December 30, 2011
Los Angeles Clippers Status Check:
Home Record: 0-0
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 115-90 loss to San Antonio
PPG: 97.5 (11th)
Opponents PPG: 100.5 (25th)
Offensive Rating: 107.7 (8th)
Defensive Rating: 111.0 (26th)
Pace: 90.5 (21st)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .474 (16th)
Turnover Percentage: .106 (2nd)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .676 (27th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .256 (18th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .310 (5th)
Opp. eFG%: .522 (24th)
Opp. TO%: .164 (8th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .198 (7th)
Leading scorer: Blake Griffin (25.0)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Two of the best, if not the two best, point guards square off tonight as Chicago travels back to L.A. to finish its four game California road-trip. The Bulls look to build off their best outing of the season as they travel to the Clippers, who play their first home game this year.
Derrick Rose has never lost to Chris Paul, but that was when Paul was with the Hornets. The wins may tilt toward Rose, but Paul has the better stats in their head-to-head matchups. Paul is averaging 19.3 points on 50.9 percent shooting, 7.8 assists and 2.0 steals. Rose on the other hand is averaging 14.8 points while shooting an ugly 36.5 percent to go along with 6.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 3.5 turnovers. Rose did get the best of the last matchup, on February 12, holding Paul to 15 points on 30 percent shooting.
But now CP3 has teamed up with Blake Griffin and Vinny Del Negro! OK, maybe the Del Negro thing isn’t great for Paul, but Griffin definitely helps.
The Bulls and Clips split their two games last year, with both teams winning their away games. In the loss, Rose scored 34 points, grabbed six rebounds and had eight assists. Carlos Boozer scored 25, and Keith Bogans recorded a bagel. Blake Griffin scored 29 points in the win.
This game will bring back some sour memories for Rose. Derrick had a chance to put the game into overtime, but missed the second freebie and the Bulls fell 100-99.
Rose and the Bulls got revenge in the second game though, with Rose scoring 32 points in an 18 point victory.
Derrick’s average of 33 points against the Clippers was his second highest against any team last year (he averaged 37.5 against the Spurs). But last year’s starting point guard for the Clippers was Baron Davis…not quite the same caliber as Paul is.
Joakim Noah did not get to play against the Clips, missing both games due to injury. Blake Griffin averaged 31.5 points, otherwise known as the Boozer-effect.
In the two matchups last year, the Bulls only had 15 fast break points. The Bulls had 33 fast break points on Thursday night against the Kings. And Chicago is expected to keep running to get easy points.
The Bulls were moving early, and went on a quick 15-0 run, two points of which came on Joakim Noah coast-to-coast break. Coast-to-coast Joakim is the best Joakim. Chicago looked great early, but it helped that the Kings looked less than spectacular. Sacramento started extremely slow, making just one of their first 13 attempts. The Kings got most of their points from the line, while Chicago was pushing the tempo. The Bulls had eleven fast break points in the first, while Sacramento recorded just two in that category.
Rose tried to get himself going early, and even though he didn’t shoot a great percentage, it definitely helped create offense for others. Boozer finished the first quarter with six points and seven rebounds. The seven rebounds were his most of the season (he finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds). Rip Hamilton scored 16 points of his own in the win.
But Rose didn’t do enough. He settled for jumpers a lot of the time instead of plowing into the lane. He was just 3-8 from shots that weren’t at the rim.
It won’t be as easy for the Bulls tonight, as they are on the second night of back-to-backs, with some tired legs. Luol Deng played 40 minutes, Booz played 38 and Rip played 36. The Los Angeles has had one full day of rest after their 25-point loss to San Antonio.
You may be wondering when Chicago will look as good as they did last year. And knowing Thibs (not personally, although sometimes I pretend that’s the case), he should have them whipped back into midseason form very soon.
Yes, it’s early, but the Miami Heat look extremely good. And they look even better in their intro video.
Chicago played better on Thursday than they had the rest of the year, but it isn’t where they’ll need to be; especially considering the Bulls couldn’t put the Kings away. Tonight will be a good test, against a good team, but a team that is still getting used to new teammates.
AARPistons: Rip Hamilton will reunite with former teammate Chauncey Billups tonight. They played together in Detroit from 2002 until 2008 when Chauncey left. The Piston won the NBA Championship in 2003-2004 and lost in the Finals the next year.
