismanagement: Rose hit a five-footer to pull the Bulls to within a point (83-82) with 25 seconds left…then proceeded to let 15 seconds run off the clock without fouling.
Mind you, the Bulls did execute a trap that forced the Bobcats to call timeout with 10 seconds left, and they were awarded the ball (thanks to video review) with eight seconds left after poking the ball away but off of D.J. Augustine. But still. They let a lot of valuable time slip away.
6. Poor interior defense: The Bobcats didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard. To wit: They converted only 40.2 percent of their 87 field goal attempts. But they did shoot 15-for-23 (65 percent) around the rim and scored 46 of their 83 points in the painted area.
Here’s some added perspective on Charlotte’s at-the-rim shooting percentage. On the season, the Bulls rank 8th in at-the-rim defense (60.8) and the Bobcats rank 25th in at-the-rim conversion (59.8). I’m just sayin’.
5. No inside game: The Bulls really suffered from Carlos Boozer’s absence last night. They finished with only 28 points in the paint and simply couldn’t get anything going inside.
According to Hoopdata, only 19 of their 77 shot attempts were at the rim, and they converted only 10 of those attempts. Meanwhile, they went 8-for-31 (25 percent) from 16-23 feet. That’s the worst shot in basketball, by the way. Without Boozer, and to a lesser extent without Noah, the Bulls reverting back into a jump shooting team. Which might work if they had more shooters…
4. Terrible shooting:
Outside of D-Rose (14-for-28) and Ronnie Brewer (6-for-11), the Bulls couldn’t have lobbed a beach ball into the ocean.
They shot 39 percent as a team. Luol Deng went 2-for-11. Taj Gibson was 2-for-7. Kurt Thomas shot 2-for-6. Keith Bogans had his usual 1-for-3 performance. Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Omer Asik were a combined 3-for-11.
The Bulls went flat broke from the field. In all fairness, they were playing the second night of back-to-backs — and their fourth game in five nights – minus their second and third-best players…but it was ugly to watch. Very ugly.
3. Fatigue: Okay, so, like I was saying, the Bulls were playing their fourth game in five nights. And last week, they concluded a stretch of five games in seven nights. Rose, Deng and Gibson all logged at least 40 minutes the previous night in Memphis, and poor Luol is averaging 40 MPG in January (and 39.2 MPG on the season).
I know this is a “no excuses” league. But the guys looked and played tired.
2. The “clutch” offense: With 36 seconds left, Stephen Jackson hit a turnaround jumper over Kyle Korver. I saw that coming the whole way. I don’t know if anybody else has noticed this, but when an offensive player draws Korver as a defender, they almost always shoot the ball.
The worst part was that Kurt Thomas knew it was coming and made a passive lunge toward the play…and a quick double might have prevented or disrupted the shot. All I could think was, “If Joakim had been there, Jackson might have been eating that ball.”
So anyway, now it was Charlotte by a point (81-80).
The Bulls called timeout. Coach Thibodeau subbed in Brewer for Korver, which is kind of funny when you think about it: Keeping Kyle in for the defensive possession and then switching him out for Brewer for the offensive possession. But whatever. I’m not the coach. Rose drew a double-team and found Brewer under the hoop.
Now, personally, I thought Ronnie should have gone up with the ball. Yes, I realize that the Bobcats D was rotating. But Brewer is an athletic finisher and, who knows, maybe he could have drawn a foul. Instead, he passes to Luol Deng — who was 2-for-10 at the time — for a three-pointer. Granted, the shot was as wide open as they get, but you don’t want a fatigued player who’s having a bad shooting night firing from 26 feet with the game on the line.
At least, I don’t want that.
Then, on Chicago’s final offensive sequence, Kurt Thomas fired a pass to Korver under the hoop. Would I have minded Brewer taking that shot? No. Did I want Kyle taking that shot? Hell no. Sure enough, Tyrus swatted the ball out of bounds with three seconds left. The ball was inbounded to Rose, who, to his credit, got a semi-clean look from 19 feet out. But it wasn’t really the kind of shot teams win games with.
