Blazers Injury Report:
Jamal Crawford: questionable for tonight’s game (knee tendinitis)
Mehmet Okur: out indefinitely (back spasms)
Elliot Williams: expected to miss 1-2 weeks (dislocated left shoulder)
Shawne Williams out for season (foot surgery/sprained shoulder)
Coming off a win over one of the top teams in the league, without Derrick Rose no less, the Bulls turn their attention to a mess of a squad.
The Portland Trail Blazers were busy yesterday, with a lot of their moves pointing towards them waving the white flag this season.
They fired head coach Nate McMillan yesterday. Interim coach Kaleb Canales will take over for McMillan and coach his first game tonight. If the Blazers did quit on McMillan they will really want to win tonight’s game to prove why they wanted to get rid of him. And signs do point to his team quitting.
Here’s what John Canzano Oregonian wrote: McMillan “said he was doing what he could (film sessions, pep talks, holding back minutes) trying to get control of things. Same night, I spoke to a veteran player who believed Camby and Raymond Felton were trying to get McMillan fired. I later learned that Felton’s off-court sidekick, Gerald Wallace, could also be back-biting and subversive. Anyone who paid close attention knew McMillan lost his team weeks ago.”
So now the players got what they wanted, but some of the guys are also leaving town.
The Blazers traded their starting center and small forward yesterday before the deadline. Marcus Camby was traded to Houston for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a future second-round pick. Yes, that Jonny Flynn. And yes that Hasheem Thabeet.
They then traded Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for the expiring contracts of Mehmet Okur and Shawne Williams and a protected first rounder.
Not quite the moves that a winning team would be making at this point in the season. The Blazers also released Greg Oden. But that is a move a winning team would make. Some teams would have even made that move a few years ago.
The Blazers should have circus music following them around at this point in the season. Portland is in a little bit of a mess right now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent.
LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the best power forwards in the game. Aldridge is the team’s leading scorer averaging 21.5 points, and now since Camby is gone, the leading rebounder as well (8.1). In the trades Portland made yesterday, they traded away their rebounds, steals and blocks leaders.
Alridge scored his career high the last time these teams played a season ago, dropping 42 points in a Blazers win.
The Blazers are 2-6 in March, and are coming off a 42-point loss to the Knicks.
Portland had just eleven assists in their loss to New York. Baron Davis had ten assists in 18 minutes by himself. They had 27 turnovers and shot 37.3 percent from the field. Not exactly the recipe for success.
Tonight is the first and only time this season the Bulls and Blazers will meet.
The Bulls have some injuries, but who cares with John Lucas III leading the team, amirite? Lucas went off against the Heat scoring 24 points on 9-12 shooting. I personally want to take back everything negative I ever said about that man (until he does something easy to make fun of again; then all bets are off).
Tonight is the front end of a back-to-back for Chicago, both games held in the United Center. Their opponent tomorrow night, the 76ers, also have a back-to-back of their own tonight and tomorrow. Philly plays the Heat tonight before traveling to the United Center to take on the Bulls.
It would be great if the Bulls could have Derrick Rose back for that one, and maybe even Rip Hamilton. But someone is always going to step up in whatever role they have that night and give it their all.
“The guys we have on our team are the right guys,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They have the right attitude, approach and there’s the belief we can win.”
What a striking difference. A team behind their coach and teammates, willing to do anything to win is a beautiful situation to have.
That’s the title of the AP recap of last night’s win over the Heat.
I never thought those words would be strung together in the English language.
Little Johnny Lucas was so hot last night — scoring a team-high 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting — that LeBron freaking James started guarding him during the fourth quarter.
And Lucas scored immediately scored on him.
Okay. Maybe not.
But Lucas was flat out amazing. I mean, a third string point guard scoring 24 points on only 12 shots in just 27 minutes of action.
Against the second-best team (record-wise) in the league?
It was beyond stunning.
Let’s face it, nobody expected the Bulls to win without Derrick Rose, who missed the game with a groin injury. Rip Hamilton missed the game too — in case you forgot he was even on the team — and C.J. Watson was limping around on a bum ankle.
