November 30, 2012
In case you missed it, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich held Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker out of last night’s nationally televised game against the Miami Heat.
Said Pop: ”Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing. In our case, this month we’ve had 11 away games, after tonight. We’ve had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we’re ending it with four (games) in five nights here. I think it’d be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history.”
Naturally, NBA commission David Stern freaked out.
Said Stern: “I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
And so the Spurs will be punished for the unpardonable sin of putting the long-term health of their players ahead of television ratings for a largely meaningless regular season game.
Of course, Popovich has been doing this for years. What’s more, when he did it last year, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said: ”The strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams. And Gregg Popovich in particular is probably the last coach that I would second-guess.”
The fact is, rest is a key to the long-term health outcomes of professional athletes, as science is proving again and again. TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott just published a smart post on this subject. As Abbott points out, research has shown that there is a strong relationship between health and rest, and, conversely, between injuries and the lack of rest. For more details, check out Abbott’s post or this article about a study conducted by the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
If you accept the obvious — that lack of rest can and often does have a disastrous effect on an athlete’s long-term health — then you might start to worry about Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.
Check out the Basketball-Reference leader board: Noah and Deng rank 17th and eight in total minutes, respectively. Even worse, they rank fifth and first in minutes per game, with Noah logging 38.8 minutes a night and Deng putting in 40.5 minutes.
This isn’t new for Deng, who led the league in MPG last season (39.4) and ranked fourth (39.1) the season before that.
(As an aside, three seasons ago, Deng ranked 12th at 37.9 MPG under then-coach Vinny Del Negro.)
It’s not secret that Noah and Deng have a long history of injuries. Now they’re going all out during long minutes almost every game. And this has been the case with Deng for years.
If it’s not a concern for Tom Thibodeau, maybe he should have a chat with Popovich.
November 29, 2012
Two days after blowing a 27-point lead against the Bucks, the Bulls hosted the slumping, Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas Mavericks.
And it was just what they needed.
Return of the Bench:
Strong games from Luol Deng (game-high 22 points) and Joakim Noah (13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) were offset by the subdued performances of fellow starters Carlos Boozer (6 points, 3-for-7, 6 boards), Kirk Hinrich (6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds) and Rip Hamilton (4 points, 4 assists, 1 steal).
No worries. The bench came to the rescue. No really.
The reserves have taken some heavy criticism this season. Some of that criticism has been deserved — Chicago’s bench production ranks poorly in almost every category — but it has also been somewhat unfair due to comparisons to the Bench Mob of the previous two seasons.
That said, this was the first game this season in which the reserves really and truly came through. And they did it big time, contributing 50 points, 19 rebounds, 11 assists, 6 steals and 2 blocked shots.
Key contributors included Taj Gibson (8 points, 8 rebounds, +35), Jimmy Butler (13 points, 9-for-10 from the line, +34), and Nate Robinson (14 points, 6 assists, +26). And — believe it or not — Marco Belinelli (11 points, 2-for-3 on threes, +18) and Nazr Mohammed (5 boards, 2 blocked shots, +14) even got into the act.
Mind you, there was extensive garbage time, which always leads to inflated stats. But the plus-minus scores provide a good indicator of the kind of energy the bench brought to last night’s game.
They were also playing with an edge after the meltdown against Milwaukee.
Said Gibson: ”We were angry. Because I felt that we should have won that game. We should be on a two-game winning streak. We understand that every game in this league is hard to win. Especially being on the other side of this; having a tough go-round so far early in the season. Every game is tough to win … and we’ve got a lot of guys that take a lot of pride in wearing the Bulls logo across their jersey so getting this win tonight, it was real special.”
Return of the Defense Too:
According to John Hollinger’s latest team stats, Chicago currently ranks third overall in Defensive Efficiency. That said, the Bulls haven’t been as consistently dominant on defense this season, whether it was that string of 100-point games they recently surrendered or that 30-point fourth quarter scorching put on them by Milwaukee’s bench.
Last night, however, was a classic defensive smackdown. The Bulls held the Mavs to 34.6 percent shooting (including 4-for-18 on threes) and a miserable Offensive Efficiency rating of 83.9 points per 100 possessions. And that was despite Shawn Marion’s dead-eye shooting (7-for-11).
Dallas followed up a 19-point second quarter with a 16-point third quarter and simply looked dazed and confused on offense. If you subtract Shawn Marion from the mix, their starters combined to shoot 11-for-39 from the field (28.2 percent) and 0-for-8 on three-pointers. Then Elton Brand and Vince Carter came off the bench to shoot 4-for-14 between them.
The Bull came up with 8 steals and blocked six shots, but the glory of their defense wasn’t in in the highlights, it was in the all-around effort. They were physical, rotated well, and contested everything.
An Offensive Mini-Explosion:
The Bulls rank 20th in Offensive Efficiency. In other words, they have some work ahead of them just to reach offensive mediocrity.
That wasn’t the case last night.
The Bulls went 6-for-10 from downtown, got to the line 33 times and compiles an Offensive Efficiency rating of 108.6 points per 100 possessions. Of course…the Mavericks rank 25th in Defensive Efficiency and have given up 100+ points in seven of their last eight games. So there you have it.