1. A wasted opportunity: The Bulls (28-14) have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, behind the Celtics (31-9) and Heat (30-13). However, they’re barely a step ahead of Atlanta (28-15) and Orlando (26-15). The race is tight…and homecourt advantage could mean everything come playoff time.
At the end of the season, losses like this — not to mention losses to the Clippers, Nets and Sixers — could come back to haunt the Bulls.
I didn’t include this in my top 10 list only because, for the most part, I try to avoid bringing officiating into the discussion. But what a way to end the first half. Augustine gets away with a very obvious traveling violation on a breakaway layup (with an official five feet from him) and then Rose gets called for a phantom offensive foul. As Charles Barkley would say: Turrible.
“In eight days, Joakim Noah will have the pin removed from his injured right thumb. … Noah’s surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb took place on Dec. 16 with a timetable of eight to ten weeks before he’d return. Once the pin is removed on Jan. 25, Noah will work to regain his hand’s strength and reacquire its mobility. … It’s interesting to note that exactly ten weeks after his surgery, the Bulls will host the Miami Heat on Feb. 24 in the team’s second meeting of the regular season.”
Of course, there’s no way to know at this point when Noah will actually be back in uniform. It’s going to depend on the pin removal surgery, his rehab, how he feels and the opinion of his doctors and the team’s medical staff.
Said Noah: “I’m just trying to control what I can control right now. I’m all about getting this pin out of my finger and getting my hand back to 100 percent. Hopefully it’s before [February 24] because I would love to play in that game.”
And Bulls fans would love to see him play in that game.
Two of the team’s best three players out of action.
Things looked bad.
As a fan, when things look bad, all you want to see out of your team is a sense of urgency. Guys stepping up. A team playing good basketball.
Well, that’s what Bulls fans got today.
Derrick Rose? His first career triple-double (22 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds).
Luol Deng? A game-high 28 points on 11-for-17 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and some killer defense on Rudy Gay. Mind you, Gay averages 21 PPG on 48 percent shooting (including 41 percent on threes). Today he finished with 9 points on 1-for-10 shooting.
Taj Gibson? He’s not the scoring threat that Boozer is, but he finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and a game-high 6 blocked shots. Oh, and a game-best plus-minus score of +16. Yes, Zach Randolp had a sizable double-double (21 points and 13 boards), but Taj helped harass Z-Bo into missing 13 of his 20 field goal attempts.
Kyle Korver? He scored 22 points off the bench while going 8-for-12 from the field and 6-for-10 from downtown. He even added 4 rebounds.
Kurt Thomas? Quiet numbers (9 points and 6 rebounds), big body, solid impact. He’s not the defensive foundation that Noah is, but he bangs and intimidates.
Chicago’s defense? It held Memphis 15 points below their season average of 99.6 and limited them to 37 percent shooting (including 1-for-7 from downtown). And check out the Grizzlies’ team splits: They averages 102.6 PPG at home. So the Bulls actually held them 18.6 points below their season average for home games.
Teamwork? The Bulls registered 24 assists on 36 made field goals and committed only 11 turnovers (the league average is 14.5 TOs per game).
It should come as no surprise, then, that Chicago built a 22-point lead before settling for a 12-point win. If it hadn’t been for an off-the-bench outburst by O.J. Mayo (15 points on 7-for-14 shooting) and a 35-19 free throw advantage (including 16-4 in the third quarter), the Bulls might have won by 30.
Still, it was a pretty sweet win, regardless of the margin of victory. The Grizzlies may be a sub-.500 team, but they had won five of their last seven games, including wins over the Lakers (30-12), Thunder (27-13), Jazz (27-13) and Mavericks (26-13).
And, as I pointed out, the Bulls were minus two of their three biggest guns.
This win made me appreciate some things even more than usual. The team’s defense-first focus. The way Luol Deng fills whatever role is asked of him. And the fact that Rose has become one of those superstars that can generate wins by his force of will.
It’s good stuff all around.
Admittedly, I’m worried about tomorrow’s home game against the Bobcats. It’ll be Chicago’s fourth game in five nights and their second straight without Boozer. And last week they finished up a stretch of five games in seven nights. Plus Rose, Deng and Gibson all logged at least 40 minutes last night.