Fortunately for the Bulls, Lucas has no fear and an eye for the basket. Sure, he had only one assist on the night, and he’s definitely a shooting guard trapped in a teeny-tiny body. But he’s got the guts of a bull elephant (pun sort of intended) and is the undisputed owner of the title “Best Third-String Point Guard in the NBA.”
Said Joakim Noah: ”Lukey! I’m proud of Lukey, man. That’s my son. So I’m proud of my son. I was proud of my son tonight. He came out with a lot of energy and I just like his style out there; he was tough from the start and it got us all going. It wasn’t just his scoring. His swag out there was mean and I liked it.”
Added Luol Deng: ”We love him. He’s older than us, but just a great guy. We all love him and we want to see him do well. He’s always on the bench cheering everyone on and working hard. When it’s his turn, we’ve got to make sure we let him know that we appreciate it.”
In true Bulls (and journeyman) fashion, Lucas humbly deflected all the praise with the team-first talk we’ve come to expect from this squad.
Said Lucas: ”We just have guys who flat-out work hard. Come to practice every day and when they’re number’s called, step up. When you have 1-14 that does that and know their role; nobody’s stepping outside their role … they’re all playing their game. And everybody gets along; we’re like a family, we’re like a brotherhood. So when you have something like that, when one brother goes down, you’ve got their back.”
It’s like Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau programmed a single mindset into his players.
Speaking of which, as amazing as Lukey’s offensive performance was, this really was a total team victory.
I know I say this all the time, but rebounding is about desire and effort, and many times it can be an accurate gauge for how hard a team is working and how badly they want a particular game.
Well, Chicago outrebounded Miami 50-36 — including 14-11 on the offensive glass — and outscored them 21-7 in second-chance points. That, as much as Lucas’ scoring explosion, allowed the Bulls to withstand the rain of fire from Dwyane wade (36 points on 16-for-26 shooting) and LeBron James (35 points on 14-for-25 shooting).
How dominant was the Bulls’ work on the boards? The Heat’s starting frontcourt of James, Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony combined for only 12 rebounds in 103 minutes of PT. Meanwhile, Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver totaled 12 rebounds in 37 minutes off the Chicago bench.
There were some aberrations in this win. And not just Lukey’s hot shooting.
For starters, the Bulls were a sizzling 10-for-19 (52.6 percent) from three-point range against a Heat team that usually holds opponents to 36.7 percent accuracy from that distance.
Secondly, James and Wade — who average close to 15 free throw attempts per game between them — earned relatively few foul shots (nine total) considering how many field goals they attempted (51). And it’s not like they weren’t being aggressive, given that they combined for 13 shot attempts at the rim.
Speaking of which, Miami converted only nine of their 23 attempts at the rim (39.2 percent) despite ranking ninth in the league in FGP at the rim (64.5 percent). Of course, the Bulls rank second (behind the Heat) at holding foes to low-shooting numbers at the rim (56.7 percent), but their interior defense clearly overperformed last night.
Of course, outliers go both ways. Wade was 8-for-10 from 16-to-23 feet last night when normally he shoots around 40 percent from that distance. And a few of those shots had a ridiculous degree of difficulty.
Anyway, all things said and done, it was a great win that really didn’t tell us anything about what might happen if these two teams should meet in the playoffs.
But it sure did tell us a lot about the heart of this Bulls team.
Miami Injury Report:
Mike Miller: out at least one week (sprained left ankle)
The Bulls won another hard-fought battle on Monday, this time against the Knicks, but they’ll have to be much sharper if they want to beat the Heat tonight.
It’s easy to forget that actual basketball has to be played, in between Dwight Howard’s ever-changing ideas on where he wants to play. And Carmelo Anthony is not one to be outdone, so he jumped in on the “trade me” action too. Or maybe he didn’t. Either way, he isn’t helping the Knicks much, and his coach is gone.
But beyond all that off the court stuff, the top two teams in the East will face off tonight. And although the Bulls are in first place, ahead of Miami, Tom Thibodeau thinks Miami is the team to beat in the East.