If you’re looking for a critique of last night’s blowout win, it might be that the Bulls turned the ball over 21 times. And that wasn’t an anomaly. The Bulls rank 20th in Turnover Ratio. Simply put, they give the ball up too much, usually because they either force difficult passes or throw passes too casually.
Player of the Game:
It was Deng, whose 12-point first quarter set the tone for the Bulls.
Said coach Tom Thibodeau: “You can’t say enough about this guy. I mean, he’s tough. He’s physically tough. He’s mentally tough. He’s a winner. Does whatever you ask, never complains. Puts the team first, and you need that. That’s the best type of leadership you can have. This is not something that’s new. That’s something he’s done the three years I’ve been here. He’s just a winning player. He’s played very well with the starting unit, played very well with the bench.”
Added Gibson: “Luol is our leader. He understands what we have to do. He understands he’s going to play a lot minutes. What we’re trying to do is try to give him a little support, especially with Jimmy (Butler), Marco (Belinelli) and guys who can come in and give him some help because he’s guarding the best player night in and night out, playing a lot of minutes, running a good offense for us. We’re just trying to help him the best we can.”
Goat of the Night:
Hamilton, who finished with more turnovers (5) than points (4) and a co-team-worst plus-minus score of -11 in a 23-point win.
Not Born to Run:
Remember all that preseason talk about how the Bulls wanted to run more this season? Last night they managed only 7 points in transition and currently rank 21st in fast break points.
Something Everybody Should Know:
Butler is currently rocking a Player Efficiency Rating of 17.04. For the sake of comparison, Memphis’ Rudy Gay has a PER of 17.97. This is my way of saying Jimmy is playing pretty well this season.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
November 28, 2012
Dallas Mavericks Status Check:
Road Record: 2-5
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Streak: Lost 2
Last game: 100-98 loss to Philadelphia
PPG: 100.7 (6th)
Opponents PPG: 101.5 (28th)
Offensive Rating: 105.2 (15th)
Defensive Rating: 106.1 (21st)
Pace: 94.4 (3rd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .505 (8th)
Turnover Percentage: .142 (15th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .708 (26th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .213 (29th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .218 (13th)
Opp. eFG%: .484 (14th)
Opp. TO%: .130 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .240 (24th)
Leading scorer: O.J. Mayo (20.0)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Mavericks Injury Report:
Dirk Nowitzki: out (knee)
Two teams struggling without their stars (Dirk Nowitzki is still out after having knee surgery) face off as Chicago can take their first step away from that terrible loss tonight when the Mavericks visit town. Luckily for the Bulls starters, Chicago had a day off between games, because they are probably in line for a lot of minutes again tonight.
Coming to Chicago to play used to be something to fear for opponents. The Bulls were 26-7 last season at home and 36-5 in 2010-2011. So far this year, they are just 3-4 in the United Center in the early going. Dallas hasn’t been performing well away from home though, as they are 2-5 on the road this year.
The Mavs are also on the second night of a back-to-back, after losing to the Sixers by two. Dallas was 13-9 last season playing on no rest. That was the seventh best winning percentage on the second night of back-to-backs. They are 1-2 on those types of games this year.
Chris Kaman went 9-13 for 20 points and Elton Brand added 17 points off the bench against his former team as Dallas fell in Philly. Shawn Marion added 17 points and eight rebounds, while O.J. Mayo chipped in 11 points, well below his season average of 20, along with five boards and seven assists. Dallas committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Chicago’s next game comes against the Sixers on Saturday night.
The Bulls seem to be getting the Mavs at the right time. Dallas is 3-7 over their last ten games, and has dropped two straight, after starting the season 4-1. They are 21st in defensive rating, allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions. Their offense is right in the middle of the NBA, with a 105.2 offensive rating that puts them at 15th.
But the real Mavs’ weakness is rebounding. They rank 26th in defensive rebounding rate (.708) and 29th in offensive rebounding rate (.213). Chicago should own the glass tonight, having just gone up against one of the better rebounding teams in the league.
The Bulls pulled down 34 O-boards over the two games against Milwaukee and had 18 more rebounds overall than the Bucks.
According to Stats LLC, the Bulls have out-rebounded the Mavs 52.0 to39.3 over the last three meetings. The Bulls won all three of those matchups.
Chicago needs all the extra opportunities it can get, as it has fallen to 26th in effective field goal percentage (.458).
But there are things to build off for the Bulls, even if it was a really disappointing final 18-or-so minutes. Rip Hamilton scored 30 points for the first time as a Bull. It was the first time Rip scored 30 in a game since he scored that many against the Bulls in April 2011 as a member of the Pistons.
Carlos Boozer has also put together to straight good games. Maybe he likes playing against the Bucks, but Boozer went for 22 and 19 in Saturday night’s win and then 19 and 11 on Monday. He shot 19-34 over the two games. And with that production his minutes jumped to 37.5 over the two games against Milwaukee. He’s averaging 30.3 minutes per game this season.
Boozington isn’t the only starter that is getting extra minutes. Deng sat for 42 seconds the entire game on Monday. It’s become clear Thibs doesn’t trust the bench, but Deng cannot play those types of minutes in which the Bulls, at one point, had a 27 point lead. When it’s a 20 point game, maybe sit Deng down for three minutes. His body will break down if he plays this many minutes.
