As in: The Bulls needed to get the bad taste of Sunday’s loss to Miami out of there mouths.
Especially Derrick Rose.
As everyone in the free world already knows, D-Rose missed a couple free throws that could have won that game, and then a jumper that could have tied it.
Rose takes losses really hard. He blames himself for every one of them, even when he’s utterly blameless. Against the Heat — Chicago’s biggest rival in the East and, really, in the entire league — Rose failed in a very visable and entirely blameable way. Afterward, he said he not only let his teammates down…he let down the city of Chicago as well.
I’m betting Rose will be seeing those missed free throws in his dreams for weeks.
Maybe until the Bulls manage to beat the Heat in the NBA playoffs.
In the meantime, Rose had the chance to take his frustration out on the Wizards. Before the game, Rose vowed to go wild. And did he ever. During the first 12 minutes of the game, Rose converted an array of high-difficulty shots en route to 13 first quarter points. He added another 15 in the third quarter as the Bulls broke the game open.
Rose ended up leading the team in points (a season-high 35), assists (a game-high 8), blocked shots (a co-game-high 3), and steals (a co-game-high 2). He also went 14-for-15 from the free throw line. In contrast, the Wizards went 11-for-13 as a team.
Said Rose: “I just played my game — and that’s me being aggressive.”
Yes. Aggressive. He certainly was that.
It was recognized by Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who said: “He comes out like it’s his will. He imposes his will on everybody.”
It was recognized by Washington players like Trevor Booker, who said: “Sometimes I caught myself spectating. Some of those shots were unbelievable.”
It was recognized by the Verizon Center’s largest crowd of the season (18,357), who chanted “M-V-P!” as Rose dismantled the home team.
This man is special.
It’s just heart, you know? He loves the city. He loves the game. He loves his teammates. He is deadly serious about being a leader, about shouldering responsibility, about winning. It’s not an act. Not something he’s doing for the cameras. He doesn’t transform into somebody else when the tape recorders have been turned off.
Unlike many people, I don’t blame LeBron James for leaving Cleveland for better teammates and a better opportunity in Miami. Not one bit. But I also recognize that’s something Rose would probably never do. Some uninformed observers think Rose appears emotionless on the court. I disagree. He wears his heart on his sleave. He lives, bleeds and dies for the Chicago Bulls.
That quality is not something you see in many superstars these days.
Rose is just…different. That’s not meant to be a value judgement. I didn’t say better necessarily. Just different.
Which is great for the Bulls.
As for the game, it was mostly footnote to Rose’s desire for redemption against the Heat. Luol Deng (wrist) and Rip Hamilton (groin) missed the game, which meant starting nods for Kyle Korver (17 points, 5 three-pointers, and a game-high plus-minus of +17) and Ronnie Brewer (6 points, 6 rebounds, +12). Carlos Boozer’s “On Again, Off Again” switch got flipped back to the “On Again” position as he contributed 18 points (9-for-16) and 8 rebounds. Joakim Noah added 14 points, 12 boards, and a career-best-tying 7 assists.
The Bench Mob was quiet (8 points, 2-for-12, 8 rebounds, 3 assists), but they were missing Brewer and Korver. Washington won the rebounding battle (44-40) while outscoring the Bulls 50-32 in the paint. And Chicago gave up 24 points off 19 turnovers.
So it wasn’t all violins and, you know, Roses.
But it was an easy win the day after the team’s toughest loss of the season. And considering the Bulls are only two games in to a nine-game road trip, every win is crucial. Especially with back-to-back games in Philly and New York on Wednesday and Thursday.
Let’s hope D-Rose is still fuming about those missed free throws for the rest of the week…
Washington Injury Report:
Ronny Turiaf: out 4-6 weeks (broken hand)
After playing one of the best teams in the league, in a hard fought battle, the Bulls have a quick turn-around before taking on one of the worst teams in the league.
Chicago travels to Washington tonight, a team they beat earlier in the season without Derrick Rose. The Washington game was the infamous “28 attempts” game from John Lucas. Lucas started because Rose and Watson were out. He scored 25 points, going 11-28 from the field, and added eight assists and eight rebounds.
John Wall scored eleven points on 4-13 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and eight assists. For Wall to get outplayed by Lucas is not a good day (honestly, it’s not really good for any NBA starter, but Wall was supposed to make “the leap” this year). But who knows how Lucas is feeling today, after his soul was stomped on by LeBron James yesterday. Actually maybe his soul was jumped over, and then landed on. Either way, John Lucas surely got a lot of phone calls about what happened yesterday.