“We’re chasing them,” he said. “They’re the Eastern Conference champions from last year. We have to come out and play hard.”
Against Carmelo’s Knicks (or perhaps the team is Lin’s? All we know is it’s definitely not D’Antoni’s), the Bulls played hard and pulled another tough victory out. Rose had a nice stat line (32 points, six rebounds, seven assists), but wasn’t great. He had four turnovers and shot 12-29 from the field.
Taj Gibson was the one guy who really stood out, as he dominated the boards, grabbing eight offensive rebounds. He did so much work on the glass he was hired to clean skyscraper’s windows during the offseason.
As a team, the Bulls out-rebounded the Knicks by 13 on the offensive glass, and 18 overall.
Miami lost to the red hot Orlando Magic last night in overtime (Orlando beat Chicago, Indiana and Miami in the past five days).
Dwight Howard, who was still on the Magic when I wrote this, helped Orlando climb out of a 14 point deficit, behind his 24 points and 25 rebounds.
Dwyane Wade scored 28 points, to go with six rebounds and five assists, LeBron James added 19 points, eleven rebounds and eight assists, and Chris Bosh pitched in 23 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t enough.
The Heat were outrebounded by ten, and Orlando shot 26 more free throws (the Magic only made eleven more, but that was enough).
The Heat’s big three played some big minutes last night: Bosh (44), James (42) and Wade (38) all put in a lot of time. Which may not bode well for Miami.
The Heat are 7-5 on the second night of a back-to-back. They are 23-5 in the rest of their games. Miami is also just 13-8 on the road this season.
Currently Miami is 2 ½ games back of Chicago for the top seed in the East, but they won the first and only time these two teams met this season in late January. Miami held on to win that game 97-93.
The game was tainted by missed free throws. First it was Rose, missing two free throws when the Bulls were down one. Then it was LeBron’s turn. He missed both of his free throws (LeBron led all scorers with 35 points) when Miami was still up one. Rose then missed a shot to tie up the game.
Luol Deng and C.J. Watson were out for that game. Deng will play tonight, but Watson is still a gametime decision. Rip Hamilton is out (“nothing to see here, everything is as usual”), but the big news is that Derrick Rose may be out as well.
If Rose is out, there really isn’t much hope in Chicago winning this game. Rose scored 34 points, albeit inefficiently, going 11-28, in the first match-up against Miami. But without Rose, those 34 points have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is John Lucas…someone please hold me.
The Bulls did resign Mike James for the third time this season. James has averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 assists so far this season with Chicago.
And really, it’s unclear why they’ve been letting James go all season. His per 36 minutes numbers are actually better than Lucas’. James is averaging 18.0 points, 10.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. Lucas averages 16.8 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per 36. James’ is a much smaller sample size, but the numbers are in favor of James (and Lucas is a much smaller person, as LeBron showcased).
James is also shooting 57.1 percent from three and 42 percent from the field, while Lucas is 41.4 percent from three and 38.4 percent from the field.
But these numbers won’t matter much, unless it’s coming from the bench to give Derrick a rest, rather than starting in his place. The Heat have won six in a row over the Bulls as it is, and the Bulls chance decrease to slim-to-none without Rose.
Some statistics: Miami is first in both offensive rating (109.6) and effective field goal percentage (.521). The Bulls aren’t too far behind in offensive rating (108.9), but have a distance between them when it comes to eFG (.498).
The Chicago Bulls are exploring avenues to acquire Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol before Thursday’s trade deadline, according to sources close to the situation.
The Bulls have long hoped to wedge themselves into the trade running for Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard, but sources told ESPN.com that Howard’s well-chronicled lack of interest in a trade to Chicago has prompted the Bulls to switch their focus to Gasol in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Sources say that the Lakers, however, have limited interest in the players Chicago would be offering, starting with Bulls forward Carlos Boozer.
So the Bulls would have to recruit at least one more team to the discussions to have any shot at Gasol, sources said, with the Lakers known to be insistent on getting back at least one certifiable star if they consent to trade the Spaniard.
To me, this is a lot of hubub about nothing. In other words, it’s almost certainly not going to happen.
