February 19, 2013
Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago writes:
Derrick Rose checked off another box for a possible return to action. He practiced five-on-five for the first time this season on Monday afternoon.
Rose had been cleared for regular contact for weeks, but the Bulls’ first post-All-Star break practice gave the team a chance for a full scrimmage at the Berto Center before departing for New Orleans.
So what all did Rose do? As Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau put it: ”He did what everyone else did. Just a normal practice.”
Thibs is being pretty cool on the subject considering “normal practices” haven’t included Rose since last spring. Still, like everyone else within the organization, Thibodeau is being extremely cautious when discussing any and all news about Rose and his eventual comeback.
It was just last week that Rose stated he won’t return until his knee is “110 percent” and that “I don’t mind missing this year.” Given Derrick’s general lack of communication with the press since the injury, these comments were like bombshells to the psyche of fans who have been eagerly anticipating seeing Rose step back on the court in his signature shoes.
There was a mild overreaction to what Rose had to say. Some people thought his agents and sponsors were holding him back for their own purposes. Others thought that maybe he wasn’t psychologically ready to play, or perhaps that his rehab wasn’t coming along as well we had been led to believe.
But realistically, Rose is progressing about as expected. Remember: he was originally projected to return in late February or the beginning of March at the earliest.
Do Rose, his representatives and sponsors have a lot to lose if he comes back before he’s mentally and physically ready to do so? Sure they do. And so do the Bulls. Nobody wins if Rose returns and re-injures his knee.
Everybody involved wants Rose to work hard but remain cautious. He is the team’s future. Everyone involved is more worried about the next 5-10 years than they are about this one. And that’s the way it should be.
Think about it. Would a race car driver compete in the Indianapolis 500 before his mechanics were absolutely certain his car was mechanically safe and ready to roll? Of course not.
Thibs put it perfectly when he said: ”He’s doing what he should be doing. He’s focused on his rehab, doing more and more. We just have to be patient. When he’s ready, he’ll go.”
February 18, 2013
The 2013 NBA All-Star Game has come and gone, with the Western Conference All-Stars beating the Eastern Conference All-Stars by a score of 143-138. The West had 88 points in the paint and the East had only three blocked shots. So yeah, no defense was being played, as usual.
Luol Deng scored 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting in his second All-Star appearance. He also had a couple rebounds and an assist in 17 minutes of PT. In all fairness to Lu, he’s not the kind of player who’s going to shine in an All-Star Game. He doesn’t play one-on-one ball. He’s not a flashy dunker. Most of what he does is measured in effort and consistency on a nightly basis.
Joakim Noah was reasonably efficient in his first All-Star Game: 16 minutes, 10 rebounds, 8 points, 4-for-7 shooting, 3 assists and one block of a Zach Randolph Layup. That stuff was of the East’s three blocked shots (Dwyane Wade had the other two). In point of fact, Noah was one of the only guys out there playing defense (along with Kobe Bryant, who rejected LeBron James not once but twice in the closing minutes). At one point, he put some one-on-one D on Chris Paul, and later elbowed Paul in the face. All-out intensity, all the time.
Said Noah: “What else am I going to do?”
He has a point.
Noah continued: ”I enjoyed every minute on the court and I had a lot of fun. I haven’t slept in three days, man. I had all my best friends; there’s not one of my friends who isn’t here. I got my pops [Yannick] here. I’m looking up, he’s smiling and proud. It just really means everything. I just felt like I might as well go out there and just give it everything I got. I can’t half-ass it because otherwise I would really look like [much].”
Added Deng: ”Jo played his game. He just played like how Jo plays. It was good, man. He was having fun. He got to know the guys a little bit and they got to know what Joakim is like, which was fun.”
Noah — who last Thursday had platelet-rich plasma treatment on his right foot to help deal with an ongoing case of plantar fasciitis — desperately wanted to be part of the All-Star Game despite being slowed by injury.
Said Noah: “It means a lot to be able to be a part of this. I was never at the rookie game; as a sophomore I was never here. So this was my first time really appreciating it and spending time with it. I haven’t slept in three days, so I’m kind of tired right now. But I had a blast.”
As an aside, if you care at all about plus-minus stats, Deng (+4) and Noah (+2) had better outings than starters Kevin Garnett (-5), Dwyane Wade (-9), Carmelo Anthony (-9), Lebron James (-13) and Chris Bosh (-14).
I’m glad Deng and Noah had a good time. I’m even more glad they didn’t get hurt. Now it’s back to business.