And what did happen yesterday?
Rip Hamilton returned from injury and didn’t have much of a game. He went 4-16 from the field for eleven points, grabbed five rebounds and added three steals. He did play solid defense on Wade, holding the Chicago-native to 4-16 shooting (they matched) for 15 points. Wade had four rebounds and seven assists.
If Hamilton’s defense is factored in he had an alright game. It was hard to tell whether his offensive struggles were because he was out of rhythm, Miami’s defense was too good, he was expending a lot of energy trying to stop Wade, or that his injury still bothered him. But Hamilton wasn’t perfect. He also apparently reinjured himself in the game, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago.com.
Carlos Boozer went 5-10 from the field for ten points, grabbed nine rebounds, and he disappeared more than Harry Houdini. But Houdini did it magically, Boozer does it depressingly.
Rose scored 34 points (11-28 from the field, 12-14 from the line) to go with six rebounds and six assists. Derrick and Rip were the only starters with positive plus/minus numbers (+4 and +2, respectively). Rose played 45 minutes though and expended so much energy; it will be interesting to see how much he has left in the tank for tonight’s game.
But it gets easier tonight. And now, to look at the loss positively, the Bulls have a lot to work on moving forward. That can be seen as a good thing if they can make some of the necessary adjustments. And also remember the Bulls took the regular season meetings last season against the Heat, and ended up losing in the playoffs, so this loss isn’t a death sentence. It should be looked at as a way to improve and figure out how to beat Miami when it truly matters.
Back to Washington. In the first match-up between the Bulls and Wizards, Washington shot 31 percent from the field as a team, was out-rebounded by 16 and had five less assists than the short-handed Bulls.
But some of the Bulls starters were no-shows. Carlos Boozer scored just four points on 2-7 shooting (Maybe this is Boozer showing up? It’s hard to tell at this point). Deng scored 12 points on 5-21 shooting and Ronnie Brewer added a whopping two points on 1-6 shooting. Deng did grab 15 rebounds though. But don’t expect Lu on the court tonight.
Kyle Korver put in a solid game, with 14 points (5-10), as did Taj Gibson (nine points, six rebounds).
The Wizards are coming off a win over Charlotte. Nick Young scored 21 points on 9-15 shooting; JaVale McGee scored 22 on 9-14 shooting and added 10 rebounds. They shot 52.6 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from three, which allowed them to overcome a rebounding differential of ten (the Bobcats had nine more offensive rebounds than Washington).
The Bulls still have enough injuries to fill up a hospital, but they should be able to win in Washington without some of their players. Chicago beat the Wiz by 14 points, only allowing Washington to score 64 points. This one shouldn’t come down to free throws in the last minute.
Yesterday’s slug fest between the Bulls and Heat sure felt like a postseason match-up. Big shots. Big misses. Amazing plays and critical mistakes. Pushing. Shoving. Cursing. Call and non-calls that surely had both fan bases freaking out.
And let’s not forget two superstars — Derrick Rose (34 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and LeBron James (35 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) — going all out for the win.
So all out, in fact, that they may have been to pooped to pop in the closing seconds. With 22 seconds left, Rose misfired on a pair of free throws. Hitting one would have tied the game. Hitting both would have given the Bulls a one-point lead.
After those bricks, Joakim Noah was forced to foul LeBron. Knocking down both freebies would have given Miami a three-point lead.
Said Dwyane Wade: “I couldn’t believe [Rose] missed both. I couldn’t believe LeBron missed both, either. Averaged itself out, I guess.”
Then things got a little weird. Rip Hamilton didn’t block Wade out on LeBron’s second miss from the line, and Wade seemed to knock the ball away from Taj Gibson, with Bosh recovering. Only Wade may have been out of bounds when he hit the ball. And there was in inadvertent whistle on the play.
It took the officials a few minutes to sort everything all out. The end result was a jump ball between Gibson and LeBron. James won the tip and the ball ended up in the hands of Mario Chalmers, who was fouled and hit one of two from the line. The Bulls got one more play to tie or win, but Rose’s one-handed floater from 14 feet hit the front of the rim.