The talks, first reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, were driven at least in part by Arn Tellem, the shared agent of Gasol and Derrick Rose. Tellem has had a longstanding strong relationship with Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Sending Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson to the Lakers would satisfy trade provisions under the collective bargaining agreement.
However, the Lakers, who are seeking an upgrade at point guard, have zero interest in adding the remaining three years and $47.1 million remaining on Boozer’s contract. A habitual luxury tax team, they are wary of the more prohibitive penalties under the new collective bargaining agreement, which toughen in 2013-14.
Thus, a third team would need to be engaged and sources said the Bulls have not found one.
Gasol has two years and $38.3 million left on his deal. However, his contract carries a 15 percent trade kicker. That means he would make close to $22 million next season if he’s traded. And the Bulls have luxury tax concerns of their own when Rose’s five-year, $95 million extension kicks in next season.
The Bulls own expiring contracts in Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik, as well as future assets such as the Bobcats’ first-round pick obtained in the Tyrus Thomas trade and the draft rights to international phenom Nikola Mirotic.
However, the Lakers are seeking at least one bona fide star on top of draft picks to move Gasol, so cap relief alone likely wouldn’t finalize the deal.
The Los Angeles Times reported the Lakers asked the Bulls for Joakim Noah, an unknown player and two first-round picks in return for Gasol.
So to sum up:
The Bulls are willing to trade the Lakers Boozer and Watson, but the Lakers don’t want that deal. Watson isn’t L.A.’s idea of an answer at point guard, and Boozer’s contract – worth between $15 and $17 million per year over the next three seasons — is like explosive toxic waste covered in mutant grizzly bears. Nobody wants to touch it.
Sure, the deal could work if a third team jumped in and was willing to take Boozer and Watson while providing the Lakers a significant upgrade at the point guard position. That’s unlikely to happen.
It’s just as unlikely that the Bulls would be willing to part with Noah, the unknown player (Omer or Taj?) and the two draft picks. Mostly because (in my opinion) the Bulls aren’t going to give up Joakim. In that scenario, they would probably expect Gasol to play center. Unfortunately, Gasol is at his best when playing power forward and everybody knows that. And, anyway, Jo is too important to this team’s chemistry and defense.
Interestingly enough, I was checking stats. Gasol (31 years, 252 days, 773 games played) is averaging 16.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and has a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.5. Boozer (30 years, 115 days, 613 games played) is giving the Bulls 15.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG while shooting 53.0 percent with a PER of 19.5. Pau’s Win Shares Per 48 Minutes is .179 while Boozer’s is .180.
There are obviously skill sets and intangibles to consider…but I’m not sure Gasol is such an amazing upgrade over Boozer (and the other assets being offered) that the Bulls should be willing to break the bank for him.
The Bulls were once again missing three key players — Luol Deng (wrist), Rip Hamilton (shoulder), and C.J. Watson (ankle) — but pulled out yet another win in their typical grind-it-out fashion.
Meanwhile the Knicks lost their sixth straight game, making Linsanity feel like a distant memory.
I always say rebounding is a sign of how hard a team was fighting. Now check out these numbers: The Bulls were +18 in total rebounds (56-38), +13 in offensive rebounds (22-9), and +18 in second chance points (24-6).
Yep. This game was won in the trenches.
Six Bulls players had at least 6 rebounds: Derrick Rose (6), Kyle Korver (7), Ronnie Brewer (7), Carlos Boozer (7), Joakim Noah (10) and Taj Gibson (13).
Five of them had at least 2 offensive boards: Jimmy Butler (2), Rose (2), Korver (3), Noah (4) and Gibson (8).
Led by Gibson and Butler, the Bulls dominated the glass and made all the hustle plays, which allowed them to overcome a poor shooting night for the team in general (43.1 percent) and Rose in particular (12-for-29).
The Bulls even missed nine free throws (19-for-28).
But, as Hubie Brown might say, defense and rebounding make up for a multitude of sins.
Said Gibson: “Like Thibs always says, you give yourself a chance to win when you defend and rebound. We’re a good rebounding team and that’s what we capitalize on. We try to get every 50/50 ball and just play with a lot of energy. No matter what. It just worked our way.”