That being said, there isn’t much to work with on this bench. Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed have fallen out of favor faster than their shooting percentages. And that leads Thibs with Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson off the bench. It isn’t much, but it’s all they have to work with.
Including tonight the Bulls have five winnable games coming up. They play Philly, Indy, Cleveland and Detroit over their next five. Philly doesn’t have Andrew Bynum, Indy doesn’t have Danny Granger, Cleveland doesn’t have Kyrie Irving and Detroit doesn’t have anybody.
If the Bulls want to reel off some wins, now would be a good time to start, before their schedule gets tougher in mid-December.
November 27, 2012
Rip Hamilton had a monster 30-point game, Kirk Hinrich finally broke out of his offensive slump with 17 points and 6 assists, and Carlos Boozer had a manly double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Overall, the Bulls played nearly flawless basketball for the first 33 minutes and 11 seconds.
Chicago’s reserves got outscored by their Milwaukee counterparts by an astonishing 56-10.
The Bulls choked away a 27-point lead in the final 14:49 and conjured nightmare flashbacks of the Vinny Del Negro era. Specifically: When the Bulls blew a 35-point lead against the Sacramento Kings back in 2009.
Here are a couple other ugly stats: The Bucks outscored the Bulls 30-12 in the fourth quarter to cap a 42-14 run to end the game.
The First Sign of Trouble:
Hinrich bounced in a three-pointer with 2:49 left in the third quarter to give the home team a should-have-been-insurmountable 78-51 lead.
Then the Bulls blinked. A blinked again. Then they slammed their eyes shut and huddled in a corner while Milwaukee’s second unit slapped them senseless.
Milwaukee closed the quarter on a 12-2 run to pull to within 17. During that run, the Bulls looked listless and out of sync, committing three turnovers (two on offensive charges) and repeatedly failing to cover open shooters.
Chicago’s Fourth Quarter Offense:
Here’s a summary of the Bulls’ offensive possessions during the final 12 minutes. Makes are in bold.
Joakim Noah missed layup (blocked by Ekpe Udoh)
Carlos Boozer missed 15-footer
Boozer turnover (Ersan Ilyasova steals)
Rip Hamilton missed 11-footer
Hamilton turnover (Udoh steals)
Hamilton missed 2-footer
Noah offensive rebound / missed tip shot
Hamilton made 20-footer
Boozer missed 15-footer
Hamilton missed 14-footer
Hinrich made layup
Hamilton 2-for-2 from the free throw line
Noah missed hook shot (blocked by Udoh)
Boozer offensive rebound
Boozer missed layup (blocked by Ilyasova)
Joakim Noah offensive rebound
Hinrich missed 23-footer
Hamilton missed 7-footer
Boozer offensive rebound
Boozer made 13-footer
Luol Deng missed 24-footer
Hinrich 2-for-2 from the free throw line
Hamilton made 7-footer
Hamilton missed 9-footer (blocked by Udoh)
Noah offensive rebound
Noah missed 2-footer (blocked by Udoh)
Hamilton missed 10-footer
Some things to note:
The Bulls had five shots blocked by the Bucks: four by Udoh and one by Ilyasova. Coming into the game, Udoh had 8 total blocks on the season and Ilyasova had 3.
When a team goes as cold as the Bulls went during the fourth quarter, you might assume they were bailing out and taking too many long jump shots. Not so. The Bulls attempted 10 shots from 10 feet or closer. They took an additional five shots from 11-15 feet. The Bulls tried only three shots beyond 15 feet: a three-point attempt each by Hinrich and Deng and a 20-footer by Hamilton.
Milwaukee’s Fourth Quarter Offense:
Here’s a summary of the Bulls’ offensive possessions during the final 12 minutes. Misses are in bold.
Udoh missed 10-footer
Doron Lamb made layup
Ilyasova made layup
Beno Udrih made 26-footer
Lamb made 12-footer
Udoh made layup
Lamb made 15-footer
Ilyasova made 27-footer
Ilyasova missed 26-footer
Udoh offensive rebound
Mike Dunleavy made 24-footer
Udrih missed 25-footer
Bucks team offensive rebound
Udoh missed 12-footer
Udrih made 21-footer
Ilyasova made 20-footer
Ilyasova missed 23-footer
Udoh missed layup
Ilyasova made 18-footer
Ilyasova made layup and the foul
Ilyasova 1-for-1 from the free throw line
Udoh made layup
Udrih missed 25-footer
Udoh offensive rebound
Udrih 0-for-2 from the free throw line
Ilyasova offensive rebound
Some things to note:
The Bucks hit five layups in the final quarter despite entering the game ranked 23rd in field goal percentage at the rim. They also knocked down four threes despite being ranked 26th in three-point percentage.
Ilyasova scored a team-high 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting. During the fourth quarter, he scorched the Bulls with 12 points on three long jumpers, two layups and a made free throw. Heading into the game, Ilyasova was averaging 6.3 points on 31.9 percent shooting and had a “Next Stop D-League” Player Efficiency Rating of 6.6. And he had a dismal offensive rating of 83. As in points per 100 possessions.
Meanwhile, Lamb scored 6 points on 3-for-3 shooting despite coming in 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) for the season with a “barely registering a pulse” PER of 0.7. To put this into even better perspective, Lamb had scored 8 total points this season before last night. Then he scored 8 points on perfect shooting against the Bulls (3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line).