Turnovers: Los Angeles is second in the league in turnover percentage at .106, while Chicago is 23rd (.159). The Bulls aren’t forcing other teams to turn it over much either, recording just a .132 opponent turnover percentage. The Clippers have a .164 opponent turnover percentage. Chicago will need to hold onto the ball to win tonight, something they didn’t do a good job of against the Kings.
Block Party: DeAndre Jordan is averaging 5.5 blocks per game. He recorded eight blocks in the first game of the season against Golden State, and three against the Spurs.
Wins are always good.
And the Bulls played reasonably well.
Chicago was hot from the field (53.8) and from downtown (6-for-12), finishing with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 57.5. Their Offensive Rating was 114.3 points per 100 possessions, and their defense limited Sacramento to 42.2 percent shooting.
And check out these numbers: 33 fast break points and 54 points in the paint.
The Bulls also got a balanced effort on the score sheet. Derrick Rose finished with 19 points and 8 assists. Carlos Boozer had a manly double-double (16 points, 15 boards). Rip Hamilton contributed 16 points (7-for-15) and Luol Deng had a quiet all-around game (12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists). C.J. Watson had an excellent floor game in relief (game-high 9 assists), while Ronnie Brewer (12 points, 5-for-5), Kyle Korver (6 points, 2-for-2) and Taj Gibson (6 points, 3-for-4) all shot extremely well off the bench.
Unfortunately, some of the trends from the loss to Golden State continued last night. The Bulls committed 18 turnovers and gave up 23 points off those turnovers. And the Kings — who fell behind by 15 points in the first quarter — managed to stay in the game thanks in no small part to 34 trips to the free throw line.
Sacramento also ripped down 18 offensive rebounds.
Details. Little details. Or not-so-little details. They can define games. This one should have been a laugher. The Kings are the league’s youngest team and the Bulls should have blown them away early and gotten the starters a nice, long rest for tonight’s game against the Clippers.
Instead, Deng (40) and Boozer (38) logged big minutes, and Hamilton (36) and Rose (32) played more than they should have.
Take care of the ball. Control your defensive backboards. Defend without fouling.
They’re basic concepts the Bulls are struggling with right now.
I feel bad complaining after a win. Maybe it’s the armchair coach in me, but the Bulls need to clean up these details. They should not have lost to the Warriors. The Kings should not have been able to hang around in this one. The Bulls need to start really imposing their will on lesser teams.
And so does Derrick Rose.
After the game, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was critical of the officials and their treatment of his young superstar. But you know what?
Derrick needs to play better.
Have you looked at his numbers through three games? Forget MVP level. They aren’t even All-Star level: 18 PPG, 45.5 percent shooting, 7.1 APG, 2.4 RPG, 3.4 FTA. His Player Efficiency Rating is 14.8.
Did Rose absorb some uncalled contact last night? Yep. He sure did. And so does every NBA player in every game that is ever played. It’s the nature of the beast.
Frankly, Rose needs to force the issue. He needs to drive into the belly of the beast and force the officials to make calls by attacking the rim with all the athleticism at his disposal. Nobody can stay in front of Rose, and very few people can overwhelm him physically. The onus is on Rose to make the refs give him foul shots.
During his screed against the officials, Thibs hit closest to the mark when he said this: “Sometimes I think him being such a nice guy goes against him too.”
Rose needs to get mad. He needs to abuse his defenders. He’s got to start playing with more of an edge. I’m not saying he needs to go all Bad Boys Pistons or anything. But fortune favors the aggressors. He needs to become one.
Right now, it looks like Rose is trying to let the game come to him, and that he’s trying to let his teammates find their games. He’s got to assert himself. Take over. Everybody else will fall into line if Rose takes control. The Bulls need that. They really do.
That’s just my take.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
December 29, 2011
Sacramento Kings 2010-2011 Status Check:
Home Record: 11-30
Last game: 101-79 loss to Portland
PPG: 99.4 (15th)
Opponents PPG: 104.7 (25th)
Offensive Rating: 103.5 (25th)
Defensive Rating: 109.0 (20th)
Pace: 95.2 (4th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .480 (26th)
Turnover Percentage: .144 (26th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .744 (13th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .299 (1st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .208 (28th)
Opp. eFG%: .513 (25th)
Opp. TO%: .135 (13th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .233 (18th)
Leading scorer: Marcus Thornton (21.3)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
After two underwhelming performances, Chicago looks to rebound against the 1-1 Sacramento Kings. For the first time this season, we may finally see the 62 win Chicago Bulls team from last year.