February 14, 2013
The Bulls arrived in Boston faced with the depressing realization that Derrick Rose might not play at all this season. Of course, they weren’t going to get any sympathy from the Celtics, who have lost three players to season-ending injuries in the last three weeks. Not only their own All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, but also rookie power forward Jared Sullinger and veteran point guard Leandro Barbosa.
So no, the Men in Green weren’t shedding any tears over Chicago’s misfortune, and they put on one of their best defensive performances of the season, holding the Bulls to 69 points on 36.5 percent shooting.
But wait, there’s more. The Bulls missed 14 of their 17 three-point attempts, had only 4 fast break points, and committed 22 turnovers for 20 points going the other way.
Not that the Celtics were much better. They managed only 71 points on 36.8 percent shooting, missing 10 of their 15 three-pointers and finishing -10 on the boards. Thanks to a steady stream of mid-range (and misdirected) jumpers, Boston had only 24 points in the paint and earned only 12 free throw attempts.
Here are some more not-so-fun facts courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:
The Bulls starters combined for 37 points Wednesday against the Celtics, the fewest points by Chicago’s starting five in ANY game this season.
The Bulls and Celtics combined for 21 points in the third quarter Wednesday, the second-fewest combined points by two teams in ANY quarter this season. On November 13, the Raptors (5) and Pacers (14) combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics and Bulls combined for 140 points Wednesday night, the third-fewest combined points by two teams in a game this season.
And here’s a bonus crap-o-stat from the AP recap: “The Celtics scored 19 points in the second and third quarters combined, tying for third-lowest in NBA history and setting a franchise record for the fewest points in consecutive quarters since the shot-clock era began. Their 71 points was the third-least in a win since the 24-second clock was added in 1954-55.”
And that was the team that won the game.
Yup. It was an ugly one, folks. So ugly those mid-90s Heat and Knicks teams were rolling over in their graves.
Still, you’ve got to give credit to the Celtics, they made shots when it mattered most. Check it: They were 17-for-60 over the first 36 minutes but shot 11-for-16 over the final 12, outscoring the Bulls 28-20 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Bulls shot 6-for-19 during that final frame, including (gak) 1-for-9 on threes.
Boston had two fourth quarter daggers that pretty much killed any shot Chicago had of stealing this one. First was an off-the-dribble, off-balance triple by Jason Terry with 3:57 left that put the Celtics up 62-58. On Boston’s next possession, Paul Pierce — who was 1-for-11 to that point — drilled a three to build the lead to 65-60. And although the Bulls put a little scare into the home crowd, those were nails one and two in the Bulls’ coffin.
Chicago’s starters were terrible, combining to shoot 15-for-45. Only Carlos Boozer (11 points on 5-for-14 shooting) and Joakim Noah (10 points on 3-for-8 shooting) reached double figures. Noah had 16 rebounds but committed 5 turnovers. Luol Deng scored only 8 points and had no assists. Nate Robinson (6 points, 2-for-7, 6 assists) looked like a minimum contract player and Rip Hamilton (2 points, 1-for-6, 2 turnovers) was virtually invisible).
Thank God for the All-Star break.
Said Noah: ”We definitely need a break right now. It’s been a long first half of the season, and we just need to regroup because we’re not playing very well right now.”
You can say that again, Jo.
Last night, the Bulls looked like a team that’d had the wind taken out of their sails. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but by and large, this group has fought bravely through injury and fatigue to keep the boat afloat until D-Rose could return. Only it looks like Rose might not return. In Rose’s own words: ”I’m feeling good, but like I said, if it’s where it’s taking me a long time and I’m still not feeling right, I don’t mind missing this year.”
I don’t mind missing this year.
I wonder how Luol Deng — who put off having surgery on his wrist so he could play in the Olympics last summer and still not miss any of this season — feels about that? Or Joakim Noah, who is slogging up and down the court despite suffering from a lingering case of plantar faciitis?
I’m not criticizing Rose at all. He absolutely should not play until he’s healthy and ready. But that doesn’t mean his decision not to play, and especially the way in which he’s framing it, doesn’t affect this team.
Despite the fact that Deng and Noah were both named to the All-Star team, this is an injury-plagued and under-talented squad that has to play all-out every night to compete. Staying up and putting forth that kind of effort takes an immense about of resolve and mental fortitude. The Bulls look psychologically fatigued. They just do.