Said Hamilton: “It was crazy. It was one of them things that you never expect. It’s really hard to put your finger on. They kind of brought guys off the bench on their team that came out and just played hard, and they played harder than us in that fourth quarter. They got to ever loose ball and just played with a sense of toughness.”
Why the Bulls Should Have Expected Something Like This:
The Bucks bench went crazy. Absolutely stark-raving nuts. They shot exceptionally well and played with manic energy.
That said…Milwaukee’s reserves are among the best in the league. If not the best.
According to Hoopstats, the Bucks bench ranks fifth in the league in steals (4.8), third in points per game (40.8), second in field goal percentage (47.5), first in rebounds (23.0), first in offensive rebounds (6.5), first in blocks (4.3), first in Efficiency (53.9) and first in Efficiency Differential (22.7).
Looking back on this most epic of fails, it’s clear that the Bulls missed Derrick Rose. They had no go-to guy to stave off the Bucks’ incredible comeback or create a good shot at the end of the game.
It’s also clear that the Bulls dearly miss their departed Bench Mob. The starters — who were forced to log long minutes last night — could not match the energy of Milwaukee’s reserves. The Bucks bench disrupted everything the Bulls were doing on offense and shredded their vaunted defense.
But beyond that…the Bucks bench was white hot. Yes, as I pointed out above, they have been performing well all season. But as I also pointed out, they were also playing well beyond their normal scope, especially guys like Ilyasova and Lamb. During their comeback, the Bucks drilled nine shots from 16-23 feet. According to Hoopdata, that’s more than they made during most games.
Could the Bulls’ defense have done a better job? Possibly. They made several poor rotations and were terrible defending the pick and roll during Milwaukee’s huge run. But the Bucks were way hotter than the norm, which sort of makes this event a lightning strike occurrence in that it’s unlikely that particular group of players could do what they did ever again.
But they did it once. Which was enough to stun the Bulls.
Said Deng: ”We played terrible. I got to look at it again, but we’re not playing like how we need to play. We’re not playing like how we used to play. … We got a lot of stuff to work on defensively and offensively. We got to do a lot better. We got to play together more. We’ve got to move the ball better, we’ve got to play better defense, we got to get stops. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do better. I can’t pinpoint one thing.”
Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed watched the game from the bench. Ditto for Vladimir Radmanovic.
Taj Gibson’s career-high 5 assists.
42 seconds. That’s how much Deng wasn’t in the game last night.
Player of the Game:
Hamilton. He was on fire: 12-for-24 from the field, 2-for-2 on threes, 4-for-4 from the line.
Goat of the Night:
Nate Robinson. Little Nate failed to register an assist and the Bulls were outscored by 12 points during his 10 minutes on the court. Given his defensive inadequacies, the Bulls rely on Robinson the provide energy and an offensive spark off the bench. He provided neither last night.
Goats of the Year:
Bulls management for trying to convince us that adding Robinson, Belinelli, Mohammed and Radmanovic could make up for the (intentional) losses of C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer.
The Bulls were already greatly hindered by Rose’s injury. The front office further handicapped the team by replacing one of the league’s strongest benches with what is turning out to be one of worst. Only letting Asik go — which will prevent a $15 million cap hit two seasons from now — is defensible. Brewer, Korver and Watson were sent packing to so Jerry Reinsdorf can continue to Scrooge McDuck his way through life. Have I mentioned recently that the Bulls are the league’s most profitable team? Well, they are.
The fact of the matter is this: NBA teams win with talent. These are not the 2010-11 or 2011-12 Bulls. This year’s squad is playing hard…they just aren’t nearly as talented or as cohesive as the previous two versions. Rose
Quote of the Night:
Noah: “There’s a lot of guys who aren’t here who were pretty good defensively.”
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
November 26, 2012
Milwaukee Bucks Status Check:
Road Record: 3-2
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Lost 3
Last game: 93-86 loss to the Bulls
PPG: 99.8 (10th)
Opponents PPG: 98.8 (18th)
Offensive Rating: 103.7 (17th)
Defensive Rating: 102.7 (11th)
Pace: 95.4 (1st)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .485 (13th)
Turnover Percentage: .127 (5th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .751 (3rd)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .254 (21st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .155 (30th)
Opp. eFG%: .490 (21st)
Opp. TO%: .161 (4th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .253 (28th)
Leading scorer: Monta Ellis (19.9)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Bucks Injury Report:
Brandon Jennings: questionable (ankle)
Luc Mbah a Moute: out (knee)
Chicago finishes up their home-and-home with Milwaukee and it’s now the Bucks looking to snap a three-game losing skid on the road.
The Bulls arrival back home also means the end of the circus road trip. Chicago finished the annual voyage 2-3. They started and finished the trip with wins, the bread of the sandwich if you will, against the Suns and Bucks. But the meat of the circus trip, Clippers, Blazers and Rockets, were all losses.
On Saturday night the Bulls snapped their three game losing streak with a 93-86 win behind two unusual fourth quarter stars.
Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton were both on the court for the final quarter and played big roles for the first time in a while. It’s good to see Thibs making changes to his rotations to try and switch a few things up. Normally his defensively focused lineups work, especially last year, but the Bulls need more scoring now without Rose. With Booz and Rip on the court, they have semi-reliable guys to get it to.