Ever since the Bulls were eliminated by the Heat in Game 5 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, Rose has been adamant about taking every last ounce of blame on himself for losing that playoff series. And he clearly has been dreaming of redemption.
He didn’t get it yesterday.
Mind you, before those missed foul shots, Rose had been 29-for-29 from the foul line in the fourth quarter so far this season.
Said Rose: “This is so unreal right now. Knowing that I had the chance to change the game, and this time it didn’t work out. I know my will to win is still very high, but I guarantee the next time those shots are going down.
“It was definitely tough. All I can say is I guess God do everything for a reason. I’ve been in those situations before, knocked them down, but to miss both (free throws) … I let my team down. The only thing I can do is learn from it.
“It was me. All the plays at the end. If I would have hit them free throws, it never would have gotten that far. I know I can live with it. It’s just going to make me a stronger player and it’s onto the next game.”
It might have helped had C.J. Watson not missed the game with a wrist injury. Maybe then Rose wouldn’t have had to play 45 minutes of meat-grinding basketball. Maybe then he would have had the legs he needed to knock down those freebies.
Speaking of wrists, it also might have benefited the Bulls to have Luol Deng around to defend LeBron. Give Ronnie Brewer props for effort, but he was very clearly physically outmatched. Which isn’t to say Deng could have shut LeBron down. Nobody can do that. But Lu might have forced one or two extra misses…and that could have been the difference.
But who knows?
One thing we do know is the following: This was one of “those games” that make Bulls fans say “Boozer” like it’s a curse word. Carlos played only 28 minutes before fouling out with only 10 points and 9 rebounds. And Boozer didn’t attempt a single free throw.
Meanwhile, Chris Bosh finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, shot 8-for-14 from the field, and went 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Boozer is supposed to be this team’s second scoring option. Some nights, he is. Other nights, he really, really isn’t.
And so here we are again: Rose logging big minutes and doing all the heavy lifting on offense. No relief from Boozer. Nor Hamilton (11 points on 4-for-16 shooting with 5 turnovers). And Deng was out, obviously.
Can the Bulls succeed this way? With Rose being the only consistent scoring threat? Chicago’s spread-the-wealth offensive philosophy has worked pretty well this season against lesser teams. But will it work in the playoffs against the better ones? Like, say, Miami?
It didn’t last spring, when the Bulls were able to stand up to the Heat but came up a little bit short in four straight playoff losses following a Game 1 blowout win.
Of course, I say this after the Bulls nearly stole one on the road in a postseason-like game in which they were missing two important players. So it’s not all doom and gloom.
But if the Bulls were searching for a sign that something had changed since last postseason…
And now for the game we’ve all been waiting for; Chicago against Miami. The top two teams in the Eastern Conference will face each other for the first time since last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, and will open their four game regular season series.
Today is the first of nine straight games on the road for the Bulls, but no one is talking about anything past today. This will also be the first game of a back-to-back for Chicago. They take on Washington tomorrow, going from facing one of the top teams to one of the worst.
It isn’t the ideal match-up, especially for Bulls fans. Both Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng will be game time decisions. It isn’t likely that Luol will play, while Rip has a better chance. On the other side of the court, the Heat are at full strength for the first time in a while. Dwyane Wade returned from injury Friday to play against the Knicks. Wade scored 28 points and added five steals and four assists in his comeback game.
As everyone knows, Chicago fell to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last season 4-1. The Bulls weren’t at their best, and Miami was clearly the better team. But that was supposed to change, or at least shift more in the Bulls favor, with the addition of a shooting guard that was alive and can help on the offensive end. But the Bulls may be without their new shooting guard.
Even though Chicago is used to playing short-handed this season, this game is going to be tougher. Kyle Korver started against the Bucks, but that won’t fly against the Heat. As funny as it would be watching Korver try to guard LeBron or Wade (and trust me it would be hilarious), he would be way too much of a defensive liability. Deng is one of the better defenders against LeBron and makes him work for everything. Deng will be sorely missed on both ends, especially in this game. Ronnie Brewer can step in, but he can’t guard both Wade and LeBron at the same time. Will Thibodeau go with the rookie Jimmy Butler possibly?
Last season, the Bulls did win all three regular season games, but by a combined eight points. Rose averaged 29 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. Deng averaged 16.7 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Bulls took the regular season games, but Miami won when it really mattered.