I know Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t like hearing excuses like that. But it is what it is.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
February 13, 2013
Boston Celtics Status Check:
Home Record: 19-9
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 94-91 loss to Charlotte
PPG: 96.3 (18th)
Opponents PPG: 96.3 (10th)
Offensive Rating: 102.5 (25th)
Defensive Rating: 102.5 (7th)
Pace: 91.4 (18th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .494 (13th)
Turnover Percentage: .139 (17th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .736 (14th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .210 (29th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .208 (11th)
Opp. eFG%: .484 (7th)
Opp. TO%: .147 (5th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .215 (24th)
Leading scorer: Paul Pierce (18.7)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Boston Injury Report:
Rajon Rondo: out (torn ACL)
Leandro Barbosa: out (torn ACL)
Jared Sullinger: out (back)
Missing their All-Star point guards, the Bulls and Celtics have both fared relatively well. The Bulls have been without Derrick Rose since last year’s playoffs, but have still compiled a 30-21 record and have themselves in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have been very good since Rajon Rondo’s ACL injury, compiling a 7-1 record.
Rondo was injured in a 123-111 overtime loss to the Hawks. He tried to warm up for the next game, against Miami, but couldn’t go. Without him, Boston beat Miami and went on a seven-game win streak. During that run, they topped the Clippers, Lakers and Nuggets, among others. That streak came to an end when Byron “Don’t call me BJ” Mullens lead the Bobcats past the Celtics.
Mullens dropped 25 points and grabbed 17 boards in the match-up. Kevin Garnett (5-13), Paul Pierce (4-11) and Avery Bradley (4-12) all shot poorly from the field. Losing to the Bobcats isn’t the worst thing in the world, at least that’s what Chicago fans tell themselves to sleep at night.
The Bulls have had their fair share of ups and downs this year. Losing to Charlotte was a down, and so was their last game against San Antonio. The Spurs didn’t have their “Big Three” or Stephen Jackson, the Bulls won the rebounding 49-26, including 17-2 on the offensive glass, but they still lost. They coughed it up (19 turnovers to San Antonio’s eight), they let the Spurs shoot well (52.0 from the field, 50.0 percent from three) and they didn’t shoot well from the free throw line (65 percent).
Add in the fact that Joakim Noah struggled through plantar fasciitis for 39 minutes in a February loss and it’s safe to say this was one of the worst losses of the season (and there is competition).
Tonight is the last time in the regular season the Bulls and Celtics will meet. Chicago leads the season series 2-1 thus far, taking the last two including one in Boston.
The good news for the Bulls is that Rondo was destroying them and their over-matched point guards so far this season. He had set season-highs twice thus far in games against the Bulls, and was averaging 25.3 points per contest.
With Rondo out, the match-up to watch is probably Kevin Garnett against Joakim Noah. Noah is injured, but said he would play tonight, probably because he and KG really don’t like each other. Noah is averaging 14.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists against the Celtics this year. Garnett, when facing the Bulls, is scoring 13.7 points on 39.0 percent shooting and grabbing 6.7 boards per contest. KG is averaging 15.2 points on 50.3 percent shooting on the season.
Paul Pierce is also struggling against Chicago, averaging 13.0 points on 37.5 shooting in the three games.
Although Jo has played well against Boston, he hasn’t been playing well since returning from injury. Noah is connecting on only 38.9 percent of his shots and he’s putting up 7.0 points over that three game stretch. He also only has one block in those three games. In the 44 games before his injury, Noah had four games without a block. In the three games since he returned, he has had two games with zero blocks. The plantar fasciitis is clearly slowing Jo down, but he is going to continue to fight through it. I just hope he isn’t making it much worse by doing so.
Stats of the night: In the three previous matchups, Chicago is holding Boston to 27.5 percent from three, while the Bulls percentage from behind the arc is at 39.4 percent against the Celtics (up from 34.8 percent on the season). Boston is shooting 20 percent (5-25) on “above the break” three pointers, while the Bulls are shooting 46 percent from that area.
It shifts when you look at corner threes though, where Boston is hitting at a rate of 43 percent and the Bulls are down to 33 percent.
February 12, 2013
Many people — myself included — suspected Derrick Rose might return from left knee surgery late this month or early next month.
That now seems very unlikely.
During a Monday interview with USA TODAY Sports, Rose said: “I don’t have a set date [for my return]. I’m not coming back until I’m 110 percent. Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time. It’s just that I’m not coming back until I’m ready. … Right now, probably in the high 80s [percent]. Far away. Far away.”