That being said they are both still liabilities on the defensive end.
Chicago controlled the boards, and that isn’t easy to do against the Bucks. Milwaukee was first in defensive rebounding percentage going into Saturday night’s game at .770. But the Bulls pulled down 20 offensive rebounds for a .440 offensive rebounding percentage. Milwaukee was allowing 9.4 offensive rebounds a game, but Carlos Boozer had 8 offensive rebounds by himself.
Booz had just 19 O-boards in the previous 11 games, so maybe Saturday night was a sign of things to come for Boozington. Probably not though…expect regression. Thibs showed confidence in Boozer, and Rip, and let them finish the game out. Chicago needs those two guys to score, even though they can’t bring much to the other end.
Rip did his damage from the free throw line, something he has needed to do since he became a Bull. He shot 6-18 from the field (33 percent) but was a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe. Rip also had six turnovers. So it wasn’t the best performance from him, but 22 points when the Bulls need scoring was enough to keep him on the court.
Rip Hamilton was just a small part of the Bulls free throw shooting. They went 25-26 for the game as a team, compared to just 7-10 for the Bucks. Free throws and rebounding (the Bulls outrebounded Milwaukee 54-40) won the game for Chicago.
Saturday’s win made it 9 consecutive wins over the Bucks for Chicago. And tonight may be an even steeper climb for the Bucks. Milwaukee may be without Brandon Jennings. Jennings is questionable for the game with an ankle injury. He was the Bucks leading scorer last time out with 23 points on 10-20 shooting. He also added seven assists and five steals. Without Jennings Beno Udrih will probably get the start. Beno scored 12 points against Chicago.
If there is something to be worried about for the Bulls, it’s that Milwaukee had ten steals and ten blocks, while Chicago had just four steals and two blocks.
Thibs really switched up his rotations last time out and it paid off. Marco Belinelli on played four minutes, and only four players got off the bench for Chicago. It’s always scary that Thibs will overuse the starters, particularly Noah and Deng, who each played 42 minutes Saturday, but it seems like a necessary evil now.
A team that used to be so deep, with a bench that oftentimes closed out games, may be working with this type of shortened rotation for a while, unless some of the bench guys start to turn it around.
November 25, 2012
The Bulls have so rarely lost consecutive games under coach Tom Thibodeau that their recent three-game skid — the longest losing streak of the Thibodeau era — felt like it lasted forever.
Here are some key aspects of last night’s much-needed win.
Back to the Basics:
The primary keys to this team’s success the last two seasons — besides Derrick Rose — has been defense and rebounding. Offensive rebounding in particular. Those are the foundation blocks on which these Bulls have been built.
Last night, they held the Bucks to 43.2 percent shooting — including 3-for-17 on three-pointers — and limited them to only 10 free throw attempts. After giving up 30 first quarter points, the Bulls allowed only 56 points the rest of the way, including a mere 34 points in the second half.
In addition to digging in on defense, the Bulls owned the glass, owning a 54-40 edge in total rebounds and a 20-8 advantage on offensive boards. If you enjoy advanced metrics, that works out to a Defensive Rebounding Percentage of 77.3 percent and an Offensive Rebounding Percentage of 40 percent.
That’s rebounding domination.
The Bulls also made the most of their bonus shots, outscoring the Bucks 25-5 in second-chance points.
Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer:
Hamilton and Boozer have been personas non grata during the fourth quarter of recent games.
Not against the Bucks.
Rip and Booz earned their fourth quarter burn in the simplest of ways: By playing really well.
Boozer had the kind of game he is being paid big money to have: a co-team-high 22 points and a game-high 19 rebounds. What’s more, he shot extremely well (10-for-15) and ripped down 8 of the team’s 20 offensive rebounds. And much to the delight of Bulls fans, Boozer did most of his damage in the paint, going 8-for-8 at the rim.
As for Hamilton, he scored 18 of his season-high 22 points in the first half and personally outscored Milwaukee at the free throw line 10-7. Rip didn’t shoot particularly well (6-for-18) and had a little trouble holding onto the ball (6 turnovers), but he was 10-for-10 from the line and and created mismatches in the post against Brandon Jennings (6’1″) and Monta Ellis (6’3″).
They also played well down the stretch. Boozer had 6 points and 6 rebounds (5 offensive) in the fourth, and Hamilton went 2-for-2 at the line with 22 seconds left when the Bucks were forced to foul.
Kirk Hinrich’s Shooting Nightmare Continues:
Kirk’s rough season continued with a 3-for-10 outing. He is now shooting 30 percent from the field, 25 percent on threes, and only 52 percent from the line. His Player Efficiency Rating is a dreadful “one toe in the D-League” 7.8. On the bright side, he had 4 assists and a plus-minus score of +7.
Bad Shooting…Worse Shooting:
The Bulls weren’t the only team playing defense last night. Milwaukee’s D held the Bulls to 39 percent shooting. Subtract Carlos Boozer’s 10-for-15 performance and Chicago shot 32 percent.
Chicago was particularly woeful from anywhere and everywhere outside of the area immediately around the basket. According to Hoopdata, the Bulls were 17-for-24 at the rim (70.9 percent). That’s good. However, they were 1-for-9 from 3-9 feet (11.2 percent), 1-for-7 from 10-15 feet (14.3 percent), 9-for-25 from 16-23 feet (36 percent) and a typically woeful 4-for-16 from three-point range (25 percent).