After watching tape of the first two games, through which Chicago went 1-1, Derrick Rose promised to be more aggressive early.
“I think the first two games, in the first quarter, we were kind of sluggish where we didn’t start off well,” Rose said. “And the only thing I can think about from last year and this year is this year I shot less shots in the first quarter. I think I only shot one or two shots in the first quarter [this year]. Last year it was eight [or] nine shots just to get a groove going. That’s the difference that I see from last year and this year.”
It’s not just shots from the field either. So far this season, Rose has gotten to the line just four times total, all of which came during Chicago’s loss to the Warriors. Rose needs to get to the line more than that, especially since he shot just 4-17 from the field in the Warriors game (Rose scored 13 against Golden State). Rip Hamilton was supposed to open up the lanes for Derrick to use, but so far that hasn’t been the case.
In the Warriors game, Rose was just 1-3 in his first eleven minutes on the court. He scored five points in his next two minutes. Rose is content to get others involved and to be the facilitator/passer rather than the scorer, but there comes a point where he needs to assert himself. Last season the Bulls went as Derrick went, and that doesn’t seem to have changed two games into this season.
Last year, when Derrick wasn’t shooting well from the field, he usually found a way to get to the foul line. In the 2010-2011 campaign, Rose started the season slow from the free throw line, but as the year went on, he got there more and more. Rose got to the line just under seven times per game last season. Before the All-Star game he averaged 6.2 free throw attempts, but he bumped that number up to 8.1 attempts per game after the break. In the two games last year against the Kings, Rose averaged 6.5 free throws a game, making all of them.
Good things happened when Derrick got to the line last year. Rose shot four or less free throws 20 times last year; Chicago went just 13-7 in those games.
But it hasn’t just been the offense that started slow, Chicago’s defense hasn’t gotten back from the long break yet either. Chicago is 23rd in offensive efficiency at 93.8, but this year their defense isn’t picking up the slack. Their 101.4 defensive efficiency isn’t going to get the job done when their offensive numbers are so bad (last year they tied for first in defensive rating at 100.3).
The Bulls have gone from one of the best defensive teams in the league to one that has plenty of room for improvement. Chicago is allowing opponents to shoot 47.1 percent from the field, sixth worst in the league. Last year the Bulls stingy defense held opponents to 43 percent from the field.
Early in the most recent game the Bulls were allowing the Warriors to shoot 62 percent, with eleven assists on 13 field goals, while only forcing one turnover. Not quite the Bulls defense of yester-year. Chicago’s defense has to be stronger early to keep the games close. There is still hope for the Bulls to turn their defense around quickly though; mostly because the Warriors are an offensive powerhouse while the Kings were 25th in offensive rating (103.5) last season.
Last time out, against the Trail Blazers, Sacramento shot very poorly from outside; from 16-23 feet, the Kings went just 3-18, a 16.7 effective field percentage. From three, Sacramento shot 3-16. While it may seem like a good idea to pack the lane and force the Kings to shoot from deep; Sacramento was hot from that area in their first game this season.
Against the Lakers, they shot 10-19 from 16-23 feet, and 9-18 from three. That’s a 75 percent effective field goal percentage from three. In both games though, the Kings haven’t shot well from 3-9 feet. They are shooting just 8-22 from that area this season.
Sacramento was the second worst team in the West last season. The Kings only won eleven home games last year, compared to 13 on the road. Perhaps this is telling of their owners and stadium situation.
But while no one is surprised by the Kings 1-1 start, panic is already ringing throughout the league about Chicago. While it really isn’t time to start overreacting, just two games into the season, it may be time that the Bulls get back to what they were doing last year; and that may mean leaning on Rose…a lot.
Rip Hamilton: Hamilton looked good early on Monday, scoring six points in the first five and a half minutes. But he scored just ten points in the game, on 5-12 shooting. What he had working early was his post up game, against the smaller Monta Ellis. Marcus Thornton, Sacramento’s starting shooting guard, is listed at the same height as Ellis, which is three inches smaller than Rip. Thornton is 20 pounds heavier than Ellis though.
Speaking of Thornton, he played Chicago three times last year (two with New Orleans and once with Sacramento); averaging 23 points, while shooting 58.5 percent.
Turnovers: Chicago forced just 10 turnovers (and only three steals) against Golden State, while the Bulls coughed the ball up twice that many times. Chicago only scored seven points off those ten Warrior turnovers, while Golden State scored 22 off of Chicago’s giveaways. The Bulls had six turnovers in the first seven minutes their last time out.
