December 31, 2012
Charlotte Bobcats Status Check:
Road Record: 2-11
Last 10 Games: 0-10
Streak: Lost 18
Last game: 98-95 loss to New Orleans
PPG: 95.6 (20th)
Opponents PPG: 104.5 (30th)
Offensive Rating: 102.2 (24th)
Defensive Rating: 111.8 (30th)
Pace: 92.2 (12th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .458 (29th)
Turnover Percentage: .130 (5th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .699 (29th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .272 (16th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .231 (5th)
Opp. eFG%: .519 (29th)
Opp. TO%: .130 (23rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .196 (10th)
Leading scorer: Kemba Walker (18.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Bobcats Injury Report:
Byron Mullens: out (sprained ankle)
Tyrus Thomas: out (torn ligament in calf)
The Bulls snapped their two-game losing streak with a victory over the NBA’s worst team, but it was far from a convincing win. Chicago gets another chance to turn things around against one of the league’s bottom feeders as it takes on the Bobcats, who have lost 18 straight games. Chicago went from playing the league’s worst offensive team (Washington) to playing the league’s worst defense (Charlotte) today.
The Bulls’ defense played well against Washington, holding the league’s lowest scoring team eleven points below their average, but Chicago couldn’t get anything going on the other end. The Bulls shot 39.1 percent from the field and finished with only 87 points. Only three starters managed to get in double figures and it took Carlos Boozer 12 shots to get to 15 points and Luol Deng 13 shots to get to eleven points.
Marco Belinelli was the high-scorer for the Bulls, dropping 17 points off the bench. Rip Hamilton scored nine points in his return to the Bulls, after missing 12 games. It was good to see Belinelli made the transition back to the bench well. Marco started the year slowly, but started playing much better in the starting line-up. If he can add 15 points off the bench per game, that would be an enormous addition.
The big difference between the Bulls and Wizards was turnovers. Chicago turned the ball over just nine times, and Washington scored nine points off those turnovers, but the Bulls scored 19 points off of 17 Wizards’ turnovers.
Chicago should be able to score more points tonight, against the league’s worst defensive squad. Charlotte ranks last in opponent points per game (104.5) and defensive rating (111.8). They also rank next-to-last in opponent field goal percentage (.519), defensive rebounding percentage (.699) and effective field goal percentage (.458). Let me do some math quickly…yup just as I thought. All these numbers add up to 18 straight losses.
Charlotte hasn’t won a game since November 24, an overtime win against the Wizards. The Bobcats have actually had a tough schedule over that stretch playing the Thunder, Knicks, Spurs, Clippers, Hawks, Lakers, Warriors and Heat, but also lost to the Magic and Hornets during their streak.
The Bobcats are just 2-11 on the road, and this is their last chance to avoid going winless in the month of December.
They almost got their first win in more than a month against New Orleans, building a 21 point lead in the first half. But they eventually fell 98-95 to the Pelicans. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did everything he could to get the win, recording 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Kemba Walker dropped 15 points to go with nine assists, while Gerald Henderson scored 19.
The Bobcats shot 49.4 percent to the Hornets 42.7 and scored 58 points in the paint to New Orleans’ 32. They also had 27 fast-break points, while the Hornets had zero. New Orleans went 11-24 from beyond the arc to help them pick up the slack in other areas, and pull off the victory.
The Bulls haven’t been playing well lately. Their last good game was ten days ago against the Knicks. Since then they got blown out by the Hawks and Rockets, and played poorly in a win against the league’s worst team. Chicago has games against the Heat, Bucks, Knicks, Hawks, Celtics, Grizzlies, Lakers and Warriors coming up in January. None of those games are going to be easy, and the Bulls haven’t looked good against teams with a lot less talent. Chicago is going to need to play a lot better basketball to keep getting wins, and today can be a jumping off point for that success.
December 30, 2012
The Bulls must have been glad to get a win after back-to-back blowout losses to the Hawks and Rockets…
…but they likely would have liked to have played better.
The Wizards are a league-worst 4-24 this season. According to Basketball-Reference, they rank 30th in PPG (88.8), Field Goal Percentage (40.6), Effective Field Goal Percentage (44.3) and Offensive Rating (95.5). They also rank 29th in Three-point Percentage (31.1), Free Throw Attempts (553), Pythagorean Wins (7), Margin of Victory (-7.82) and Simple Rating System (-8.42).
What I’m trying to say is that the Wizards aren’t very good.
All things being equal, the Bulls probably should have routed this awful club. I mean, Washington’s starting lineup includes Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple and Martell Webster. Their top two reserves were Kevin Seraphin and Shelvin Mack. As a team, the Wizards shot 36.5 percent from the field, went 3-for-10 from three-point range and gave up 19 points off 17 turnovers.
Yet the Bulls never could pull away despite building a 13-point third-quarter lead. They couldn’t get much going on offense — the Wizards actually rank 10th in Defensive Rating — shooting just 39.1 percent and compiling a dull Offensive Rating of 97.4…which would rank them 29th in the league if that was their season average.