Not surprisingly, the Bulls finished with 17 assists to 16 turnovers, which is unusual for a team averaging 22.8 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.47.
Limited Bench Production:
Chicago’s reserves were outscored 30-16 by their counterparts on the Milwaukee bench. Jimmy Butler provided some solid effort (6 points and 7 rebounds in 19 minutes) and Taj Gibson was okay (4 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes). But Nate Robinson was ineffective during his 17-minute stint (4 points on 2-for-7 shooting and 1 assist), Marco Belinelli played had a plus-minus score of -5 in only four minutes, and Nazr Mohammed earned a DNP-CD.
I know it’s early and a lot of things can happen. But the formerly 10-deep Bulls are now effectively eight-deep. And it’s not as strong an eight as it should be. Butler is giving the Bulls most of what they got from Ronnie Brewer — even if he is a shade less effective on defense — but Taj Gibson has regressed, Belinelli isn’t a shadow of Kyle Korver, and Mohammed may slide right out of the rotation.
It’s going to be a long season, and the longer Rose is out, the more of a problem this is going to become. Unless things turn around…which could happen. But I’m not holding my breath.
The Bulls return to the United Center on Monday to face the Bucks for control of the Central Division.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
November 24, 2012
Milwaukee Bucks Status Check:
Home Record: 3-2
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Lost 2
Last game: 113-106 loss to Miami
PPG: 101.2 (6th)
Opponents PPG: 99.4 (20th)
Offensive Rating: 104.3 (17th)
Defensive Rating: 102.4 (11th)
Pace: 96.1 (1st)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .489 (13th)
Turnover Percentage: .129 (5th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .770 (1st)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .257 (19th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .162 (27th)
Opp. eFG%: .497 (25th)
Opp. TO%: .162 (4th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .247 (27th)
Leading scorer: Monta Ellis (16.9)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Bucks Injury Report:
Luc Mbah a Moute: out indefinitely (knee)
It’s now three losses in a row for the Bulls, and things aren’t looking good for the team that had the best record in the league two years running. The Bulls are under .500 for the first time since November 2010. The Bulls continue their road trip against a Milwaukee team they have dominated as of late.
But those Bucks are leading the Central this season, with a 6-4 record. Milwaukee has the best defensive rebounding percentage in the league at .770. They are only allowing 9.4 offensive boards a game, good for second best in the league. The Bulls are allowing 10.8 offensive rebounds a game
The Bucks are also forcing the third most turnovers per game, 17.1. They are forcing other teams to turn it over, while holding onto the ball themselves. Milwaukee is 5th in turnover percentage (.129). Forcing turnovers (the Bucks are 4th in opponent turnover percentage), holding onto the ball yourself and not allowing offensive boards are big keys to the Bucks good start to the season.
The Bucks have lost two straight though. They are coming off a 113-106 to the Heat, but before that they lost 102-98 to the Bobcats. A loss to Charlotte isn’t the most embarrassing thing anymore; considering MJ’s new team is 6-5. That’s right the Bobcats have a better record than the Bulls this season. I don’t think anyone expected that.
Joakim Noah has clearly been the Bulls best player this year. He’s been scoring, rebounding and playing defense. The Bulls defensive rating is 19.3 points better with Jo on the floor compared to when he is off it. That’s 19 fewer points per 100 possessions for the opponent when Noah is in the game. Of the other guys getting big minutes, the next best is Kirk Hinrich, with a 9.1 difference.
Joakim has played 80 percent of the available minutes this year, so you’d think the Bulls would be doing well, but when the starting center is off the court, the Bulls defensive rating sky-rockets to 117.0 and the opponent effective field goal percentage goes from .470 to .503.
The Bulls defensive rating is still great, at 5th in the league (101.2). But their offensive rating continues its downward spiral. The Bulls are now 23rd in offensive rating (101.4).
November 21, 2012
Remember when the Bulls defense and bench was their strong suit? Well that hasn’t been the case in the past few games. They’ve allowed more than 100 points in four straight games, and are 1-3 in those contests. And their bench, which last year was the best in the league, has lost leads or dropped further behind.
Matt covered the bench issues earlier this week. But I’d just like to add a few thoughts. The Bulls aren’t getting the Bench Mob back. Omer Asik is starting, Ronnie Brewer is playing well, as is C.J. Watson. The Bulls are stuck with what they have for the most part. It isn’t great, but it’s going to have to do. One solution to the problem would be Taj Gibson finding his way out of this funk he is in. Gibson currently has a career low PER, as well as career-low offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. With Asik gone, Taj should be grabbing more boards, but he isn’t. He got his contract extension, so now it’s time he plays up to it.
Jimmy Butler needs to keep doing what he is doing. He’s playing great defense and has the second-best PER on the team (18.2). The more solid minutes Butler puts in, the more Deng can sit (theoretically). Nate Robinson has to continue scoring, because on defense he gives up points because of his size.
Past that, the bench has been terrible. Marco Belinelli’s jump shot has been drier than the Sahara. Nazr Mohammed’s been even worse. And Marquis Teague has only played 30 minutes.