Offensive rebounds: The Bulls were fourth in offensive rebounding percentage last year, at .294, while the Kings were first at .299. Two games into the season, Sacramento is at .293, which puts them twelfth in the league, while Chicago is once again fourth (.337).
December 27, 2011
…I certainly didn’t expect that.
I didn’t expect the Bulls – led by Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and reigning MVP Derrick Rose — to come out flatter than a glass of Pepsi somebody left sitting out all night.
During the 2010-11 campaign, the Bulls were sometimes outplayed, but they were rarely outworked.
The one potential chink in the armor of this year’s squad was whether they could maintain the same all-out-every-night focus and intensity of last year’s 62-win team.
That worry manifested into an ugly reality last night.
One night removed from a stirring come-from-behind win against the Lakers in L.A., the Bulls played one of their ugliest games since Vinny Del Negro was patrolling the sidelines. Chicago gave up 22 points off 20 turnovers while letting Golden State rack up 16 steals and 20 fast break points. The Warriors shot 47 percent, outscored the Bulls 42-32 in the paint, and got to the free throw line 31 times.
Luol Deng (22 points, 10-f0r-15, 10 rebounds) played well…and that’s about it. Derrick Rose (13 points, 4-for-17, 1-for-8 on threes) played more like the Least Valuable Player while Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton spent the entire fourth quarter swabbing the bench with their shorts.
Stephen Curry (21 points, 10 assists, 6 steals) clearly got the better of Rose, Monta Ellis (26 points, 10-for-17) got whatever he wanted, and David Lee (22 points, 8-for-16, 7 rebounds) looked like an All-Star big man. And Kwame “The Bust” Brown — who, at one point, picked C.J. Watson clean — had a seemingly meager stat line (6 rebounds, 5 points, 4 steals) but finished with the best plus-minus score of the night (+21).
It was that kind of night.
The Bulls were outplayed. Outworked. Outeverythinged.
Said Thibs: “When you’re on the road, you have to understand how difficult it is to win on the road. You prepare yourself by being ready at the start of the game and you have to play defense. And you can’t make it easy on them. You’ve got to take care of the ball. You’ve got to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself first. And then you have to establish your defensive game first, you’ve got to know who you are. Defend, rebound, inside-out, share the ball, low turnovers.”
That game plan was the reverse of what the Bulls actually did.
Added Joakim Noah: “We’re not going to get to where we want to get to playing defense like that. It’s frustrating … because we have to improve. There’s a lot of areas we have to improve, even though we won against the Lakers [on Sunday].”
The bright side, I guess, is that the Bulls can do better in almost every category.
I know. That’s a pretty sad bright side isn’t it?
Still, on a night when the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks were blown out for the second game in a row, it’s worth remembering that the lockout and abbreviated training camp/preseason were likely to produce some ugly early efforts in this shortened season.
And — not to give excuses — the Bulls were playing back-to-back road games. The first of which was on Christmas day. So the lackluster effort can be put into perspective a little bit.
That said, the Bulls won’t get a mulligan because they have a challenging schedule. Every team in the league has a challenging schedule this season.
Simply put, the Bulls have to play better than they did last night in Oakland.
Said Rose: “[Coach Thibodeau] is mad. We can’t be any more mad than him, I’ll say that. He’s a coach. He knows what we’re capable of. He sees how hard we practice. And we disappointed him tonight, so all we can do is go out there the next game, go into practice, practice hard for him and go into the game and show him that we’re capable of doing the things that he knows we can do.”
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
December 26, 2011
2010-2011 Warriors Status Check:
Record: 36-46 (3rd in Pacific Division)
Home Record: 26-15
Last Game: 105-86 loss to the Clippers
PPG: 103.4 (7th)
Opponents PPG: 105.7 (27th)
Offensive Rating: 108.2 (12th)
Defensive Rating: 110.7 (26th)
Pace: 94.8 (5th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .510 (9th)
Turnover Percentage: .133 (14th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .693 (30th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .267 (14th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .183 (30th)
Opp. eFG%: .509 (21st)
Opp. TO%: .147 (5th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .259 (29th)
Leading scorer: Monta Ellis (24.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
Last night, after the Bulls win, Joakim Noah summed up what a lot of people were thinking: “What a start to the NBA season, huh?” Exactly. The Bulls and Lakers had an extremely exciting game that Chicago pulled out in the last seconds, but that doesn’t mean it was pretty. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good: Chicago got the win, which is all that really counts in the end. Luol Deng down the stretch was spectacular. He had nine points in the fourth (5-5 from the line). He got the steal that led to the go-ahead bucket (despite his near travel) and after that a block on Kobe Bryant to seal the deal.