Winning isn’t going to be easy. But this Bulls team keeps stepping up despite adversity. Why should I doubt they can do it again?
“Carlos Boozer didn’t travel on Sunday with the team to Memphis, meaning Monday’s matinee will feature this season’s first game without Boozer and Joakim Noah. Boozer sprained his left ankle just before Kyle Korver’s game-winning shot with 25.5 seconds left in Saturday’s 99-96 victory over the Heat. The team is calling him day-to-day, but there is concern Boozer, one of just four players in the NBA averaging a double-double, will miss all four games this week because of the ankle’s significant swelling.”
Said Boozer: “This is not my first twisted ankle. But it’s a bad one. It’s pretty swollen.”
Not the way you want to celebrate a big win. Of course, Boozer’s boo-boo wasn’t the only wet blanked that got thrown on what should have been a very satisfying victory.
To wit: The Heat were without LeBron James, who sat out with a sprained ankle of his own, and had to play the fourth quarter without Chris Bosh, who hurt his ankle at the end of the third.
I guess it’s just been a bad week for ankles all around.
But, oh man, this game. Derrick Rose (a game-high 34 points, a game-best 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) dueled Dwyane Wade (33 points, 6 rebounds, a game-high 5 blocks and 4 assists)…and won.
Rose stepped up to the challenge. He proved — in case anybody was still in doubt — that he’s no longer a superstar in the making. He’s a superstar. Period.
D-Wade’s a believer.
Said Wade: “Derrick is one of the great players in the game today and probably will be for a long time to come. You don’t see a point guard with the ability he has. And now he’s added an outside shot to his arsenal. Chicago’s got a good one.”
Don’t we know it.
Mind you, the Windy City is pretty spoiled. The Greatest Of All Time was here. The player against whom all players are measured was a member of the Chicago Bulls. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have more championships. That old lion, Bill Russell, won more rings. But Michael Jordan was, is and might always be The Man.
But he’s gone. And at long last the Bulls have another great one.
The post-Jordan era has been rough. There have been bad teams. Very bad teams. For a while, things go so bad we were ready to annoint those old Deng-Gordon-Hinrich-Nocioni squads. What a whiff that was.
But this is, without question, the best Bulls team since MJ retired the second time. They’re for real. They’re becoming a legit power in the league.
And D-Rose is the foundation.
He’s talented. Driven. Humble. Cares about nothing but winning.
That why I bristle when people call him a volume shooter or claim he’s not elite because he doesn’t get to the line often enough. Rose isn’t like any player we’ve ever seen. He doesn’t care about numbers. He only does what he does to help his team win. Whatever it takes.
That’s what he did against the Heat.
Said Rose: ”During [crunch time], everybody knows who’s going to get the ball. nI think it was like four or five minutes left … you know who’s going to get the ball. And it’s about will. What are you going to do to get this win?”
If you’re coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls, you give it to Rose and get out of the way.
In my game preview post, I said the Bulls were going to need Derrick Rose to play like an All-Star to beat the Pacers. Maybe I was right. Maybe I was wrong. That said…
…Rose did play like an All-Star. And the Bulls won.
Derrick grabbed 10 rebounds and scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the second half. He shot 11-for-21 from the field, 3-for-6 from downtown and 4-for-5 from the foul line. He even added a couple blocked shots for good measure. On that subject…poor T.J. Ford.
Said Pacers coach Jim O’Brien: ”In the second half, when he’s going like he’s going, it doesn’t matter what you do on a pick-and-roll. That’s why people think that he’s an MVP candidate.”
(Although, in all fairness, Chicago and Indianapolis are pretty close by car…so…)
It wasn’t all Rose though. As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell noted, Chicago actually opened the game with some intensity for a change. It’s not coincidence, then, that the Bulls led by 12 at halftime instead of trailing by double digits.
And their defense really did a number on the Pacers.
The Bulls held Indy to 32.6 percent shooting from the field. The Pacers ended up with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 36.4 and an Offensive Rating of 93.9 (as in points per 100 possessions).