That’s a bummer. But also not exactly unexpected. After all, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf insisted last summer that Rose would not return until there was every medical certainty that his knee was ready: ”I’m not going to let him back until the doctors tell me that it’s absolutely safe for him to come back. I made that mistake with Michael Jordan years ago where I think we let him come back too soon. It worked out OK, but it might not have. This time I’m not going to make that mistake. Until the doctors say he’s 100 percent and they put their reputations on the line, he’s not coming back.”
Not surprisingly, Bulls general manager Gar Forman agrees with that assessment: “Every injury’s different. People want to pigeonhole exactly when he returns, and I understand that. “Everybody would like to know [when Rose will return]. We would like to know the exact date. But what we really tried to do was stay true to the process and not skip steps as he went along his rehabilitation. … We wanted to make sure we did what was right for Derrick.”
So there you have it. Rose will be out for a while longer. Maybe quite a while. Maybe out until next year.
But when he does come back, Rose expects to be much improved: ”I know it’s going to be something good. With all this hard work I’ve been putting into my game, I’m doing stuff I never did before. I gained 10, 11 pounds of muscle. I don’t know what type of player I’m going to be. I just know that I’m going to be very good.”
Sounds like Muscle Watch 2012 has already begun.
In all seriousness, this is the best course of action. Even if Rose came back this season, it’s unlikely the Bulls could compete for a championship. Not unless the earth opened up and swallowed the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. And maybe not even then. So why take chances? When he finally does make his return, the Bulls and their fans will want him completely healthy and then some.
Tom Thibodeau’s famous mantra — “More than enough to win” — turned out to be true last night. Only it was true of the Spurs instead of the Bulls.
San Antonio was without the services of Manu Ginobili (sore left hamstring), Tim Duncan (sprained left knee/sprained right ankle) and Tony Parker (swollen knee).
So the Spurs were on the road without their top three players — plus Stephen Jackson, who missed the game due to personal reasons — which should have more than balanced out the absences of Derrick Rose (left knee rehab) and Kirk Hinrich (sore right elbow). But it did not.
That’s how this season has gone. For every impressive win against a team like the Hawks, Heat, Knicks or Nets, there’s an equally depressing loss to the Bobcats, Hornets, Suns or Wizards.
And so, against the so-called “Spares,” the Bulls seemed to once again get caught playing down to the level of their competition. I mean, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker aren’t just three of the Spurs top players right now, they — along with David Robinson — are among the franchises top five players ever. With them out, it should have been advantage Bulls. Instead, it was just another in a series of mysterious losses that have been slowly piling up this season.
Nate Robinson was understandably mystified.
Said Robinson: ”We didn’t make shots down the stretch and we couldn’t get stops for some reason. They have the best record in the NBA for a reason.”
Not making shots down the stretch is one thing, but the Spurs held a double-digit lead for long stretches of the game. That has nothing to do with clutch misses. And three of the reasons they have the best record in the league were wearing sports coats.
Maybe the Spurs simply caught the Bulls napping?
Said Taj Gibson: “I don’t think we took them for granted. I just think they came out and played harder than us.”
Played harder? That’s a little unthinkable given the Bulls owned an astronomical 49-26 edge in rebounding, including an equally cosmic 17-2 advantage on the offensive glass. Chicago outscored San Antonio 20-2 in second-chance points. So you can’t tell me the Bulls weren’t working hard.
Here are some of the problems as I see them.
The Spurs may not have played harder, but they certainly played smarter. To wit: The Bulls committed 19 turnovers to only 8 for the Spurs, and San Antonio finished with a 29-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Spotting your opponent that many bonus points off extra possessions makes it hard to win in the NBA.
Then there’s the issue of Chicago’s two All-Stars, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. They certainly did their job on the boards, considering they combined for 12 offensive rebounds and 26 rebounds overall. But they combined for only 18 points, including only 2 points in the final quarter, those coming off a 20-footer with 58 seconds left.
For the game, Deng was 4-for-13 and finished with more turnovers (3) than assists (1).
Look, I love Lu. He’s a character guy who gives 100 percent over long minutes night after night. He is a very good player. But sometimes it’s hard to see how somebody with a league average Player Efficiency Rating of 15.0 who is sixth on his own team in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes is an All-Star. Especially during games like these when the team needs a leader to step up and makes plays.
Deng is going through a mini-slump right now. In last week’s loss in Indiana, he scored 13 points on 4-for-18 shooting. Then he had only 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting in Denver. He was 6-for-14 in Utah and last night’s clunker has him shooting 18-for-58 (31 percent) over his last four games.