The Heat beat the Bulls 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the playoffs against Miami, Rose averaged 23.4 points, 6.6 assists, and four rebounds. Rose shot just 35 percent from the field though. At this point in the season he was trying to carry the Bulls when everyone was keying on him. LeBron averaged 25.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists in the series, along with playing great defense against Rose late in games.
Just like the Bulls, Miami is very good at home, but for Miami it’s their offense that excels. The Heat are 8-2 at home, outscoring opponents 105.8 to 92.2. Miami is shooting 50.3 percent in their ten games at home this year. The Bulls are holding opponents to 92.4 points on 44.8 percent shooting so far on the road.
Chicago is holding opponents to 45.8 effective field goal percentage (fifth in the league), while Miami is shooting 52.2 eFG (second in the league).
“It’ll be a little different, but the principles are the same,” Wade said. “They live on their defense and obviously this year we’ve been scoring, but our defense is what wins games and hopefully one day wins championships for us.”
One of them has to give, so which will it be? Will Miami’s offense continue to excel, or will it be the Bulls stifling defense and rebounding that carries them to the win?
Bucks Injury Report:
Andrew Bogut: out indefinitely (fractured ankle)
After the Bulls first loss in the United Center this season, they look to get back on track against another division opponent, before they hit the road for nine straight games. The Bulls and Bucks will face each other tonight, and again in just over a week, on February 4.
Tonight marks the first of a “three games in four days stretch,” with a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday. Milwaukee comes into Chicago on the first night of a back-to-back.
The Bulls loss to Indiana, ended Chicago’s streak of short-handed wins, but they can get another one tonight. According to Nick Friedell, Luol Deng is “highly unlikely” for tonight. Ronnie Brewer stepped in well for Deng in the Pacers game though, scoring 20 points (8-15), grabbing ten boards and adding five assists.
Although Deng is still out, the Bulls might be getting another key guy back in the line-up. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, if Gibson doesn’t suffer a setback pregame, he will play tonight. Gibson participated in all of the morning shootaround. Getting Taj back will be a huge benefit, because he could have been used down the stretch against Indiana.
I’m looking at you Carlos Boozer…you’re eleven points on 5-14 shooting. Boozer didn’t shoot well from anywhere, but he is settling for long jumpers way too often this season. Boozington was 2-5 at the rim, 1-3 from 10-15 feet and 2-6 from 16-23 feet against the Pacers.
Last season Boozer averaged six attempts at the rim per game. This season, that number is down to 3.7 attempts per game. His attempts from 16-23 feet have risen from three per game last year, to 5.2 this season (his highest average of his career). Thank gosh he is taking fewer of the most efficient shots, and more of the least efficient shots. But I guess it’s hard to blame him, it must get frustrating getting blocked on about half of your attempts at the rim. Anyway this could be an entire post in itself. I will now get down from my high horse…
The Bucks also have injury woes of their own. Milwaukee will be without Andrew Bogut, who fractured his ankle during the Bucks victory over Houston. Bogut was averaging 11.3 points and a team leading 8.3 rebounds per game. He is out indefinitely and Jeremy Schmidt at Bucksketball broke down Milwaukee’s replacement options. Bogut has missed five games this season already, all of which were losses for Milwaukee.
Last season the Bulls went undefeated against the Milwaukee. Chicago held the Bucks to 38.7 percent shooting in the four match-ups and Milwaukee didn’t score more than 87 points in a game (they averaged 80.5 points against the Bulls).
In two games against Chicago, Brandon Jennings averaged 8.5 points on 33 percent shooting, 3.5 assists and 3.5 turnovers. Rose averaged 21.5 points and 10.8 assists in four games last season against Milwaukee, highlighted by his 30 point, 17 assist game in the final matchup of the season between the two squads.
Noah averaged ten points and 14 rebounds in two games, but he will have an easier time tonight, not going up against Bogut.
…it would be very, very, very easy to focus too much attention on the Bulls’ last chance of winning this game.
There were 22 seconds left and the Bulls were down 92-90. The Indiana defense collapsed on a driving Derrick Rose. Rather than force up a contested shot, Rose passed to Brian Scalabrine for a wiiiiiiiide open three-pointer that would have given Chicago the lead.
Scal missed. The Bulls were forced to foul. Game over.
I knew it was going to go down that way. When Rose bolted toward Chicago’s offensive end with Scalabrine still on the floor, I knew the Pacers would opt to leave Scal open. Let’s face it, the Pacers knew what they were doing. That’s the man they wanted taking the last meaningful shot against them. And that’s what they got.