Joakim Noah and Luol Deng combined to shoot 8-for-24 from the field. Carlos Boozer had another double-double (15 points and 12 rebounds) but went only 5-for-12. Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed and Taj Gibson combined to hit 6-for-18 off the bench.
The Bulls got by thanks to a season-low 9 turnovers and hotter-than-usual three-point shooting thanks largely to Kirk Hinrich (2-for-4) and Marco Belinelli (2-for-3). Belinelli (team-high 17 points) and Hinrich (10 points, 7 assists, 6 boards) were the team’s offensive leaders.
Marco’s strong performance came despite returning to the bench due to the return of Rip Hamilton after a 12-game absence due to a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: ”Marco was terrific. He has been playing well for a long time. He hit big shots and made big plays.”
After a slow start — which had many Bulls fans squirming and complaining — Belinelli seems to have found his comfort zone in the team’s offense.
Said Belinelli: ”The first couple weeks of the season, I was a little bit nervous, (did not have) too much confidence in myself.”
Added Thibs: “When you are new to a team, he was trying to fit in. He was trying to learn the system. He has already proven to be a good player in this league, so it was a matter of time. Once he had a better understanding of his teammates, and they had a better understanding of him, he is good. He can score a lot of different ways.”
Belinelli scored 8 of the team’s 17 fourth quarter points, which included two three-pointers, the second of which was a real back-breaker for the Wizards, who had pulled to within three points with just over five minutes to go.
Hey, it was nice to get that clutch shooting from Marco, but it probably shouldn’t have been necessary.
Said Noah: ”It definitely wasn’t pretty. Both teams shot pretty low percentages. We still have to play better and we still have to talk more on transition. We’re a work in progress. We’re happy we got back on the winning track.”
The Bulls struggled in various areas, like rebounding, where Emeka Okafor (18 boards) led the Wizards to a 56-49 edge on the glass. That haul included 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 15 second-chance points.
That wasn’t the only issue the Bulls had in the paint…they also shot a miserable 10-for-24 (41 percent) at the rim, thanks in large part to weak sauce from Deng (1-for-4), Boozer (2-for-6) and Gibson (0-for-2).
That’s just life in Bulls Land. It’s a dogfight almost every night.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
December 29, 2012
Washington Wizards Status Check:
Road Record: 1-12
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 105-97 win over Orlando
PPG: 89.2 (30th)
Opponents PPG: 96.9 (13th)
Offensive Rating: 95.8 (30th)
Defensive Rating: 104.1 (12th)
Pace: 91.3 (20th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .446 (30th)
Turnover Percentage: .142 (20th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .733 (13th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .251 (22nd)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .180 (26th)
Opp. eFG%: .488 (14th)
Opp. TO%: .139 (13th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .209 (18th)
Leading scorer: Jordan Crawford (16.0)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Wizards Injury Report:
John Wall: out (knee)
Trevor Ariza: out (strained calf)
Trevor Booker: out (strained knee)
A.J. Price: out (broken hand)
The Bulls might have gotten just what the doctor ordered after they were dominated in their last two games: an extended break—thanks to a game postponed due to weather—and a date with the league’s worst team at home.
Not only is Chicago playing the 4-23 Wizards, but they are getting them on the second night of a back-to-back. Washington is 0-7 this year playing on no rest and 1-12 on the road.
The Wizards did win for the fourth time this season on Friday, but it came against an Orlando team that has lost to the Hornets and Raptors in the past week. Not to take anything away from Washington’s win, though…wait that was exactly what I was trying to do. Washington’s win was against a team whose best player is arguably JJ Redick. And I love JJ Redick (please trade Redick to the Bulls, Orlando management).
Jordan Crawford was the game’s leading scorer, dropping an efficient 27 points off the bench (11-16 FG). Nene added 23 points and eleven rebounds. It was the first time this season the Wizards had two scorers with 20 or more points. Washington’s bench combined to score 57 points, while Orlando’s reserves scored just 33 (with 23 of those coming from Redick). The Wizard’s second unit actually outscored their starters.
Washington lost their first 12 games of the year but is 4-11 since that terrible start, with wins over Portland, Miami and New Orleans. They have already lost to Detroit twice, Charlotte twice and Cleveland twice. To say the Wizards have been struggling is such an understatement; it’s like saying Lindsay Lohan has been to a party or two.
In Washington’s defense, they are also without their starting point guard. John Wall is still having issues with his knee and it’s unclear when he’ll be able to play again. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? And to defend the Wiz even more, they’ve lost four games in overtime, with a lot of other losses coming by single digits. That means just one or two possessions go a different way and the Wizards could get the win. Plus they only lost to the Rockets by six, while the Bulls got blown out of the gym by Houston. As a matter of fact, I think the Rockets are still scoring on the Bulls, four days later.