It did. Just as it did most of last season and now most of this season. The Bulls grind out wins by outworking their opponents rather than overwhelming them with talent.
On the subject of talent, Rose (32 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) has not been a happy camper lately, and last night was no exception. Even though he attempted a game-high nine free throws, Rose felt he wasn’t getting the proper respect from the officials. Which might explain why he went only 6-for-12 at the rim and had six of his shots blocked.
Said Rose: “I’ve got to be the only superstar in the league that’s going through what I’m going through right now. Can’t say too much about it.”
And regarding the angry face he made during his unusually ferocious fourth quarter dunk (vidoe above): “I kind of like blacked out right there, where I’ll probably have to see it to go through it again, to tell you how I felt. I probably was mad because they weren’t calling no calls the whole game.”
But that’s not anything Rose and the Bulls haven’t seen before.
Still, lately I’ve seen Rose doing more wincing, grimacing and, yes, even complaining after non-calls than he ever has before. He’s even venting frustration to the press and referring to himself as a superstar.
It’s interesting because, over the course of his career, Rose has been the picture of humility and probably has the lowest non-call-to-complaint ratio of all time.
So what’s changed?
Is his ego finally catching up to his talent? Is it a sign of how seriously he’s taking himself and his team’s chances of winning a title? Is he simply worn down by years of getting smacked on his many forays to the basket? Or maybe he’s finally figured out that sometimes superstars have to grease the officials.
Why doesn’t Rose get more calls when he drives to the hoop? Because he’s so big and strong for a PG?
Said Boozer: Said Boozer: “Yeah, because he’s so strong … he finishes so many plays where he does get contact. Sometimes they let it go, but you can’t let it go all the time. You’ve got to make the call. You saw in the third quarter, you’re just trying to force the issue. He got to the line a bunch in the third quarter. But he could have got to the line maybe 10 times in the first half.”
It could also be because Rose, as has been stated before, is very adept at avoiding contact around the rim. Whereas many of the players who lead the league in free throw attempts drive straight into contact.
Anyway, some numbers to consider:
Shot Attempts at the Rim:
1. Blake Griffin (7.8)
2. Greg Monroe (7.8)
3. Dwight Howard (7.2)
4. Tyreke Evans (7.2)
5. Nikola Pekovic (7.0)
6. Dwayne Wade (6.8)
7. Kevin Love (6.7)
8. LeBron James (6.7)
9. DeMarcus Cousins (6.7)
10. David Lee (6.4)
11. Russell Westbrook (6.4)
12. Andrew Bynum (6.1)
13. Derrick Rose (6.1)
Free Throw Attempts Per Game:
1. Dwight Howard (10.8)
2. Kevin Love (8.7)
3. LeBron James (8.6)
4. Kobe Bryant (7.9)
5. Kevin Durant (7.6)
6. Blake Griffin (7.5)
7. Corey Maggette (7.1)
8. Carmelo Anthony (6.9)
9. John Wall (6.7)
10. Dwyane Wade (6.5)
11. Brook Lopez (6.4)
12. James Harden (6.4)
13. Rodney Stuckey (6.3)
14. Derrick Rose (6.2)
I’m not drawing any conclusions from these numbers. Just pointing them out. You will note that Kobe Bryant ranks 4th in FTAs (7.9) despite ranking 59th in shot attempts at the rim (3.8). The reason? Kobe is very savvy at drawing contact. Rose could learn from him.
New York Injury Report:
Jared Jefferies: missed Sunday’s game (sore knee)
Bill Walker: out (elbow surgery)
Chicago gets their first taste of Linsanity when they take on the Knicks in the United Center tonight.
New York is in eighth place in the East currently, so they would be Chicago’s first round playoff opponent if the season ended today.
They are also a bit of an enigma. At the start of Lisanity, the Knicks won seven in a row. But since then, they are just 3-8, including dropping their last five. New York is 2-7 since Carmelo Anthony returned.