The Bulls started the fourth quarter by missing 17 of their first 18 shots, but they hit six of seven when it really counted. They also cracked down on the defensive side of the ball, allowing only five points in the last 3:30
Those numbers show that the Bulls took over when it really counted. Derrick started slow, going just 0-1 in the first quarter. He seemed content to get other guys going early, including Joakim Noah who had six early points (Noah finished just 3-12 from the field and only recorded those six points). But Rose finished with 22 points, the two biggest of the game over an outstretched Pau Gasol, and shot 4-6 from downtown.
Eight different players had at least two assists for the Bulls. The only players that didn’t were Kyle Korver and Omer Asik. Which means Korver was almost totally worthless in yesterday’s game.
The bad: Free throws. Chicago got to the line just 14 times in the game overall, making nine of them. The Bulls shot just one free throw between the 11:07 mark of the second quarter and 4:31 left in the fourth quarter. Boozer went to the line four times in the fourth quarter, making just one of them. Luckily the Lakers weren’t practicing their free throws over the offseason either, as Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts missed four consecutive free throws with less than two minutes to go in the game.
Also the Lakers had just six steals, but Chicago still turned the ball over 14 times. The Bulls had more turnovers (6) in the third quarter than field goals (5).
The ugly: Field goals. At one point Chicago had made just one of their last 23 shots, or four percent (1-23…they would have done better to throw up shots from half court). The Bulls made one field goal and scored two points in an eleven minute stretch (from 2:45 of the third to 3:35 of the fourth, according to ESPN Stats and Info). This comes after they shot 59 percent in the first half. Chicago finished at 40.4 percent for the game.
In the third quarter, the Lakers were 7-11 on field goals in the paint and just 1-10 outside of it.
The Bulls newest addition, Rip Hamilton, got two early fouls, and didn’t do much past that in his 23 minutes. The Masked Man finished with six points and five fouls. At one point I think I almost missed Keith Bogans. Almost.
Chicago now moves on to game number two of four of their west coast trip. The Bulls and Warriors are both on the second night of back-to-backs. The Warriors lost by 19 points to the new-look Clippers late last night. The Bulls were 18-5 last year with no rest, while the Warriors were 7-11. With the shortened season both teams will need to get used to having these short turn-arounds.
To get the win, Chicago will need to stop one of the best scoring backcourts in the league. Monta Ellis scored 24.1 points per game last season (8th in the league) while backcourt mate Stephen Curry added 18.6 (26th). Curry is playing through an injured ankle though, and scored just four points (2-12 shooting) while giving the ball up five times. Ellis didn’t have a great game either, going 6-19 from the field for 15 points (Ellis’ grandmother died earlier Sunday, and he is also midst of a sexual harassment lawsuit.).
As a team the Warriors shot worse than 39 percent from the field last night, and just 23.8 percent from three. But what will upset new coach Mark Jackson most, other than the loss, is that the Warriors gave up 105 points, 64 in the second half. Jackson was brought in to improve that defense, and it will clearly take some time to get them to a respectable level.
Golden State was 27th in opponent’s points per game and 26th in defensive rating last year, while the Bulls were second in opponent points and tied for first in defensive rating (100.3). The Bulls held the Lakers to a 98.9 offensive rating last night.
Chicago and Golden State split their matchups last year, each taking their home game.
In the second matchup, which the Warriors won in ORACLE Arena, Ellis went off for 33 points. The Bulls were without Noah in that matchup, and Rose scored just 14 points on 6-15 shooting, including 0-5 from three. Derrick also had nine turnovers.
Rose was much better in the first matchup, scoring 22 points and adding 13 assists (one of five times last season Rose finished with 13 or more assists).
Stats are fun: “Bulls are [the] sixth team in last 15 seasons to win a season opener when it trailed by as many as ten points in final five minutes of [the] fourth quarter” –ESPN Stats and Info
Talk about the perfect gift.
The Bulls shot a horrific 12-for-48 in the second half of their Christmas day game against the Lakers in L.A., and that 25 percent rate of inaccuracy nearly doomed them to an 0-1 start to the season.
Enter the team defense.
Enter Luol Deng’s timely scoring, crucial steal, and game-ending block.