But don’t expect any apologies from the Bulls.
Following the loss, everybody on the team — from the coaching staff to the players — formed a united front: Rose made the correct basketball play. It just didn’t work.
Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: “We were looking for Derrick in the open floor and he made the right play. The defensive help was there. They collapsed on Derrick and Scalabrine was wide open in the corner for a 3. It is a make-or-miss league and he missed.”
Added Ronnie Brewer: “D. Rose is D. Rose. He makes plays for himself, he makes plays for others. It shows his unselfishness that he made a play. A guy was wide open in the corner, [Rose] could have took a shot with a guy on him or passed the ball to a wide-open person. He passed the ball to a wide-open person who had a great shot, who works on that shot every day. It’s a good shot, unfortunately it didn’t go in for him.”
Why on earth didn’t LeBron, who was driving toward the hoop much like Rose was last night, take the burden on himself? Isn’t that what superstars do?
Said LeBron afterward: “I go for the winning play. If two guys come at you and your teammate is open, then give it up. Simple as that.”
LeBron was correct back then. Rose was correct last night. That’s the beauty and damnation of sports. Sometimes making the right decision doesn’t work. And sometimes making the wrong decision does.
But you have to figure making the right decision will have better long-term results.
At any rate, you can question whether Scal should have gotten that last shot, or whether he should have been on the floor at all in that situation, but this loss wasn’t about that fateful shot.
Said Rose: “I think it was a good shot. At the time, I thought I didn’t have a shot. And I think I made the right play. But if anything, I’m going to learn from it. We’re going to learn from it as a team. We’re not going to try and put ourselves in this position anymore. And put teams away early.”
And there we have it.
Rose got to the heart of the matter.
To me, this defeat – the Bulls’ first home loss of the season — came down to little things. Minor mistakes and defensive lapses. Especially in the second half.
During the third quarter, the Pacers grabbed four offensive rebounds and hit seven shots at the rim.
In the fourth, they hauled in another three offensive boards and got three slam dunks.
The Pacers ended up outscoring the Bulls 50-40 in the paint and outrebounding them 44-41.
Yes, Chicago shot poorly (40 percent) while Indy shot unusually well (47.5 versus their season average of 42.1), especially Danny Granger (9-for-16 despite shooting 37 percent on the season).
Yes, Carlos Boozer (5-for-14) and Rip Hamilton (6-for-20) were shooting with blinders on.
Yes, the absences of Luol Deng (wrist) and Taj Gibson (ankle) likely affected the outcome.
But the rebounds, the layups and dunks, all the effort and hustle plays that went the Pacers’ way…
…those are the reasons the Bulls lost.
The Bulls put themselves in a position to lose by getting sloppy to start the third quarter. By letting the Pacers outwork them throughout the second half. Everybody on that Indiana team showed up locked in and ready to go to war. The Bulls, on the other hand, didn’t have their hard hats on. They weren’t mentally prepared for a slugfest.
Said Thibs: “I didn’t think we were as aggressive as we needed to be. … It’s pretty simple. We do the same things. It starts in practice and at shootaround. Come in, be serious and get ready. When the ball goes up, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. Getting ready to play is a big part of this league. You’ve got to be ready to play every night. I think as soon as you start feeling good about yourself, you’re going to get knocked on your ass. That’s the way it is.”
Well, the Bulls certainly got knocked on theirs last night. Not because of injuries or Scalabrines off-target shot. But because the Pacers wanted it more.
Said Rose: “Looking back, we could have focused better at shootaround. They were the aggressor. They were getting to the rebounds, loose balls. Usually, we outrebound teams.”
Rose is right. The Bulls usually outwork their opponents. Last night, they didn’t, and they lost because of it. And the Pacers let them know it on their way off the floor last night. Which may have been a boo boo.
Said Rose: I will never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game. I can’t wait to play them again.”
Pacers Injury Report:
Jeff Foster: expected to miss at least two weeks (back)
Chicago takes on their first real test in quite some time as they try to stay undefeated in the United Center against the visiting Pacers. Apparently the Bulls couldn’t play sub-.500 teams forever (I guess the NBA couldn’t schedule it that way, although I’m sure Gar Forman requested it), so Chicago takes on the 11-5 Pacers in Chicago.