The bad news for Washington is that they’ve been struggling on the offensive end, and that’s where the Bulls excel for the most part, with the exception of Chicago’s last time out. When it’s bad news for one team, it’s usually good news for the other. And in this case it’s great news for Chicago. They go from playing the highest scoring team in the league, Houston, to playing the lowest scoring squad.
Washington is last in offensive rating (95.8), points per game (89.2) and effective field goal percentage (446). That is the trifecta, folks. It’s unconfirmed whether or not the Wizards understand the object of the game is to put the ball in the hoop.
“They must be good at something though,” you’re probably saying. And you’d be wrong. They are mediocre at some things, but good is a strong word to use for this Wizards team. Unless you count being “good” at losing. They have that one down.
Washington is middle of the road in defensive rating (12th) and ranges from average (13th in defensive rebound percentage) to poor (22nd in offensive rebound percentage) when it comes to the glass.
The Bulls will still struggle to score points as they always do, and it may be tougher as Luol Deng could miss the game. Lu sprained his ankle in the Houston game and is listed as day-to-day—as usual with Thibs. However, Rip Hamilton may return from the torn plantar fascia in his foot he’s been out because of. Rip has missed 12 games, nearly all of December with the injury. He was averaging 13.4 points on 45.5 percent shooting to go with 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He and Deng will both be game-time decisions.
From the other side: Kyle Weidie from TruthAboutIt.net joins us to give the Wizards’ perspective. Follow Weidie on Twitter at @Truth_About_It:
Question #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Magic over the past week?)
Coming off two embarrassing home-and-home losses to the Detroit Pistons, the Wizards snapped an 8-game losing streak at home against the Orlando Magic on Friday night. Now that a third of their season is gone, they have four wins to show. John Wall participated in a 5-0 drills at practice the other day for the first time all season, but the timetable for his return is still indefinite. The Wizards’ other main player, Nene, played in his 15th game on the season against the Magic and it was his best (23 points, 11 rebounds). He’s slowly starting to play more time as he continues to deal with plantar fasciitis.
Otherwise, Wizards coach Randy Wittman is playing point guard roulette. He started the season with AJ Price and Jannero Pargo as a backup. Later on, Pargo would get cut for Shaun Livingston, Price would break his hand, Livingston would get cut for a Wizards draft pick who didn’t make the team in training camp (Shelvin Mack), and Mack would start for temporary point guard Jordan Crawford (who was late for a shoot-around and moved out the starting lineup two games ago). The kicker: another recent D-League call-up, Garrett Temple, started the second half at point for Mack in last night’s win against the Magic.
Question #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
No one is really sleeping on any Wizard, but if I had to nominate one, it would be Martell Webster. Without back problems entering this season, he has boosted his numbers to career rates — although, not something to write home about, so we save it for the blogs. Webster can still be as inconsistent as any Wizard, but not because of lack of effort, which has been visibly evident. This season he’s racking up more assists that he ever has, and after Nene, Webster has the highest eFG% on the team (.515).
Question #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
While Nene has had his way against the likes of Tyler Zeller and Gustavo Ayon over the past two games, I’ll be especially interested in how he and frontcourt partner Emeka Okafor fare against Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah tonight. The Wizards can’t win unless they run a lot of offense through Nene out the post. So if Chicago can contain Nene’s points in the paint while clogging the passing lanes that the unselfish Brazilian seems to see better than anyone else, it will be business-as-usual for Washington, which will mean loss No. 24 in 28 games.
December 26, 2012
The Bulls-Pacers game scheduled for tonight (December 26) has been postponed because of severe weather conditions. The game will be rescheduled at a later date.
That was horrible.
Chicago fans didn’t expect the Bulls to give them a lump of coal like this, not at home on Christmas Day against the team that used a contract with a “poison pill” to steal Omer Asik away from them last summer.
The numbers are painful to review. Better bite your lip before reading on.
Houston scored 120 points. That’s a season-high for Bulls opponents.
The Rockets had 31 fast break points and 66 points in the paint. They led by as many as 35 points.
Houston shot 56 percent from the field and 40 percent on threes. They went 20-for-24 at the line (83.3 percent). Their Effective Field Goal Percentage (61.0), True Shooting Percentage (64.8) and Offensive Rating (130.4 points per 100 possessions) were absurd.
As if that weren’t enough, the Rockets outrebounded the Bulls 45-31. That included a 10-7 edge in offensive rebounds. But the offensive rebounding situation was actually worse than the raw numbers indicate given the differences in the teams’ shooting percentages. Houston’s Offensive Rebounding Percentage (29.4) was almost comically better than Chicago’s (16.7).
Essentially, the Bulls were outworked and outclassed in every conceivable way.
Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: ”(We were) completely outplayed right from the start. My job is to have them ready and obviously we were not ready so that part’s on me … the thing is we had a bad fourth quarter in New York, we had a bad performance in Atlanta, and we followed it up today. So things can change very quickly in this league. If you’re not right and ready and you don’t have an edge, you’re not going to win without playing with the right amount of intensity.”