Don’t look now, but according to Basketball-Reference, Chicago now leads the league in Defensive Rating.
Said Luol Deng: ”That’s who we want to be. We want to be a defensive team. And if that’s what we we’re going to be we got to stop people. We can’t be trying to outscore people which we’re capable of doing. But we got to stop teams and win games that way.”
Speaking of which, Lu gets a little extra recognition, not for his stat line (17 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals), but for doing a man’s job on Indiana’s Danny Granger (4-for-17 through three quarters and 8-for-23 overall).
Said Deng: ”He’s such a great shooter. My mindset tonight was, I just didn’t want to lose him. Every time he took a shot, I was doing the best I could to challenge. I didn’t want to let him get any space.”
Additional kudos go to Kurt Thomas (18 rebounds), Carlos Boozer (14 points on 7-for-12 shooting) and the bench (34 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocked shots and a steal).
Oh, and a special thanks goes out to Keith Bogans for committing two quick fouls. Bogans left the game with 10:15 left in the first quarter and the game tied at 2-2. Bogans sat out the rest of the half and the Bulls were up by a dozen at the break.
I’m just sayin’.
It was a total team effort and the Bulls showed up in every category. Hence the season-low seven turnovers and the 46-24 advantage in points in the paint.
Now that the appetizers have been finished…bring on the Heat.
I’m not kidding. The Bulls have lost 20 of their last 24 games there. Which is pretty bad news with the way they’ve been playing on the road lately.
Chicago really misses Joakim Noah. Without him, major flaws are exposed, both offensively and defensively. The Bulls don’t fast break enough. When Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas are both in the game, it often feels like the Bulls are playing three-on-five. When opposing players get by Derrick Rose or Carlos Boozer, there’s nobody there to intercept them. And, most of all, the team misses his energy and intensity.
The Bulls can overcome these issues at home. Not so much on the road. This is a problem because the Pacers are a strong defensive team and they have players — Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison, T.J. Ford — who create mismatches.
All I can say is that the Bulls never come out focused and intense from the tip and keep it up until the game is over. If they don’t, if they lose focus or fail to match Indy’s intensity, they’re going to lose.
“We’ve got to do a better job of being a 48-minute team.”
That was what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after his team beat the Celtics last Saturday night. In fact, it’s a variation of what he’s been saying all season. And it was like some kind of dark prophesy, as the Pistons built a 12-point lead at the United Center on Monday night. The Bulls came back to win…but Thibodeau’s point had been made.
Not strongly enough apparently. For the second straight game, the Bulls surrendered 55 first half points to a sub-.500 team and found themselves down by double-digits. They once again came out strong after the break — outscoring the Bobcats 28-14 in the third quarter — but it wasn’t enough.
Bad starts are harder to overcome on the road.
How bad a start was it? The Bobcats, one of the league’s worst offensive squads, scored 36 points in the first quarter. Kwame Brown, one of draft history’s biggest busts, scored 10 of those points.
So many things seemed to go wrong last night. Derrick Rose finished with 17 points and 7 assists, but he shot poorly (5-for-17) and hit only three of his 12 layup attempts. His turnover with 28 seconds left — and the Bulls down only 92-89 — was crippling.
What’s more, Rose was outplayed by D.J. Augustine, who has 22 points, a career-high 12 assists, and only one turnover. Augustine also went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 23 seconds when the Bulls were forced to foul. He was good. He was clutch.
Tyrus Thomas had a classic revenge game against his former team. Thomas finished with 17 points (7-f0r-14) and a season-high 13 rebounds off the Charlotte bench. Ty also made big plays down the stretch. He converted a layup “and 1″ with 4:01 left in the fourth that put the Bobcats up 86-82. Then, 12 seconds later, he blocked a layup attempt by Rose. Finally, he hit a crazy reverse layup with 1:14 to go that gave Charlotte a 90-89 advantage after the Bulls had taken a one-point lead.