For the season, Deng is converting 42.5 percent of his field goals. That’s the second-worst mark of his career. His worst shooting percentage of 41.2 percent was compiled last season.
Thibodeau sees Deng’s problems as an issue of effort.
Said Thibs: ”We have a lot of random possessions where guys don’t know what other guys are doing, leading to people being stuck with the ball, trying to make something out of nothing, going one-on-one. Then you have (four) guys staring at you and that leads to turnovers.”[Deng's] not getting any easy baskets right now. So part of that is the discipline to run the floor hard every time, to get five guys to do that. if you have two guys run hard and three are jogging, you’re not going to get easy baskets.”
That leads me to another of Chicago’s problems. The Bulls are currently ranked a dismal 18th in Offensive Efficiency. Their 100.8 points per 100 possessions is barely ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers (100.7) and Sacramento Kings (also 100.7).
I blame a lot of their offensive woes on a lack of three-point shooting.
Look, it’s no secret that three-point shooting is the key to proper floor spacing. It keeps the defense honest and opens up room for guys to drive to the hoop or get wide-open looks. The Oklahoma City Thunder lead the league in three-point percentage (.392) and also happen to lead the league in Offensive Efficiency (110.3). The Spurs are third in three-point percentage (.386) and fourth in Offensive Efficiency (107.5). The Miami Heat are fourth in three-point percentage (.386) and second in Offensive Efficiency (109.9). The New York Knicks are sixth in three-point percentage (.381) and third in Offensive Efficiency (108.9).
And sure, having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook helps the Thunder, just like having LeBron James and Dwayne Wade help the Heat, and so on.
Still, the Spurs were missing their big guns last night but still hit threes with a high rate of efficiency (8-for-16). That opened up space for Kawhi Leonard, who finished with a career-best 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting, and the Spurs scored at a rate of 117.3 points per 100 possessions (according to Basketball-Reference).
Five different Spurs players hit three-pointers last night. The Bulls — who went 2-for-12 from downtown — had only two players knock down threes: Nate Robinson (who was 1-for-5 from deep) and Marco Belinelli (1-for-3). Deng was 0-for-2, while Jimmy Butler and Rip Hamilton were both 0-for-1.
The Bulls currently rank 20th in three-point percentage (.348) and 29th in three-point attempts (704). Robinson shoots 40.6 percent on threes, but he’s streaky — Nate is as likely to go 3-for-4 as he is 1-for-5 — and many of his three-point attempts come off one-on-one moves that don’t really create opportunities for teammates.
After Robinson are Hinrich (38 percent), Belinelli (35 percent), Rip Hamilton (35 percent), Deng (31 percent) and Jimmy Butler (26 percent).
By contrast, the Spurs have several guys shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc, including James Anderson (45.5 percent), Matt Bonner (45.1 percent), Boris Diaw (43.9 percent), Danny Green (43.2 percent), Parker (40 percent) and Leonard (40 percent). Even Duncan is even hitting 40 percent of his threes this season (on only five attempts, but still).
All those three-point shooters create fantastic spacing for San Antonio’s offense. And the dearth of three-point shooters makes Chicago’s offense seem perpetually stuck in the mud.
Said Thibodeau: ”This thing is going to be a fight. Our road is a tough one. If we are not committed to the grind, it’s not going to be good. … We can’t skip steps. If you skip steps that leads to shortcuts, that leads to losing basketball.”
That makes for a great quote, but the Bulls face an uphill battle every night. They have a great defense and a fundamentally flawed offense. The team has no three-point shooters and nobody other than Robinson who can create his own shot. They rely on execution and pinpoint passing, but when their ball-handling is off and/or their opponent has active hands — remember, the Bulls have poor spacing because they lack outside shooting — turnovers come in bunches.
So, in many ways, this game was a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the Bulls. Without Derrick Rose, there isn’t a single player who can consistently be counted on to step up and provide clutch scoring. Noah has never been much of an offensive player and Deng’s offense comes and goes. They can’t hit threes which creates bad spacing. And while they typically do a solid job of defending against threes — they rank first in three-point attempts against (814) and fifth in three-point percentage against (.342) — they will struggle if everybody on the opposing team can knock down triples, as was the case last night.
It’s the kind of loss that stings, not only because the Bulls lost at home to an undermanned team, but because it revealed so many fundamental flaws…some of which won’t be solved with the eventual return of Derrick Rose.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
February 11, 2013
Update: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson are all out tonight for San Antonio. Joakim Noah is in the starting line-up for Chicago.