Nate Robinson — who at times seemed like the only Bulls player with a pulse last night — begged to differ.
Said Robinson: ”It’s on us. It has nothing to do with coach. Coach does a great job of preparing us and getting us ready for the games. It’s all on us so we’re not going to let him take the blame on that and we got to do better (Wednesday) and we will.”
Little Nate was a ball of fire, scorching the Rockets for 27 points in 28 minutes while shooting 9-for-16 from the field, drilling four three-pointers and earning a team-best seven free throw attempts.
Unfortunately, Robinson’s energy wasn’t enough to snap the rest of the team out of their their collective defensive stupor.
Of course, this meltdown didn’t hit the Bulls out of nowhere like a bolt from the blue. It seems to have started last Friday in New York when the Knicks dropped 45 points on them in the fourth quarter. It continued the next night in Atlanta when the Hawks beat the Bulls like a red-headed step child.
Those five quarters of basketball were about as un-Bulls-like as they come. I figured they would come out ready last night. No team wants to get punked at home on Christmas. No way that was going to happen.
But here we are. And — more good news! — Luol Deng has a sprained ankle and is questionable for tonight’s game in Indiana.
Making matters even worse was Asik’s performance: 20 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 1 assist and a game-best plus-minus score of +41 in 35 minutes. Omer so thoroughly outplayed presumed All-Star-to-be Joakim Noah (8 points, 9 rebounds, 5 turnovers, -20) that the Bulls front office probably would have agreed to a mid-game trade if such a thing had been possible.
When the Bulls made a mini-run in the fourth, Asik was there, clogging up the paint and intimidating any Bulls player who dared to make googly eyes at the rim.
Said Houston coach Kevin McHale: ”Omer is a big-time player in the middle. Tonight he was blocking shots, getting rebounds and outletting the ball for us. He’s got a big body and sets wide picks for us. This was a very good game for him.”
Asik was 9-for-13 from the field. As you can see, all but one of those shot attempts were right at the rim.
Said Noah: ”I think he was great just rolling to the basket, off pick and rolls. They play four out, one in, and he was able to get a lot of easy things around the rim. I think we should have fouled him more around the rim, made him earn it a little bit more around the rim but he played very well.”
Fouling Asik might have helped. But when an opposing team has 31 fast break points and 66 points in the paint, forcing a poor foul shooter to hit a couple free throws probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.
James Harden (26 points, 7-for-13 from the field, 11-for-13 at the line), Jeremy Lin (20 points, 8-for-12, 11 assists) and Chandler Parsons (23 points, 9-for-15 from the field, 4-for-5 on threes) all took turns lighting the Bulls up. The defense wasn’t just bad. It was embarrassing. The effort an intensity just wasn’t there.
Said Thibs: ”If you are not right and don’t have an edge, you are not going to win without the right amount of intensity. They completely outplayed us from the start.”
There’s not much more you can say. And there’s not much more you can say about the loss.
Tonight’s game against the Pacers will be a real gut check.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
December 25, 2012
Houston Rockets Status Check:
Road Record: 3-7
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Won 3
Last game: 121-96 win over Grizzlies
PPG: 105.4 (1st)
Opponents PPG: 103.4 (29th)
Offensive Rating: 108.0 (7th)
Defensive Rating: 105.9 (19th)
Pace: 96.4 (1st)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .507 (7th)
Turnover Percentage: .145 (24th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .749 (4th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .259 (21st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .245 (3rd)
Opp. eFG%: .507 (25th)
Opp. TO%: .134 (20th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .172 (1st)
Leading scorer: James Harden (25.6)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Rockets Injury Report:
Patrick Patterson: out (foot)
Royce White: out (personal)
Chicago tries to rebound from one of its worse losses of the season, while Houston looks to build on its impressive win over one of the top defensive teams in the league, when the two teams meet at the United Center on Christmas. The Bulls’ stifling defense meets the Rockets’ fast-paced, high-scoring offense.
And on a more personal note—although I’m sure it goes for many Bulls fans—Omer Asik returns to the United Center. The last time the Bulls and Rockets met, Asik blocked Joakim Noah’s layup as the Bulls were down four points with less than 15 seconds left. Asik didn’t have a great game overall against the Bulls, finishing with just four points on 2-8 shooting with six rebounds and four turnovers. But the Bulls know Asik affects the game in so many ways that don’t show up on the box score.
Asik is leading the Rockets in defensive rating at 103 (of players that have played more than 100 minutes on the season). Houston has a 105.9 defensive rating as a team. Omer is also fifth in defensive rebound percent (29.2) in the league, 19th in offensive rebound percent (12.2) and fifth in total rebound percentage (20.7).
And while Asik focuses on defense and rebounding, the Rockets hang their hat on offense. Houston is seventh in offensive rating (108.0) and first in pace (96.4). Their offense was on full display in their blowout win over the Grizzlies. Houston piled up 121 points while shooting 53.7 percent from the field. They did something against the Griz no other team got close to. The next highest total Memphis has given up all year is 101, and that was on opening night against the Clippers. Houston scored 20 more points against the Grizzlies than any other team this year.