Said Thomas: “Half the people over there ain’t there no more, but it always feels good to beat your old team. I haven’t been playing the minutes I want to. But I’m in there when it counts so I have an opportunity to win games for us.”
He’s still inconsistent. That hasn’t changed. But he haunted the Bulls last night.
Still, if you want to talk inconsistency, you have to talk about the team based in Chicago. Their intensity is up and down. Or, rather, it’s down and up. Down to start the game, up in the second half, usually when they’re already behind.
Said Luol Deng: ”Right now, we’re waiting until we’re down and then we’re picking up our intensity. We can’t do that. We got to come out and play with a lot of energy and play hard right away. We’re starting the games right now off sluggish and then we got to catch up.”
Added Boozer: ”We can’t be one of those teams that has slow starts and rely on ourselves to come back. We got to be a team that puts in on them from the jump and goes that way. It’s something we’ve got to clean up and clean up fast before we get to Indiana.”
I think a big part of the problem is the continuing absence of Joakim Noah. Not only because he provides the foundation of Chicago’s interior defense — which was almost nonexistant in the first half — but Noah provides the spark when the Bulls are sluggish. He doesn’t just bring intensity, he is intensity.
What’s worse, it feels like the Bulls are playing 3-on-5 to start games. I’m sorry, but Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas should not be starting in the NBA, much less for the Bulls. I can’t help but think that’s a big part of the reason the Bulls keep stumbling out to slow starts.
Bobcats Injury Report:
Gerald Wallace: Bone bruise left ankle (will play)
Nazr Mohammed: Bone bruise right knee (questionable)
DeSagana Diop: Ruptured right Achilles (out for the season)
Charlotte appears to be a hot team. Since Michael Jordan fired Larry Brown and replaced him with Paul Silas, the Bobcats have gone 5-2. What’s more, they’re on a season-best three-game winning streak, during which they’ve averaged 102.7 PPG. That may not sound impressive, but it’s nearly 10 PPG above their season average. And the Bobcats have scored 92 or fewer points 17 times this season, which includes games of 75, 73 and 62 points.
The ‘Cats are 2-15 in those games.
But, to be honest, their streak might be a bit of a mirage. First because of what I like to call the dead coach bounce. Second, look at the teams they’ve beaten during their “hot” streak: Detroit (12-25), Cleveland (8-30), Minnesota (9-30), Washington (10-26) and Memphis (17-21). And only their game against the Timberwolves was on the road.
Now they have to try and beat a team on the plus side of .500. How good have the Bulls been this season? According to STATS LLC: “Chicago (25-12) hasn’t started this well since the 1997-98 season, when the Bulls opened 26-11 on their way to finishing 62-20 and winning the last of their six titles.”
Of course, comparing any current Bulls squad to any of the Michael Jordan era title teams is tricky business.
Still, Derrick Rose has been playing out of his mind. Rose is currently 7th in both Total Points (876) and Points Per Game (24.3). He’s also 5th in Field Goals (324), 7th in Usage Percentage (31.0), 8th in Total Assists (292), 8th in Assists Per Game (8.1) and 10th in Assist Percentage (40.0). He’s also averaging 4.5 RPG and 1.1 SPG while shooting nearly 40 percent on threes and almost 80 percent from the line.
Speaking of “from the line,” Derrick has finally figured out how to draw fouls in the NBA. Rose has attempted 58 free throws over his last six games, including a career-high 19 attempts against the Celtics last Saturday.
Carlos Boozer has been playing pretty well too. Boozer is averaging a double-double (20.6 PPG and 0.1 RPG) and ranks 7th in Field Goal Percentage (55.9). In the 13 games the Bulls have played without Joakim Noah, Boozington has 10 double-doubles. In the last three games, Boozer has gone off for 31-13, 22-10 and 27-11 while shooting 35-for-51 from the field (68 percent).
Unfortunately, most of the scoring burden has been falling on Rose, Boozer and Luol Deng (17.8 PPG). In fact, poor Luol is averaging a career-high 39.1 MPG. He’s logged at least 40 minutes in 20 games and came within five seconds of making it 21 games. Deng has played 40+ minutes in four of the last five games. Given his injury history, this is more than a little troubling. Is James Johnson really bad enough to risk Lu’s health?