This bench is going to rely on Gibson and Butler playing well. And Thibs is probably going to need a starter somewhere in that equation at all times, because he just doesn’t have five bench guys he can trust like he used to. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the new reality. What was the biggest strength is now a pretty glaring weakness.
The Bulls defensive ratings in their past four games: 113.1 (Boston), 108.7 (Phoenix), 115.9 (Clippers) and 110.2 (Portland). After a solid start defensively, and much easier opponents, the Bulls have fallen to 10th in defensive rating (102.0).
And you know what the bad news is? Their offense has been worse than all of this. They have no one to create. It actually looks like guys are scared to score. In the fourth quarter against the Blazers, four players stood around as Joakim Noah looked for someone to pass. No one cut to the ball or through the lane. They stood there. Three of them on the other side of the court. Noah was forced to try to create himself and only got off a pretty terrible hook shot.
I understand that Thibs prefers defense to close out games which is why Boozer doesn’t sniff the floor in most fourth quarters, but that won’t work if you are losing. Rip Hamilton was 7-10 against the Blazers but was riding the pine at the end of the game, while Marco Belinelli played, even though he has been bad since he was signed. Defense worked at the end of games last year when they held leads in most final quarters, but now that they are behind Thibs is going to have to make some changes to his rotation.
Their offensive rating is 18th in the league, at 102.6. So they are scoring just .6 more points per 100 possessions this season. Last year their defensive rating was 98.3 (2nd) and offensive rating was 107.4 (5th); a difference of 9.1.
The Bulls get their first look at one of the many Bench Mob members they lost when they visit Houston. Omer Asik returns! As you probably guessed I am very excited about this. Asik has been playing well so far in his new role. His rebounding is amazing, and his defense is good.
Omer has a 102 defensive rating which is solid, but it’s the same as the Bulls current number. And, in case you were wondering, Asik’s offense is still pretty terrible. He’s averaging 10 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting, while his offensive rating is 91, which is second worst on the Rockets (to Toney Douglas), but is actually better than Kirk Hinrich’s O-rating (86). So what I take from those numbers is that Omer should be running point guard for Chicago. I may have that wrong, but I doubt anyone would complain about the hilarity of Omer Asik running point guard for a team. Except the coach of said team.
November 20, 2012
The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article about Kirk Hinrich’s shooting slump titled Hinrich not sweating cold spell.
Well, if Captain Kirk isn’t sweating, he should be.
Remember: Despite the fact that Derrick Rose was out indefinitely and C.J. Watson had played well both as a backup and as a starter when Rose was out, the Bulls declined to pick up his $3.2 million team option for the 2012-13 season. Management wanted to save money…chemistry and success be damned. Watson went on to sign a two-year contract for the veteran’s minimum to back up Deron Williams on the New Jersey Nets.
The Bulls then went out and inked Hinrich to a two-year deal reportedly worth around $8 million. This was management’s “big free agent signing” during an offseason in which the Miami Heat stole Ray Allen from the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers traded for both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
But Hinrich was family. His poor seasons in Washington and Atlanta were excused based on injury and miscasting. Conventional wisdom was that Kirk was better suited to fill in at point guard until Rose returned after which he could slide between backing up both backcourt positions. His defensive acumen, versatility and history with the team made him well worth the expense. Or so the theory went.
The good news:
Hinrich leads the Bulls in assists. He ranks 21st in assists per game (5.9), 19th in assist to turnover ratio (2.94) and 13th in assist percentage (34.6).
The bad news:
Pretty much everything else. Hinrich is having by far the worst season of his career, which is really saying something when you look at the stats from his last season with the Hawks.
Hinrich is averaging only 4.9 points while shooting a cringe-worthy 29.6 percent from the field and an equally gag-inspiring 25 percent from three-point range. Kirk is even struggling to connect on free throws, as evidenced by his frigid 53.3 percent conversion rate at the charity stripe.
According to John Hollinger’s latest stats, Hinrich’s Player Efficiency Rating is a career-low 9.1. That ranks him at 49th among shooting guards and 57th among point guards. And according to the PER reference guide, Kirk is somewhere between “Definitely Renting” and “Next Stop: D-League.”
His True Shooting Percentage is 36.3. That ranks him dead last among shooting guards and five spots from dead last among point guards. In other words, he is one of the worst shooting guards in the league.
His Value Added – the estimated number of points a player adds to a team’s season total above what a “replacement player” would produce — is -4.7.
I could keep throwing Hinrich’s nightmare numbers at you — like his Offensive Rating of 86 or his -0.2 Offensive Win Shares — but the horse is dead. It cannot be beaten anymore.
But it’s only been nine games right?
Said Hinrich: ”It’s such a small sample size. Most games, I really don’t know if I have it going or not because I’m taking so few shots. I’m not worried. I still feel like I’m shooting it good in practice.”
It’s true that Hinrich is taking only 6.0 shots per game. But then Jimmy Butler is taking only 2.8 shots per game…and he’s shooting 60 percent from the field. And 93 percent from the line.
I’m not sure what the Bulls should do. They could start Nate Robinson. After all, Little Nate is averaging 12 points while shooting 40 percent on threes and 80 percent from the line. His PER is currently 17.6 and his assist percentage (32.3) compares favorably to Hinrich’s.