Chicago held Houston to 93 points in their November matchup, the Rockets sixth lowest point total of the season. Patrick Patterson, who will miss today’s game with a foot injury, scored 20 points on 8-16 from the field and James Harden led the way with 28 points, while going 9-13 from the line.
Nate Robinson came off the bench to lead the Bulls. He scored 21 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton combined to score eight points on 4-15 from the field. Marco Belinelli went scoreless in his six minutes of action.
But the Bulls did slow down the Rockets on the fast-break. Chicago held Houston to 14 fast-break points, while getting 13 of their own on the break. James Harden and company average 17.8 points per game on the break for the year and have scored 25.3 in transition over their last three games. They scored 33 against Memphis. The Bulls allow 12.5 fast-break points per game.
Chicago hopes to bounce back after getting crushed by the Hawks. The Bulls had just two players in double figures (Deng with 11, Noah with 10) while scoring their second fewest points this season. All of Atlanta’s starters scored in double figured, including ex-Bull and current lady-killer Kyle Korver scoring 13 points while shooting 3-6 from deep. The Bulls grabbed just 31 rebounds, compared to 45 for Atlanta) and only took eight free throws.
Christmas stat: The Bulls are 7-0 all-time at home on Christmas.
December 22, 2012
Atlanta Hawks Status Check:
Home Record: 8-5
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Lost 2
Last game: 99-80 loss to Sixers
PPG: 96.2 (16th)
Opponents PPG: 94.6 (8th)
Offensive Rating: 103.6 (16th)
Defensive Rating: 102.0 (7th)
Pace: 92.0 (15th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .500 (10th)
Turnover Percentage: .139 (14th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .732 (15th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .248 (24th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .174 (28th)
Opp. eFG%: .485 (13th)
Opp. TO%: .156 (3rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .188 (5th)
Leading scorer: Josh Smith (16.6)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Hawks Injury Report:
Devin Harris: missed Friday’s game (sprained ankle)
The Bulls played some of their best defense for three quarters and Kirk Hinrich finally remembered that the ball was supposed to go in the basket, as the Bulls handed the Knicks their second loss of the season in Madison Square Garden.
It wasn’t close for nearly the entire game. New York brought it to single digits late in the fourth, and ultimately lost by just four, but the Bulls dominated for the first 36 minutes. The Knicks scored 61 points on 33 percent shooting through the first three quarters. That is great effort. In the fourth though, New York scored 45 points on 60.7 percent shooting. Chicago let a 25 point lead slip into a four-point victory.
The Knicks scored 45 in the fourth after scoring just 38 in the second and third quarters combined.
The Bulls still did a solid job though. They held New York to 30.8 percent from three. The Knicks were shooting 40.4 percent from deep coming into the game. Great defense in the first three quarters turned into apathy in the fourth, but luckily for the Bulls they had enough of a cushion to get the win.
Hinrich finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. That was by far his best game this season. The last time Hinrich finished with at least 16, nine and eight was in 2006 against Minnesota when he recorded 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
Luol Deng escaped a scare with an injury, and finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Noah put in another good game, with 15 points, 12 rebounds and six assists before getting tossed.
Carmelo Anthony (35 points) and J.R. Smith (26) were leading the way for the Knicks before both had early exits. Smith fouled out in the fourth and Anthony got tossed a little bit later for picking up a second technical. Raymond Felton picked up the slack after those two were reserved to watching, scoring 14 points in the final frame on 6-9 shooting. Chris Copeland also scored ten in the fourth quarter.
As always the bad news was big minutes. The Bulls entered the fourth quarter leading by 22 points, but that didn’t mean Thibs was going to give his starters a rest.
Joakim Noah got ejected from the game just so he could get a breather (I made that up, but it could be true). Jo played “only” 41 minutes by taking himself out of the game with more than four minutes left. Deng played 42 and Marco Belinelli played 45.
Atlanta is coming off a 19-point loss to the struggling Sixers (Philly had lost five straight going into that game). Al Horford went 2-10 from the field for seven points and the Hawks shot 39.2 percent as a team, while allowing Philly to shoot 51.2 percent. They were outscored 40-24 in the paint and 20-11 on fast break points.
The Hawks just didn’t have it last night. Their 80 points was their second lowest total of the season. But they will be a lot more rested than the Bulls. Only one Atlanta player played more than 28 minutes (Horford played 36).
The Bulls are 4-2 on the second night of a back-to-back. The Hawks are 4-1 with no rest.
More stats: Bulls did a great job getting to the line. They went 28-33 from the line (84.8 percent). Belinelli was 11-12 from the charity stripe and Noah was 7-8.