Indiana is on the second night of a back-to-back though, after losing to Orlando last night. The Pacers were perfect from the line (18-18), but shot only 39.7 percent from the field. Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert each scored 16 points, while Darren Collison pitched in eleven more. But the Pacers only had eight assists and allowed the Magic to shoot 40.6 percent from three (13-32).
The Bulls might not benefit from the Pacers’ tired legs though, since Indiana’s starters didn’t play huge minutes. Most played right around 30 minutes with the exception of Paul George who played 35.
The Bulls had a full day of rest and are extremely good defensively at home this year, holding opponents to 76.9 points on 39.3 percent shooting. Now they haven’t been playing the crème of the NBA at home, but it’s still impressive.
However, Chicago will once again be short-handed. And this time, on the injury carousel, it’s Taj Gibson and Luol Deng who will be sitting out. Deng’s injury is more serious than previously thought, but he doesn’t need surgery.
The team that was once praised for their depth is learning to play with fewer guys, and more importantly, is finding new players to step up each game.
Against the Nets, Brian Scalabrine played 23 minutes, scored five points, grabbed three rebounds and dished four assists. Now, “Scalabrine played 23 minutes” is something I never thought I’d type, but he did alright. He isn’t close to Gibson’s or Deng’s productivity, but he did enough. And that’s all the Bulls have to do to get through this injury patch. They need to plug the gaps, so the ship doesn’t go down while awaiting the return of key players.
Back to tonight’s match-up, Indiana is sixth in defensive rating this year, posting a 99.1 defensive rating. Chicago is second in that category (96.2). Indy is holding opponents to the third worst effective field goal percentage (.453).
But the Bulls are actually first in offensive rating, so we will see how the Bulls can score against a very good defense. The Bulls won’t have all of their players though, so their offense won’t be as strong as it could be. Deng and Gibson are big helps on the offensive side of the ball, compared to their back-ups.
Chicago was 3-1 in the regular season against the Pacers last year, their only loss coming in overtime. In the four games, Rose averaged 27.0 points (43 percent shooting), 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists. In two games against Indiana, Noah averaged 14.5 points and (only) four rebounds. Boozer went for 20.0 points and 11.3 rebounds in three regular season games against Indiana.
For Indy, Granger averaged 20 points and six rebounds in three games against Chicago. Collison scored 11.8 points and dished 5.3 assists while Hibbert added 6.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.
The Bulls also beat the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs 4-1. All the games, with the exception of the deciding game, were within six points, so the Pacers played Chicago hard. Rose averaged 27.6 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds, but he only shot 37.1 percent from the field. As everyone remembers, the playoffs were when lots of people disappeared for Chicago, and opponents keyed on Rose.
Boozer averaged ten points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.8 turnovers while shooting 35.8 percent, or what Jazz fans like to call “Playoff Boozer.” Noah averaged 12.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.8 assists.
For the Pacers, Danny Granger scored 21.6 points, grabbed 5.6 rebounds and threw 3.2 assists per game in the playoff series. Roy Hibbert averaged 10.4 points and 6.8 rebounds though the five games.
These two teams also played each other in the shortened preseason. The Bulls beat the Pacers in both preseason games this year, but those are preseason games. Something to watch for from these games, though, will be whether Tyler Hansbrough can once again make Chicago’s defense look silly. Psycho-T went for 19 points and eleven rebounds in the first preseason matchup, and 24 and 13 in the second.
Chicago will have to deal with another power forward, David West, who was signed this offseason by the Pacers. West is averaging 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds so far this season. West scored eight points and grabbed four boards in the second preseason matchup, after sitting out the first game.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “He’s going to be out for awhile. It’s a pain tolerance thing.”
Added Deng: “I know it’s a bad injury, and it sounds terrible, but I’ll be fine. I really feel like we have a very good chance of doing something special. And I feel like without the surgery I’ll be fine. I just know what I can do with it and what I can’t do. And I really think I’m going to be very effective out there. There’s going to be days when it’s sore.
“It could always be worse. Injuries happen. And this happened in the fourth quarter of a game. But it is what is. It’s just, ‘What do we do from here.’ I’m very confident that I’ll be fine. It’s sore, but the soreness is going down a lot in two days. So every day [I'll] keep treating it and see if I can get rid of the soreness and just try to be back there as soon as possible.