Enter Derrick Rose.
Admittedly, things looked pretty grim when the Lakers went up 82-71 on Kobe Bryant’s layup with 3:44 remaining. Kobe’s bucket capped off an ugly minute that saw Carlos Boozer go 1-for-4 from the line and the Bulls miss several tip shots and layup attempts.
It just wasn’t Chicago’s night. That’s what it felt like anyway.
Fortunately, the Bulls refused to roll over and play patsy to the Lakers. And, as ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell wrote, that had a lot to do with Rose’s leadership.
Said Joakim Noah: “Derrick told us with three minutes to go, ‘We’ve been in this position before. Let’s just keep fighting. I feel like we didn’t play our best basketball, but to come up and win in this fashion, it just says a lot about this team.”
Added Rose: “I told them that we’ve been in this situation before. [The Lakers] are a new team, they have new players [a] new system. I said that they haven’t been in that circumstance yet. And we’ve been there. And thank God we just got a couple of steals, a great couple of plays, and we won the game.”
Did they ever.
And the win combined all the little elements that made last season’s 62-win team so special:
With 3:34 remaining, Rose hit a shot to cut the lead to nine.
With 3:13 left, Joakim Noah — who had switched out to guard Bryant — forced a steal that turned into a breakaway dunk for Deng.
With 2:33 to go, after the Bulls had forced a missed jumper by Pau Gasol, Ronnie Brewer knocked down a 13-footer.
After that, Steve Blake canned a triple, but Deng drew a foul from Kobe and knocked down both freebies to cut the deficit to 85-79.
On L.A.’s next possession, Brewer fouled Gasol, but the big man missed both foul shots. Rose followed those bricks by feeding Carlos Boozer for a layup that cut the Laker lead to 85-81 with 1:27 to go.
L.A.’s Josh McRoberts drew a foul 15 seconds later, but like Gasol, he shanked both free throws. Unfortunately, the Lakers got the offensive rebound and Kobe ended up drilling a clutch jumper with 54 seconds left to put his team up 87-81.
After a timeout, Deng missed a wide open three but snagged the offensive board then got the layup and the foul. His three-point play cut L.A.’s lead to 87-84 with 45 seconds left.
Kobe followed that play by missing a contested 18-footer and committing a bad foul on Deng, who calmly sank both free throws. Lakers by only one point.
L.A. called time out, but after inbounding the ball, Kobe’s pass to Gasol was stolen by Deng. The Bulls got the ball into Rose’s hand, and Derrick proceeded to cut into the paint and hit a ridiculous one-handed shot over Gasol to give the Bulls an 88-87 lead with four seconds left.
The game ended when Kobe drove into a small crowd of Bulls players and got his last-second shot swatted by Deng.
Never give up. Never surrender. That’s the Chicago Bulls.
Said Deng: “I think everyone knows by now, we play hard. We play hard, we play together and we stick with it. Whether we’re down 30 or down two, we’re always going to play until the end.”
It was a truly satisfying win in a game in which the Bulls shot poorly as a team (40 percent) and got very little out of the recently acquired Richard Hamilton (3-for-8 for only 6 points and 5 fouls in 23 minutes).
But the team got a solid performance from Boozer (15 points, 7-for-13), a great all-around game from Deng (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 1 block) and a standard Derrick Rose outing (22 points, 9-for-13, 5 assists, 1 game-winning shot).
The team never stopped playing D. And the offense came.
Of course, there was some sloppiness, and there were jitters. Like I said, Rip looked awful. Noah’s shooting (3-for-12) was ghastly. Other than Brewer, the bench turned in a string of negative plus-minus stats. But the Bulls won as a team. A fact that Rose was quick to point out after the game.
Said Rose: “If it weren’t for my teammates, making the steal and getting the ball to me at the end, there’s no way I could have gotten that shot off to help us win that game.”
That all-out effort will have to continue for the Bulls to reach their ultimate goal.
Title number seven.
Recap, Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
December 25, 2011
The NBA season finally starts on Sunday with a beautiful set of games. The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics tip off the season, and then the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks face off in a rematch of their great finals series. But after those chump match-ups the good stuff starts. Chicago opens their season against the Los Angeles Lakers (later on, the Magic take on the Thunder and the new look Clippers face the Warriors).
Thirteen years ago, on Christmas morning I sat disappointed. The Mortal Kombat characters I wanted were not under the tree. Santa must not have gotten my letter. I’d have to go another year playing with Legos (it was a very tough year). But on this Christmas, that won’t be the case. I won’t even have to find anything to play with, because the NBA, the three greatest letters when put together, is finally back.