December 21, 2012
New York Knicks Status Check:
Home Record: 11-1
Last 10 Games: 8-2
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 100-86 win over Nets
PPG: 102.8 (5th)
Opponents PPG: 96.2 (9th)
Offensive Rating: 112.8 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: 105.5 (15th)
Pace: 90.8 (23rd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .521 (4th)
Turnover Percentage: .104 (1st)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .745 (6th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .237 (26th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .192 (22nd)
Opp. eFG%: .507 (26th)
Opp. TO%: .153 (5th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .209 (17th)
Leading scorer: Carmelo Anthony (28.0)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Knicks Injury Report:
Rasheed Wallace: out (foot)
Amare Stoudemire: doubtful (knee)
Iman Shumpert: out (knee)
Steve Novak: questionable (illness)
Marcus Camby: out indefinitely (plantar fasciitis)
It’s been 12 days since the Bulls topped the Knicks 93-85 when they were without Carmelo Anthony. Since that game Chicago has been up and down, going 3-2. New York, on the other hand, has been hot, going 5-1 since that loss to the Bulls.
New York, who is second in offensive efficiency in the league, was held to a seaon-low 85 points against the Bulls on December 8, as well as a season low in field goal percentage. The Knicks average 102.8 points per contest. But shutting other teams down is what the Bulls do. They’ve allowed opponents to score 90 points just twice in the month of December, and they came out on top in one of those games (an overtime win against the Pistons). Chicago has allowed 100 points just once since November 18.
The Bulls will have their hands full with Melo back this time though. Anthony is averaging 28.0 points per game and 32.8 in the six games he has played in December. He’s shooting 48.9 percent from deep and 49.3 percent from the field. He is a career 33.1 percent three point shooter and 45.7 overall.
Anthony scored 31 points in the Knicks’ last time out against their new crosstown-rival Nets, after missing the previous two games with a sprained ankle. “He looked good to me,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “If he’s not 100 percent, I’ll take whatever percent he was, because that was awesome.”
It isn’t just Melo shooting at a career best rate. The Knicks are fourth in the league in effective field goal percentage. Jason Kidd seems to have found the fountain of youth. He’s shooting 44.6 percent from three, but most important he is not turning the ball over. Kidd is averaging just 1.2 turnovers per 36 minutes. His next best season he was turning it over 2.3 times per 36.
The Knicks as a team are doing a great job holding onto the ball. New York is first in the league in turnover percentage (10.4). They are also forcing their opponents into mistakes, ranking fifth in opponent turnover percentage (.153).
Joakim Noah, who has been the brightest spot for the Bulls all season, is coming off of his second career triple-double. Jo recorded eleven points, 13 rebounds and ten assists in Chicago’s win over Boston. Carlos Boozer (21 points), Luol Deng (21) and Nate Robinson (18) all scored well as the Bulls shot 50 percent as a team. Taj Gibson, who has struggled most of the season, even put in a solid game tallying 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
For all the good, Kirk Hinrich brought the bad. He went scoreless in his 24 minutes of action, tallying two rebounds and two assists. At least he didn’t have any turnovers in the game. Marquis Teague played seven minutes and almost matched Kirk’s numbers (Teague recorded two assists and one rebound).
Once again Thibs was stubborn with his rotation even though Hinrich wasn’t playing well at all. It wasn’t even as if he was shutting down Rondo. The Celtics’ guard scored 26 points and dished eight assists. Those 26 points are a season-high for Rondo.
New York, who is currently the top team in the East, has lost just one home game this season. They average 104.8 points per game at home, compared to 100.9 on the road. Chicago is 6-4 on the road this season.
December 19, 2012
Player of the Game:
Let’s go ahead and get this over with up front: Joakim Noah owned this game.
Noah usually performs well against the Celtics and openly dislikes Boston’s Kevin Garnett. He also hates losing — which the Bulls did on Tuesday night in Memphis — so maybe he was playing with an extra edge.
Whatever the case, Jo had his most complete game of the season and submitted his second career triple-double with 13 rebounds, 11 points and 10 assists. Noah shot 4-for-7 from the field and went 3-for-3 from the line. He also had 3 blocked shots and a steal while playing his usual iron clad defense.
Noah’s passing was the key to the game…and it was contagious. After Noah set the tone, the ball was whipping around in rapid succession as the Bulls repeatedly found the open man. Chicago finished with 28 assists on 37 made field goals.
Said Noah: ”I always tell everybody I’m a point center anyway. I always feel like I could pass the ball. I feel more comfortable with the offense, and we have a lot of people who can score the ball in different ways. [Luol Deng] is a great cutter, Carlos [Boozer] catches almost any pass. I can throw it almost anywhere and he’ll catch it. I think it was a great team effort and we just got to keep it going.”
Added Boozer: ”[Noah] was amazing, man,” Boozer said. “Great passer. He’s probably the best passing big man in the league. Underrated, plays hard and got great court vision. Honestly, he’s like a point forward for us because we run a lot of plays through him to get other guys shots. You see how efficient he is, we did a good job of getting shots for him. But every game he’s getting five, six assists. Tonight was just an awesome night where he ended up getting a triple-double, but he’ll have a lot more games like that in this system because a lot of our stuff runs through Jo, especially with D. Rose being out.”