“I’m definitely going to miss a few games here. I don’t know how many, but I’m very confident the guys will be fine. But as soon as I can be out there, I will be out there.”
“Deng’s rookie season ended and he missed the 2005 playoff run when he opted for surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist. Deng said this injury is the same and he confirmed a Tribune report that Dr. Susan Craig-Scott, who performed that 2005 surgery, is involved in the process.”
Said Deng: “This time around I’m familiar with it. It’s on my left [wrist] which is not like having it on my right. I know how it feels pain-wise. Just trying to get it down to a certain level where I can play again.”
This is a real hit for the Bulls. Lu leads the team in Minutes Per Game (38.3) and is averaging 15.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.6 APG and 1.2 SPG. His Player Efficiency Rating is only 16.4, but he’s third on the team in Win Shares (2.3) behind Carlos Boozer (2.5) and Derrick Rose (2.6). Further, Deng is one of the team’s most versatile defenders.
He’s also something of a stabilizing force when the reserves are in the game. And you can tell Thibs hates to sit him. After all, Lu has logged 40+ minutes in eight of the Bulls’ 18 games and 38+ in five others. Still, the coach thinks the Bulls should be able to get by without Deng for a while.
Said Thibs: “We’ve got more than enough to win with. I thought Ronnie [Brewer] was terrific. [Brian] Scalabrine was terrific. Kyle [Korver] has played big minutes for us. Jimmy [Butler] can play. So we have a roster full of guys who can play. So we’re confident in their abilities.”
I’m okay with Brewer logging more minutes, but Korver is a defensive liability at that position, Butler is a rookie, and Scalabrine is a 12th man who’s not supposed to see playing time unless the team is up or down by 20+ points with a couple minutes to go in the game.
Let’s hope Deng can come back soon. Assuming he can return reasonably healthy that is.
Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were back in, Luol Deng (wrist) and Taj Gibson (ankle) were out, and the Bulls continued their streak of chewing up and spitting out inferior opponents.
The Nets are bad (5-13) and were playing their third game in a row on the road against the league’s best team (in terms of wins and losses). The outcome of this one was practically preordained.
The Bulls were going to win this one unless the earth opened up and swallowed the United Center.
So the drama of the game was less about the Nets and more about story lines.
Such as Chicago’s continuing exellence despite injuries to key players. And make no mistake: Deng and Gibson are crucial to the Bulls’ long-term success. But this team has the coaching and depth necessary to weather the storm of injuries and scheduling. It has so far anyway. I’ll be interested to see how the Bulls fair against the Pacers on Wednesday and the Heat on Sunday.
The Bulls continue to share the ball at a phenomenal rate. Last night, they dished out a season-best 33 assists on 43 made field goals, which is a major reason why they shot 57.3 percent as a team. Chicago currently ranks third (behind Denver and San Antonio) in assists per game (23.1) and fourth (behind Philadelphia, San Antonio and Atlanta) in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.65). Most importantly, they are tied for first (with Denver and San Antonio) in Assist Ratio (16.3), which measures the percentage of a team’s possessions that ends in an assist.
This has done wonders for the offense. Last season, the Bulls couldn’t quite crack the top 10 in Ofensive Efficiency. They currently rank second at 105.7 points per 100 possessions, just behind Miami’s 106.0 points per 100 possessions. Toss in the fact that they also rank second (behind Philly) in Defensive Efficiency (93.5) and first overall in both Offensive Rebounding Rate (75.0) and Rebounding Rate (53.9), and you have one pretty complete team.
The one mitigating factor: Chicago ranks 28th in Strength of Schedule (-2.41). Only the Magic (-2.83) and Pacers (-2.86) have had an easier go of it so far this season. So we’ll see what kind of team the Bulls can truly be when they start facing a little stiffer competition.
Nitpicking aside, it was good to see D-Rose back in action, even if he wasn’t running at full speed. He checked Deron Williams while going off for 22 points (9-for-16), 5 rebounds and 8 assists. I’ll admit I’m still worried about his lingering toe injury. But it is what it is.
Rip Hamilton is coming along. He had his second straight 20-point game (22 on 10-for-16 shooting) and added a team-high 10 assists. Rip has found his shooting touch and consistently makes smart plays. And I love his movement without the ball. That’s a key attribute, especially paired with a scoring point guard like Derrick Rose. Very few scoring guards can score 20 without a lot of ball handling and isolation plays. Hamilton can drop 20 and barely touch the rock. In related news, Rip scored his 15,000th career point last night.