At any rate, all things being equal, I think the Bulls are the better team. Unfortunately, all things aren’t equal. Noah is still out of action and Gerald Wallace — who may be Charlotte’s best player — is set to return tonight. They’ve been facing bad teams, but the Bobcats have been playing inspired basketball. Plus they’re at home. And don’t forget the Bulls dropped back-to-back road games to the Nets (10-27) and Sixers (15-23) last week.
The Bobcats are dangerous. They can play defense and have streaky scorers. They’re amped up to be playing under a new coach. I think the Bulls should be able to win this one…but I don’t believe they will.
I have to admit, watching the Pistons — a hapless 12-win team with only three road victories on the season — build a 12-point halftime lead in the United Center was a little frustrating.
I wasn’t the only one who was frustrated. You could see irritation in the face of the normally mild mannered Derrick Rose when he uncharacteristically slammed the basketball down in anger after Detroit’s Austin Daye scored an easy layup near the end of the second quarter. That’s when Rose did what great players do.
He stepped up his game.
Rose scored 11 points in the third quarter as the Bulls outscored the Pistons 33-15 coming out of the break. Then, early in the fourth, with the game still in doubt, Rose dropped the hammer.
I know Bulls fans have seen some amazing dunks over the years — the United Center is the house Michael Jordan built after all — but is this kid for real? Seriously, is he for real?
Said Carlos Boozer: “That was a great play. That has to be the number one play on SportsCenter, on WGN, on NBATV, and whatever other channels [people] are watching the Bulls games. He went up and got that ball and threw it in so hard. To me, that was a backbreaker, even though we had a whole ‘nother quarter to play … we all got hyped on the bench. He does some special things every night, but that was special for us tonight.”
That wasn’t the game…but it was the game. You know?
Rose would finish with a game-high 29 points on 10-for-20 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line. He added a game-best 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot.
Boozer came through with another big double-double (27 points and 11 rebounds) and Luol Deng had a nice all-around game (17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block).
I’m glad the Bulls took care of business at home against a bad team. I’m glad the defense came to life in the second half after taking the first 24 minutes off. But I won’t lie. I’m a little concerned.
First, I hate that the team goes through stretches where the defense is inconsistent at best or non-existent at worst. Detroit is one of the league’s worst offensive teams, and yet they scored 30 points in the second quarter and finished the first half with 55.
The Bulls held the Pistons to only 27 points in the second half — 15 in the third quarter and then 12 in the fourth — but, personally, I would have like to have seen the team take control early and maybe get the starters some rest.
Speaking of which, that’s the second thing that worries me. Deng once again logged 40-plus minutes, finishing the night with 44. Rose played 43 minutes. Boozer finished with 36. Thomas and his creaky kneed with for 30 while Omer Asik saw only five.
Ronnie Brewer saw big minutes off the bench — 32 of them — and had a solid outing (11 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds and a block). But C.J. Watson (five minutes) and Kyle Korver (four minutes) barely played enough time to break a sweat.
And how about the scoring burden? It’s predictable that Rose, Boozer and Deng would have to do most of the heavy lifting. But the other two starters combined for three points (Thomas was scoreless in his 30 minutes). Korver, Watson and Asik all finished with zero points in their limited PT. Which means only six players scored for the Bulls last night while four went scoreless and another (Keith Bogans) finished with three points on one made field goal.
I’m not trying to nitpick, but Detroit ranks 25th in Defensive Rating, giving up 110.2 points per 100 possessions. I’d kind of like to see better scoring distribution.
I might be less worried if the Bulls weren’t facing down a tough four-game stretch: at Charlotte, at Indiana, versus the Heat and then at Memphis. The Bobcats, Pacers and Grizzlies aren’t great teams by any stretch of the imagination, but road games against sub-.500 teams aren’t always gimmies. Just look at what the Nets and Sixers did to the Bulls last week.
Again, I’m pleased with the victory and the continuing dominance of Rose, but the Bulls need to play good defense for 48 minutes and get everybody involved in the offense.