Although he’s not rebounding as well nor playing quite as efficiently as last season, Noah is still making a pretty strong case for making his very first All-Star team this season.
Chicago’s D held Boston’s O to 89 points on 43.2 percent shooting. That’s pretty good. And the final score would have been even more lopsided if the Bulls hadn’t pulled back on the throttle and allowed the Celtics to go on a 10-0 run in the final 2:50. But by that point the outcome was decided and there was little point in turning the screws any further.
Rajon Rondo had a whopper of a game (26 points, 9-for-18, 8 assists), and Courtney Lee (7-for-11), Garnett (5-for-10) and Paul Pierce (6-for-10) all shot reasonably well. But Garnett, Lee and Pierce combined for only four free throw attempts and never really imposed their wills on the game.
Boston’s bench did next to nothing. They scored 16 points but shot 5-for-23 from the field.
The Celtics have been one of the league’s best defensive teams ever since acquiring Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves before the 2007-2008 season. Or maybe I should say had been one of the best defensive teams in the league. They aren’t now. Their Defensive Efficiency of 101.7 points allowed per 100 possessions ranks them 12th. That’s closer to the middle of the pack than the top of the hill.
Maybe that explains why — despite playing on the second night of back-to-back games following a true offensive nightmare against the Grizzlies — the Bulls enjoyed an offensive explosion.
Scoring 100 points may not seem that impressive, but the game was played at a slow pace. Adjusting for that, the Bulls were scoring at a rate of 119 points per 100 possessions. That’s a pretty efficient offensive outing.
They did it by shooting 50 percent from the field (37-for-74), 55.6 percent from three-point range (5-for-9) and 87.5 percent from the free throw line (21-for-24). And as if that wasn’t enough, they scored 16 second-chance points off 13 offensive rebounds.
Obviously, it helped that the Celtics aren’t a crack defensive team, but the Bulls were especially aggressive in attacking the basket, especially Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli. In all, Chicago got 30 shot attempts at the rim, converting 23 of them (76.7). And many of their free throws were the result of spirited forays into the paint.
Boston’s interior defense was terrible. They either gave up layups or hacked. Deng was 3-for-3 at the rim and earned 12 free throws. Carlos Boozer was 7-for-9 under the hoop. Taj Gibson was 4-for-4. Noah was 3-for-4. Belinelli was 3-for-5 at the rim and 4-for-4 at the line.
Honestly, I was stunned how easily Belinelli was beating his defender off the dribble. I’m guess Boston coach Doc Rivers was too.
Attacking the rim, not settling for contested jumpers, establishing good spacing and moving the basketball…that’s what the Bulls do when they’re at their best. And that’s what they did last night.
Deng Ends His Slump:
The world at large seems to have reached the point where Deng is no longer judged by how many points he scores or how well he shoots. It’s his all around effort and presence that matters.
That said, Lu entered last night’s game in the midst of a serious shooting slump.
Over his previous six games, Deng had gone 41-for-101 from the field (40.5 percent) and 3-for-15 from downtown (20 percent).
Deng busted his slump the old-fashioned way: He stopped setting for long jump shots. Deng didn’t attempt a single three-pointer. He launched only three shot attempts from 16-23 feet. The rest of his field goal attempts came inside 15 feet. And of course he got those 12 free throw attempts by attacking the basket.
In all, Deng tallied 21 points by shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 11-for-12 at the line.
Explosive Bench Play:
The Bulls bench was embarrassingly outplayed in Memphis. The reverse was the case against the Celtics.
Nate Robinson played like a man possessed — even for him — and erupted for 18 points in 13 minutes. He was insanely hot from deep, going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. He hit open threes, contested threes, and one three that was about five feet behind the line as the shot clock was ticking down.
In point of fact, it was Robinson’s three-point shooting that turned this game into a rout during the fourth quarter. And there was one especially telling sequence that I believe epitomizes all the good things Robinson brings to the team. With 4:11 left in the game and the Bulls already leading 96-79, Robinson got fouled on an attacking drive. He hit the first free throw and missed the second…but retrieved the miss and hit a layup. He never stops hustling.
Little Nate also contributed 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
Then there was Taj Gibson. Gibson’s defense has remained elite, but he’s regressed in almost every other phase of the game this season. This has to be troubling for the Bulls front office, considering the not-so-secret plan seems to have been to amnesty Boozer’s contract in the next year or so to free up cap room. That means Taj is the Power Forward of the future.
But he’s been struggling. No question about it.
Last night was a return to form: 20 minutes, 6-for-9 from the field, 1-for-1 from the line, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and a plus-minus score of +14.
And Jimmy Butler continued his quietly impressive play with 6 points (3-for-6), 2 boards and a steal in 14 minutes. His raw numbers may not impress, but his defense, energy and hustle do. He may not compile gaudy stats, but he does all the little things that help a team win.