They also aren’t the same type of team they were last year. New York is currently, 24th in offensive rating and ninth in defensive rating. Last season the Knicks were seventh in offensive rating and 22nd in defensive rating. Welcome to the Big Apple, Tyson Chandler.
New York couldn’t stop Philadelphia from scoring yesterday though, giving up 106 points and allowing the Sixers to shoot 50.6 percent. Lou Williams scored 28 points and Evan Turner added 24 of his own.
Lin went 5-18 for 14 points, and turned the ball over six times. Stoudemire shot just nine times, making four of them and finishing with nine points. Melo went 11-12 from the line, scoring 22 points and grabbing nine boards (six offensive).
Amare and Melo didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter, both logging 29 minutes in the game. Tyson Chandler played 39 minutes, while Lin played 37 and Landry Fields logged 33.
The Knicks are 4-9 on the second night of back-to-backs.
The Knicks did force 14 turnovers against the 76ers. Philly averages just 10.7 turnovers per game, first in the league (This is roughly the number of turnovers Jeremy Lin averages by himself per game.). The Knicks are second in opponent turnover percentage (.162) and second in turnovers per game, forcing 17.3 per contest. Chicago forces just 13.6 turnovers per game, putting them 26th in the league in that category.
While the Knicks are struggling since one of their stars returned from an injury, the Bulls are dealing with a bunch of their own.
Chicago was without three starters (Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton) and their back-up point guard (C.J. Watson) against Utah, but still got the win.
Kyle Korver stepped up in his starting role, scoring 26 points as he went 6-11 from deep and 10-16 from the field overall. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished six assists.
Carlos Boozer scored 27 points (13-17 from the field) to go with eight rebounds and five turnovers. Boozington logged 41 minutes, just the fifth time he has played more than 40 minutes in a game since joining the Bulls. Over his last three games, Boozer is shooting 64 percent from the field and averaging 22.7 points per game.
The Bulls won, but they gave up 62 points in the paint, showing that they really missed Noah against Utah’s talented bigs.
Chicago is 1-1 on the current homestand, with three games remaining. After tonight, their next game is against the second place team in the East, the Miami Heat.
The Bulls won by three points the first they faced New York. The big lights of Madison Square Garden didn’t scare Derrick Rose as he scored 32 points to go with 13 assists and four rebounds. Kyle Korver scored 16 points starting in place of the injured Luol Deng, while Ronnie Brewer had just six in his starting role, filling in for Rip Hamilton (sound familiar?).
Amare Stoudemire was the leading scorer in the game, dropping 34 points (16-27 shooting) and grabbing eleven rebounds. Melo scored 26 points, but went just 10-26 from the field. Anthony is shooting a career low 40.1 percent this season.
New York’s starting point guard at the time, Iman Shumpert, scored ten points, to go with eight assists and five rebounds.
These two squads will be twice more after tonight, in back-to-back games in April.
Chicago’s injury status: Luol Deng and C.J. Watson will not play tonight, while Joakim Noah will be back in the line-up. Rip Hamilton is out indefinitely, but did you expect anything different?
Chicago looks to get back on the winning track after faltering against Orlando, who ended the Bulls eight-game winning streak. After two disappointing showings from Chicago (against Orlando and Milwaukee), and a day of rest, the Bulls get an easier opponent in Utah.
It should be the Jazz with tired legs tonight, playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They lost last night in Philly, but actually spread out their minutes. The highest total for Utah was Al Jefferson, with just 32 minutes. Tom Thibodeau makes sure Luol Deng plays 32 minutes before the game even starts. Nobody else even played 30 minutes for Utah.
The Sixers shot 52.6 percent in the game and had eleven more assists than Utah. But Utah did have fewer turnovers than Philly, which is quite a feat. The Jazz had just eleven turnovers. This continues Utah’s impressive season of holding onto the ball. They rank fifth in turnover percentage (.131).
The Jazz did have 52 points in the paint against Philadelphia. The 76ers are third in the league in opponent points in the paint per game, allowing 37.3. Chicago gives up 38.9 points in the paint, putting them in tenth place in the league.