Chicago was supposed to start the season against the defending champs in early November, but we’ll have to settle for watching Chicago against last year’s second seed in the West.
The teams split their two matchups in the 2010-2011 season with each squad winning at home. Rose averaged 29.5 points, 8.5 assists and five rebounds in the two games. Chicago lost the first game in LA early in the season, while they were still without newly added/accident-prone Carlos Boozer.
When the teams met in Chicago, the Bulls were at full strength and won 88-84. This was Chicago’s only win against the Lakers in Derrick Rose’s career. Boozer was the leading rebounder with eleven. But both times the Lakers were without Andrew Bynum.
That will once again be the case when the Bulls and Lakers meet on Christmas Day. Bynum is suspended for the first four games (originally five, but later reduced) for destroying J.J. Barea in the playoffs (I actually think it was three games for the hit on Barea and one game for inexplicably taking off his shirt when he was leaving the court). That means the Lakers only get 62 games of Andrew Bynum this year, or more exactly 12, because he is bound to be injured for most of the season.
Lamar Odom played well while stepping into the starting lineup for Bynum last year, averaging 19.5 points and eight rebounds against Chicago, all while putting up with Khloe Kardashian. But now he’s on the Mavericks, leaving the Lakers with a hole in their starting line-up (well, a hole in addition to the cadaver that is Derek Fisher). Derrick Caracter is the back-up center on the depth chart, but L.A. could move Pau Gasol over to center, and start Josh McRoberts. Neither situation is particularly pretty for Los Angeles.
Center could become a less significant worry if Kobe Bryant isn’t at 100 percent. Bryant missed the Lakers final preseason game with a torn ligament in his right wrist. He said he will play in the Christmas game though. “It’s always been in my nature to try to figure out a way to play,” Bryant said. “The injuries that I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play through them because I haven’t had injuries where they could get worse the more I played on them.” Kobe will have to shoulder a big load without Bynum, and with no Odom to fill his shoes.
Ron Art Metta World Peace has not been having a good preseason. Coming off the bench both games, he shot 0-8 in game one and 4-13 in the second game. World Peace might have reached the point of being just a joke, rather than a joking, good player.
Staring down Bryant at the shooting guard position will be a new face for the Bulls. Rip Hamilton is expected to start. In Hamilton’s first showing as a Bull he impressed, scoring 13 points, and adding four rebounds and six assists.
It was easy to tell the difference between Hamilton and the old Keith Bogans. Hamilton rarely stopped moving and quickly made the right decision when he got the ball in his hands.
Carlos Boozer also made his debut in the last preseason game…wait he played for the Bulls all last year? Well that didn’t go as planned. But against the Pacers, Boozington scored (24 points on 11-17 shooting), grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists. He nearly fouled out as well, but those points are the most important thing. His mid-range jumper was falling, which is something Chicago will need all year if they want a chance to beat the Heat.
It wasn’t all good news from Boozington, he did allow Tyler Hansbrough to score 24 points (along with help from other Bulls defenders). Which means Boozington still has the defensive instincts of a hibernating bear.
As a whole the Bulls defense was very good, holding the Pacers to 36.8 percent shooting from the field. And after getting off to a slow start defensively in their first preseason game (allowing Indiana to shoot 60 percent in the first) the Bulls held the Pacers to 5 for 21 in the first quarter of game two.
Chicago did get into some foul trouble, with Taj Gibson fouling out in just 16 minutes, and Boozer ending the game with five fouls in 31 minutes. Rip had four fouls of his own. In preseason game one, Joakim Noah and Omer Asik each had five fouls. These numbers should fall as the season continues and the Bulls get into more of a rhythm.
I am still waiting for the Mortal Kombat action figures I wanted when I was eight, but I think the return of the NBA is the best Christmas present ever. Thanks David Stern, Billy Hunter and all for making it happen; better late than never. Now let’s enjoy the games.
December 21, 2011
…for five years and $94 million dollars.
Well, okay, not quite yet. The deal hasn’t been finalized yet. But trust me: it will be.
Derrick Rose is the future of the Bulls. And management is going to make sure he’s not going anywhere.
We all knew that was the case, and GM Gar Forman has made it clear that extending Rose was a priority. So this isn’t a surprise or anything. But it is good to know that Derrick is going to be a Bull for years to come.