Boozer played only 23 minutes, but he made the most of his PT, scoring 21 points on 10-for-17 shooting to go with 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocked shots and a steal.
Boozer now has 12 double-doubles in the last 17 games.
And here’s a weird Carlos Boozer factoid for you: Booz ranks second on the team and eighth in the league…in Defensive Win Shares with 1.5. Noah leads the league with 2.0.
Of course, Carlos was the only Bulls player who finished the night with a negative plus-minus score (-6). Always a bad sign in a blowout win.
Quote of the Night:
Robinson said: “The last couple games I really haven’t been shooting the ball well. I just told myself I had to go back to my whole Peter Pan theory. You can’t fly without happy thoughts.”
No More Finger Guns:
In case you hadn’t noticed, Noah has stopped doing his finger gun act after hitting a jumper. ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell has the full story.
Said Noah: “I started doing it in practice. I hit a jump shot in Keith Bogans’ face and I started doing (it) and kept doing it and it was kind of a funny, comical thing, but I guess we’re in a situation right now where it’s not funny.
“You can’t joke around with things like that. Too many people are dying because of guns. We have a problem here with guns, so (I’m) just trying to be a little bit compassionate about what’s going on. You can’t joke around — it’s not a laughing matter anymore.
“I think it’s what happened in Connecticut that was really shocking to a lot of people but things like that have been going on. We have a serious problem with that in Chicago. It’s crazy, man. You just hear about … the summer and the movie theater (in Aurora, Colo.); it’s happening all the time. This is just unheard of. Every story is just horrific. It’s just not a joke. This gun thing in this country is no joke.
“I think after the thing happened in Connecticut somebody said something and I had never really thought about it like that. And then when somebody said it, it made me a little bit conscious about it. Just try to be compassionate to those who were affected.”
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
December 18, 2012
Boston Celtics Status Check:
Road Record: 4-7
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Lost 2
Last game: 103-88 loss to San Antonio
PPG: 97.4 (12th)
Opponents PPG: 97.9 (16th)
Offensive Rating: 103.2 (19th)
Defensive Rating: 103.7 (10th)
Pace: 92.3 (12th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .502 (9th)
Turnover Percentage: .143 (17th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .745 (8th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .191 (30th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .220 (9th)
Opp. eFG%: .492 (17th)
Opp. TO%: .144 (8th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .215 (20th)
Leading scorer: Paul Pierce (19.7)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Celtics Injury Report:
Avery Bradley: out (shoulder)
Coming off of their worst offensive effort of the season, the Bulls try to get back on track, and score more than 71 points against Boston, who has lost two straight games.
I tried to take a shower to wash the stench of last night’s game, but it didn’t work. A 71 point, 37.3 percent shooting percentage will do that to you. It was the fewest points the Bulls scored in a game since January of 2008, against the Timberwolves. Chicago was outrebounded 18-10 on the offensive glass and 51-39 overall.
But really, their defensive effort was great, holding Memphis to 80 points and 37.5 percent shooting. In the fourth quarter, Chicago held the Griz to 23.8 percent from the field. That should have been enough to come back. But Luol Deng shot 1-7 from the field and 1-4 from the line in the fourth and as a team the Bulls shot 33.3 percent in the final frame. Basically it was a great defensive game but since they were so putrid on the offensive end they lost a contest that was very winnable. In the Bulls’ defense, Memphis is the second best defensive squad in the league.
Kirk Hinrich was especially terrible, finishing with four points (2-8 FG) and four turnovers. Nate Robinson was a little better, going 2-5 from the field. Tom Thibodeau did not play Jeff Teague at all, even though he played well against the Nets. Teague is going to make mistakes, but when Hinrich is playing horribly and doesn’t look healthy, and Nate isn’t scoring, what is there to lose?
The Bulls shouldn’t have the same trouble protecting the glass tonight, as the Celtics come in as the worst offensive rebounding team in the league.
Boston has been struggling as of late, losing their last two, including a blowout loss to the Spurs their last time out. Boston turned it over 20 times in that game, for 27 San Antonio points. Jason Terry and Paul Pierce each scored 18 points, but the Celtics only got to the line eight times in the game (San Antonio had 20 trips).
The Bulls lost to the Celtics once already this year, a six point defeat in the United Center. Rajon Rondo was one rebound shy of a triple-double (20 points, ten assists, nine rebounds and five steals) and Boston shot better than 50 percent as a team. The Celtics only had eight turnovers in the game.
Rip Hamilton played in that contest, while Hinrich sat out with a hip injury, which means Rondo’s big game came mainly with Nate Robinson on him (Rondo has turned it over seven times in each of his past two game and is averaging 5.6 over his last five games). Hopefully Hinrich can be more effective in slowing down the Celtic’s point guard. Deng and Noah each played well recording double-doubles (26 points, eleven rebounds for Lu, 17 and eleven for Jo), while Carlos Boozer pitched in 15 points.
The Bulls are 3-2 on the second night of back-to-backs and 7-6 at the United Center this season. Boston is 4-7 away from home.