Carlos Boozer continued his recent strong play, contributing 16 points (6-for-9), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots in 33 minutes. There’s not much to complain about regarding Booz right now.
The Bench Mob pitched in with 25 points (9-for-16), 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Coach Tom Thibodeau even squeezed 23 minutes out of Brian Scalabrine and the Bulls still won in a blowout.
In summary, the good times continue for the Bulls. The only dark clouds are the question of how the team will respond to games against better opponents, Rose’s sprained toe, and especially the status of Deng. I’ve read the word “surgery” used as a possibility for his injured wrist. Several times. That would be bad. As usual, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Nets Injury Report:
Damion James: out indefinitely (sprained right ankle/foot)
Brook Lopez: expected to miss 4-6 weeks (right foot surgery)
Shawne Williams: day-to-day (bruised right shin)
The banged up Bulls look to win their fourth game in a row, perhaps with Derrick Rose back in the line-up tonight. And while more Bulls get injured, Chicago continues their run of sub-500 opponents, facing the Nets on the last night of a back-to-back-to-back.
The Nets aren’t a very good team when they are rested, but they get worse when they haven’t had time off. New Jersey is 1-5 so far this year with no rest. They are coming off their only no-rest-win of the season though, and have won two out of their last three.
New Jersey started this three-games-in-three-nights stretch against the Thunder. The Nets shot 31.0 percent and 3-23 from three in a losing effort. Last night against the Bobcats (the team Chicago just beat short-handed) New Jersey got their fifth win of the season. The Nets shot 14-15 from the line and outrebounded Charlotte by 13. Deron Williams just missed a triple double, with 19 points, nine rebounds and ten assists. But beating the Bobcats is like a science project participation award, it doesn’t mean you are good, it just means you were there.
In those two games, New Jersey’s players got big minutes, so expect some of the Nets to be pretty tired. Deron Williams (77 minutes played the past two nights), MarShon Brooks (70), Mehmet Okur (65), Kris Humphries (73), DeShawn Stevenson (46), Jordan Farmar (42) and Anthony Morrow (57) all should have heavy legs.
And the Bulls get back the reigning MVP, who hasn’t played in more than a week (which could be good or bad, we’ll see). It will be interesting to see how much Rose’s toe is still bothering him. It should be evident right away as he is going up against one of the best point guards in the league in Deron Williams, so he’ll need to be sharp.
Speaking of sharp, New Jersey is dead last in opponent effective field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot .535 eFG percentage (OK, that’s the opposite of sharp). The Bulls are fourth in that category, holding opponents to .451 eFG percentage (Sharp!).
Another area where the Bulls could hurt the Nets is on the glass. New Jersey is 29th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (.713). The Bulls are first in offensive rebounding percentage at .317 (second place is .302, so the Bulls are doing work on the offensive boards).
But the Nets are fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (.290) so they are getting some of those boards back on that end. The Bulls are averaging 13.1 offensive rebounds per game, while New Jersey is grabbing 12.5.
The edge would normally go to Chicago in the rebounding category, but the Bulls are missing a lot of their bigs. Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah didn’t play in the last game and Luol Deng (7.5 rebounds per game) was injured against Charlotte. Luckily the Bulls have depth there, as was evidenced last year when injuries struck their bigs a lot, and also in their last game when Omer Asik stepped right in and grabbed 15 boards.
Last year, the Bulls took three out of four in this matchup. Chicago was outrebounded in two games, something that didn’t happen much. Deron Williams only played in one game with the Nets against Chicago, going 1-12 from the field and scoring just five points. He did have eleven assists. He also played the Bulls with Utah last year, scoring eleven points (5-13 shooting) and dishing 12 assists.
Even with Rose back, the Bulls may be without Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and John Lucas III. Who would’ve thought Carlos Boozer would be the healthiest starter this season? And I apologize in advance for jinxing Boozington’s health.
Carlos Boozer, the defensive juggernaut: Carlos Boozer is tied for first in the league in defensive win shares at 1.3. Luol Deng is also tied for first. Boozington has the fourth best individual defensive rating in the league (92.1). Omer Asik is first with an 89.6 defensive rating (stats from Basketball-Reference). What I’m trying to say is Boozer is really good at defense this year…just kidding, he’s still bad. But the guys around him are good.