The Rip Hamilton signing didn’t cause shock waves in the NBAverse.
Not with all the hubub surrounding Chris Paul. Even Miami signing Shane Battier got more positive press. After all, it was felt that the Heat needed only one or two little tweaks to get over the hump.
Meanwhile, the Bulls won 62 games last season, have the reigning MVP, and seemed to be a scoring two guard away from true championship contention.
They got that scoring two guard when they signed Hamilton. But all I heard were a lot of yawns.
But last night’s 93-85 preseason win against the Pacers — and, yes, I realize it was only an exhibition game against the Pacers — provided some indication about how good Rip can still be. And how he can help improve Chicago’s offense.
Hamilton scored 13 points in eight minutes. He did Rip Hamilton things. He moved. He shot with precision. He forced his defender to pay attention…and therefore said defender couldn’t sag off and clog openings that could be used by other players to drive, pass, or make an offensive move.
The Bulls racked up 30 assists on 39 field goals.
No, Chicago doesn’t have LeBron James, doesn’t have a Big Three, doesn’t have the kind of rabid media following the Heat enjoy.
But 62-win teams that make it to the Eastern Conference Finals don’t require a major overhaul.
The NBA landscape has changed radically the last several years. It started when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston. Then Pau Gasol joined Kobe in L.A. We all know about LeBron’s Decision last season. Then Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony teamed up in New York. And now Chris Paul is on The Other L.A. Team.
Chicago’s moves have been much quieter and more subtle. And, therefore, have made fewer headlines.
But stop and think about it. Anybody in the Bulls’ starting five could go off for 20 points on any given night. Okay, Joakim Noah less so than the other four, but still. Derrick Rose, Hamilton, Luol Deng, and Carlos Boozer can all score.
Chicago’s bench and defense are also near or at the top of the league.
Their only “weakness” seems to be a lack of star power. Which, in all fairness, has mattered in recent years and at various other times in NBA history.
By the way, I may have gotten a bit ahead of myself. As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t fully committed to Rip as the starter.
“We’re going to see how everything goes. We’re still trying to figure out what’s best for the team. As of right now, that’s what we’re planning on, but we’ll just see how it goes.”
Personally, I think he’ll start.
And I think that will be a very good thing for the Bulls…
December 20, 2011
Update: According to Nick Friedell and K. C. Johnson, Rip Hamilton will start tonight. Ronnie Brewer will come in off the bench.
In a rematch of that last awesome preseason game, Chicago and Indiana face off tonight, again, this time at the United Center. This is the last tune-up game before the Bulls season opener on Christmas Day in Los Angeles.
In the last game, the Pacers came out of the gate hot and Chicago’s defense was far too slow in figuring out a way to stop them. The Pacers hit eight of their first ten shots, and went on to shot 60 percent in the first quarter.
The Bulls defense would improve throughout the game, though. With Tom Thibodeau’s raspy voice in their ear the Bulls held Indiana to just over 25 percent shooting the rest of the way. That put Indy at 33.7 percent for the game. That number is partly due to the Bulls defense, but some credit has to go to the lockout and the limited practices the teams have had.
Either way, the fact that Chicago held the Pacers under 35 percent shooting is a good sign for their defense going forward.
Chicago fared better, shooting nearly 50 percent, with much of that coming from the bench. Carlos Boozer shot poorly, going 3-10 in his 22 minutes. Derrick Rose scored 16 points thanks to 10-10 shooting at the line, but didn’t do too well from the field (3-9). Despite Rose’s rough shooting game, he was the only starter with a positive plus/minus at +6.
Luol Deng had a solid game scoring 16 points (5-11 from the field, 6-6 from the line) and six rebounds, but gave the ball up five times. Joakim Noah had ten point and eight rebounds in 24 minutes, but had five fouls (Boozer, not to be outdone, had five of those as well).
C.J. Watson carried the Bulls offensively when Rose went out with foul trouble early in the game. Watson finished with 15 points and four boards. Bulls rookie Jimmy Butler made all three of his shots from the field, finishing with eight points and a game best +23.
Chicago’s other new addition, Rip Hamilton, didn’t play, and may not play in Tuesday’s game either.
All fans can really hope for is that the Bulls look better than they did last time out; perhaps start a little faster and don’t allow Tyler Hansbrough to drop 19 points. Usually you hope for improvement over last season, but with no offseason, as long as Chicago looks like they are on the road to where they were last year, tonight’s game will be a good sign for things to come.