Of course, he has the tendency to overdribble, and the starting unit would then have to hide both Robinson and Carlos Boozer on defense. And then the Bulls would have absolutely no scoring punch off the bench.
All of which means the Bulls will probably just try to wait out Hinrich’s slump and hope he eventually finds his rhythm.
I just wonder whether he still has a rhythm to find.
Sunday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers dropped the Bulls to a mediocre 5-5.
That’s not what these Bulls — who have owned the league’s best record the past two seasons — are accustomed to.
There are three main reasons the Bulls are struggling:
1. No Derrick Rose
2. Decline in Defense
3. Reduced Bench Performance
The Derrick Rose situation is an obvious one.
As I mentioned yesterday, the defense has been a major disappointment. According to Basketball-Reference, the Bulls currently rank 10th in Defensive Efficiency at 102.0 points surrendered per 100 possessions. You might be thinking: “Top 10 isn’t that bad.”
It is for Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls.
In 2010-11, the Bulls ranked second in Defensive Efficiency at 100.3. In 2011-12, they were again second at an even better 98.3.
This season, they’re giving up almost four more points per 100 possessions than they did last year. And it has been far worse than that over the past four games during which they’ve had a horrific defensive rating of nearly 112 points surrendered per 100 possessions.
For perspective, the Phoenix Suns are currently dead last in Defensive Rating at 109.7. In other words, over the past four games, the Bulls have been a few points per 100 possessions worse than the league’s worst defensive team.
The third factor in Chicago’s ho-hum start has been the bench production compared to the past two seasons. I have provided bench statistics from the past three seasons below. These numbers were obtained from Hoopstats. League ranks are in parentheses. Pay particular attention to the following stats:
Eff = NBA Efficiency recap = ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field goals attempts – Field goals made) + (Free throws attempts – Free throws made) + Turnovers))
Deff = Efficiency Recap Difference = Efficiency Recap – Opponent’s Efficiency Recap
Pts: 26.6 (25)
DReb: 10.0 (15)
OReb: 3.8 (14)
TReb: 14.0 (13)
Ast: 6.3 (15)
Stl: 2.9 (7)
Blk: 2.5 (2)
FGP: 44.6 (13)
3P%: 38.4 (5)
Eff: 33.7 (15)
Deff: 8.0 (2)
Pts: 29.2 (23)
DReb: 10.4 (17)
OReb: 5.3 (2)
TReb: 15.7 (10)
Ast: 6.6 (13)
Stl: 2.4 (25)
Blk: 2.7 (2)
FGP: 44.2 (7)
3P%: 40.5 (2)
Eff: 36.0 (11)
Deff: 8.7 (6)
Pts: 29.8 (24)
DReb: 8.5 (24)
OReb: 3.4 (21)
TReb: 11.9 (26)
Ast: 6.4 (17)
Stl: 2.3 (24)
Blk: 2.3 (8)
FGP: 42.2 (19)
3P%: 34.4 (13)
Eff: 32.3 (24)
Deff: -1.2 (21)
As you can see, there have been notable (and significant) drop offs in rebounding (especially offensive rebounding), blocked shots and three-point shooting.
However, the most glaring change is the efficiency differential, which has fallen from from Top 10 to Bottom 10. Whereas the Bench Mob regularly outperformed their counterparts, the current bench is usually in the red.
It’s not hard to see what has happened. Omer Asik is killing it for the Rockets. Ronnie Brewer is playing extremely well for the Knicks and rocking a Player Efficiency Rating of 17.1. C.J. Watson is playing about as well as he ever has (and is even rocking a career-high in Effective Field Goal Percentage).
The current unit is no Bench Mob.
It’s worth noting that Jimmy Butler has been playing extremely well. He’s shooting a blistering 60.7 percent from the field and 92.9 from the free throw line. Those are the best marks on the team. He’s also playing solid D and sporting the team’s second best PER of 18.2.
Nate Robinson has been pretty good too. Nate is scoring 12 points per game, he’s shooting 40 percent on threes, and his PER is third on the team at 17.6. That said…he’s undersized and gets taken advantage of on defense.
As for the rest…
I noted this yesterday: The real Taj Gibson hasn’t shown up yet. His numbers have taken a nasty downturn since last season. He’s shooting a career-low 41 percent. He’s averaging only 4.3 rebounds. His Player Efficiency Rating (13.6) hasn’t just dropped since last year (16.9), it’s currently a career-worst.
Similarly, his Offensive and Defensive Rebounding Percentages (8.7 and 12.3) are career-lows and well beneath his career marks (11.4 and 18.5). Taj is blocking more shots — from 1.3 in each of the last three seasons to 1.9 this year — but he’s regressed significantly in virtually every other area.
Don’t get me wrong. Gibson is still hustling and playing defense that ranges anywhere from good to great. But on the whole, he isn’t playing nearly as well as the Bulls are accustomed to.
Past that, “designated shooter” Marco Belinelli is converting a career-low 37.8 percent of his field goals and looks perpetually lost on both ends of the court; Nazr Mohammed is shooting 7.1 percent from the field and looks ready for the glue factory; rookie Marquis Teague has played an average of six minutes in only five of the Bulls’ 10 games; and Vladimir Radmanovic has a PER of -0.4.
So let me sum this up: No superstar, worse defense, drastically reduced bench. From that perspective, maybe we should be grateful the Bulls are .500.