Scoring in the paint is nothing new for the Jazz, as they rank second in that offensive category, scoring 49.2 points per contest from that area.
With this, Utah’s bigs present some troubles for the Bulls. Joakim Noah will have to go up against Al Jefferson, the leading scorer on the Jazz. That leaves Carlos “Ole” Boozer to try and cover the power forward combination of Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors. That could get ugly. It might be a good thing that this is the only time the Bulls will face Utah. Perhaps Taj Gibson is in for some extra minutes tonight.
And to try and prove I’m not always bashing Boozington, he was one of the lone bright spots in Chicago’s loss to Orlando, going for 26 points, on 12-20 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and adding four steals. Those steals show exactly why people say that stat doesn’t prove someone is good at defense (crap, I was supposed to be praising Boozer in this paragraph…oh well).
Utah is also as aggressive as Chicago on the offensive glass. The Jazz rank second in offensive rebounding percentage (.300), behind only the Bulls (.319). The Bulls average 13.4 offensive rebounds, while Utah grabs 12.7 per game.
Chicago’s injury bug: Deng may be joining C.J. Watson and Rip Hamilton on the sideline, as his wrist injury is still hurting.
That shoddy defensive effort extended through the first quarter of last night’s game against the Magic. During that initial 12 minutes, Orlando shot 15-for-20 (75 percent), including 6-for-8 from three-point range.
The Bulls trailed by as many as 17 points in that opening period and were playing catch up the rest of the night. No small feat for a team slogging through its fourth game in five nights…three of which were versus other Eastern Conference playoff teams (Sixers, Pacers, Magic).
I will say this: The Bulls picked up their defense. The Magic shot only 30 percent (20-for-66) after the first quarter. But the damage was done.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: ”When you get that far in the hole, you can’t win like that. That comes back on me. I have to get them ready to play. That hole should not have been there.”
But it was. The Bulls did manage to claw their way back into the game, even taking brief leads in the third and fourth quarters, but it was not to be.
There were no fourth quarter heroics from Rose last night. During those final 12 minutes, Derrick scored only 5 points while missing four out of five field goal attempts. He also clanged the second of two free throws that would have cut Orlando’s lead to only three points with 38 seconds left.
Rose was flat broke all night (6-for-22), making him an awful 14-for-44 over his past two games.
He wasn’t the only Chicago player shooting blanks last night. The only consistent offense for the Bulls came from the power forward position, as Carlos Boozer (26 points, 12-for-20) and Taj Gibson (14 points, 6-for-7) had their way with the Magic defense.
But everybody else?
Luol Deng, Chicago’s second All-Star, went 1-for-9, including 1-for-5 on threes. Joakim Noah was 3-for-7. Ronnie Brewer, again starting in place of the injured Rip Hamilton, missed two of his three shot attempts. If you’re keeping track at home, that means the starters not named “Carlos Boozer” combined to shoot 11-for-41 (27 percent).
Then there was Kyle Korver.
The sharpest of Chicago’s long-range sharp shooters went 1-for-7 on threes and 3-for-10 overall. And during the fourth quarter, Kyle bricked five wide-open threes in a row. On one of those attempts, his defender (Jason Richardson) fell down, giving Korver all the time in the world to lock onto his target.
Said Korver: ”A couple of them felt good. A couple of them maybe not quite as good, but I thought at least three of them were at the bottom of the bucket. You’ve got one play where everyone falls down and you’re left wide open for a corner 3 and it goes in and out. I need to come through in those [situations].”
One or two of those shots might have won the game. You can’t blame Korver though. They were all good shots. They just didn’t go in.
Said Thibs: ”Kyle had some wide-open shots, his shot. I can live with that all day. He’s a great shooter and had it on line. It doesn’t go in. I can live with that.”
Added Noah: ”It’s part of the game. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. Kyle taking those shots, we live with that all day. Kyle getting an open look, there’s no better offense than that in the whole NBA. I don’t care what anybody says.”
Maybe it’s a good that Korver misfired on those shots. Maybe a wake-up call was needed. The Bulls need to play better than they did against the Bucks and Magic. Chicago leads the league in rebounding differential, but Orlando won the battle of the boards 49-40. The Magic ripped down 17 offensive rebounds and finished with an Offensive Rebounding Rate of 40.5.
Simply put, you cannot let a team rebound four out of every 10 missed shots.
But like I said, the Bulls were playing their fourth game in five nights against mostly top-notch competition, and the Magic were resting in their hotel rooms while the Bulls were fighting their way out of Milwaukee. You could tell the team had no legs last night. You could see it in their shooting. You could see it in their rebounding.
That’s just life in the NBA.
All the Bulls can do now is get some rest, watch some tape, and be ready for the Jazz on Saturday night.
Orlando Injury Report:
Von Wafer: questionable for tonight’s game (sore left shoulder)
Chicago takes their eight game win streak, including last night’s buzzer-beater victory, back to the United Center to take on Orlando, the third place team in the East.
Orlando is coming off bad loss to Charlotte. The Magic managed to lose in nearly every single statistic that is tracked during a basketball game. The only stat they won was offensive rebounding (14-13). Orlando shot 38.8 percent from the field, while allowing Charlotte to shoot 47.5 percent. The only Magic player to record a positive plus-minus was Glen Davis (+3). It was just Charlotte’s fifth victory of the season.
The only bright spot would be Dwight Howard’s 15 points and 17 rebounds. But even he recorded a plus-minus of -12. And at this point, Howard may just be showcasing his talents for other teams, rather than truly being a member of the Magic. And it’s hard to argue against the idea that the possibility of a big trade coming in the next week isn’t hurting the Magic.
In defense of the Magic, they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. But they partially lose that point, because their opponent on Monday was Toronto (they actually beat Toronto, so they don’t have two atrocious losses in a row…so they’ve got that going for them).
And while the Magic are probably feeling pretty down about their most recent loss, the Bulls are flying high. Derrick Rose once again crushed Brandon Jennings’ dreams with his buzzer beater.
“It was like a kid, all the things that you dream about,” Rose said. “It felt good. You’re on the road, going against a team that’s giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that.”
The Bulls start a six game homestand tonight, and they have some tough games coming up. After tonight the Bulls will take on the Linsani the Knicks, Heat and Sixers, before heading to Orlando to face the Magic again in 12 days.
The Magic don’t have a cake-walk either. They face Indiana, Miami and San Antonio after they leave Chicago. Not quite the Toronto or Charlotte caliber.
The Bulls topped Orlando in early January, but couldn’t stop Dwight Howard. He had 28 points on 11-18 shooting and 15 rebounds.
Rose and Luol Deng each had 21 in the Bulls four point victory, while Carlos Boozer added 20 points and Kyle Korver pitched in 18 off the bench. Rose also had ten assists and eight rebounds, very close to his eleven assists and eight rebounds he had last night against Milwaukee.
Last night against Milwaukee, Chicago shot 51.8 percent in the game and also grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. They can’t expect to do that against the Magic.
Especially consider that Joakim Noah usually struggles when he goes up against the Magic and Dwight. Noah actually out-battled Howard the first time these two teams met last season, scoring 16 points, but didn’t grab a single rebound (Howard went for 13 and 12 in the Magic victory). That was the first time since 2008, and the only time in his career that he grabbed zero rebounds when playing more than seven minutes (he played 25 minutes in the rebound-less Orlando game).
Noah would go on to score just six points in the next two games he played against Orlando, never playing more than 18 minutes.
Flash-forward to this year, Noah had just four points, on 2-9 shooting, but did bring in ten rebounds when the Bulls traveled to Orlando.
The Bulls took the final three match-ups against the Magic last season, to take the series 3-1. Rose scored just 15 points in the loss, but averaged 28.3 points in the three victories (including a 39 point game in the final match-up last season).
Tired legs once again come in to play for Chicago. Deng (45), Rose (39), Noah (38) and Ronnie Brewer (32) all put in big minutes to get the victory in Milwaukee. The Bulls are 11-2 up to this point when they have no rest, including their big 20-point victory over Indiana earlier this week.
But after a crazy, last second win, the Bulls need to be wary of a letdown.