San Antonio Status Check:
Road Record: 18-10
Last 10 Games: 9-1
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 111-89 win over Brooklyn
PPG: 104.1 (4th)
Opponents PPG: 95.9 (9th)
Offensive Rating: 109.7 (5th)
Defensive Rating: 100.8 (3rd)
Pace: 94.2 (6th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .541 (2nd)
Turnover Percentage: .140 (17th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .748 (3rd)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .204 (30th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .202 (19th)
Opp. eFG%: .477 (4th)
Opp. TO%: .139 (12th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .179 (3rd)
Leading scorer: Tony Parker (20.7)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
San Antonio Injury Report:
Tim Duncan: doubtful (sprained knee/sprained ankle)
Manu Ginobili: doubtful (hamstring)
The Bulls go from one of the hottest teams in the NBA to the struggling Jazz to…one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Spurs have lost just twice in the past month. Chicago lost twice last week. San Antonio, just like Chicago, is going through some injury issues though.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are doubtful for tonight, and may be out past the All Star break for the Spurs, according to some reports.
“It’s just about their health,” Gregg Popovich said. “We need to have those guys healthy and energetic at the end of the year. Things work a whole lot better with them than without them. With [Tim's] knee and Manu’s hamstring, I’m not gonna take any chances. If I err, it’s going to be on the side of caution.”
Popovich is arguably (and in my opinion is) the best coach in the NBA. It’s interesting what his opinion and mindset is compared to Tom Thibodeau’s, another great coach. Pop is of the belief that getting to the playoffs healthy is more important than winning every regular season game. Thibs is the exact opposite. Pop has been a head coach longer and has also won a bunch of championships.
Through Thibs’ reign, the Bulls have had multiple guys play through injuries. That isn’t all Thibs’ fault, as the popular hashtag #FredClearedHim shows, but the mindsets are no doubt opposite. Pop couldn’t care about a one seed; he knows health is the most important thing. Thibs wants to win every single game, for better or worse. That’s why Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are sitting and Joakim Noah is playing. Jo may miss on the All Star game, but he is making that plantar worse playing both games in a back-to-back.
Noah played 34 minutes against Utah on Saturday night, struggling through every one of them. He finished with a double-double (12 points, eleven rebobunds), but didn’t shoot well (3-8). It’s clear he isn’t fully healthy, and it’s questionable whether he’s doing more damage than good right now. I find it hard to believe Jo would be back right now if the Bulls still had Omer Asik. Or any able-bodied center for that matter.
Jo—and everyone else on the Bulls—also got dominated by Al Jefferson. Utah’s center scored 32 points on 15-22 shooting and added 13 boards, two blocks and two steals. Paul Millsap hurt the Bulls too (21 points, 8-14 FG), but Chicago did a good job stopping everyone else.
Randy Foye was the next highest scorer, with 14 points, but shot 4-11. Marvin Williams scored just three points and Jamaal Tinsley seemed afraid to shoot, and thus ended up scoreless.
One of the keys was that the Bulls made 16 of their 18 free throws, while Utah went 11-17. Another was that they were finally able to play their high paid power forward in the fourth. Thibs trusted Carlos Boozer, and it paid off, as Boozington scored 11 of his 19 points in the final quarter.
Sidenote: Jimmy Butler had a bummer of a game, logging 13 minutes and no other stats except a missed shot. Hopefully this was just a fluke in Jimmy’s young, promising career.
San Antonio, short-handed and all, pulled away from Brooklyn in the second half, outscoring the Nets 60-29 in the third and fourth. Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs, as usual, dropping 29 points and dishing eleven assists. The Spurs shot 58.9 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from deep. This was all without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Parker is going to cause a big problem tonight, as Nate Robinson will have trouble staying in front of him. Kirk Hinrich is still out for the Bulls, which leaves just Nate and Marquis Teague. That’s a match-up I am dreading.
But one I do want to see is Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Butler and Leonard are pretty similar, young guys that do everything for their team. They are both great rebounders, especially for their size, finish well at the rim, defend well and hustle. Leonard’s PER is 15.51. Jimmy’s is 15.31.
Joakim Noah is having one of his best seasons as a professional basketball player. Some would say it’s his best season, although his Per 36 Minute numbers and various advanced metrics seem to indicate he was better last season.
At any rate, Noah has been playing at an extremely high level and was justly rewarded by being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.
At the time, Noah said: “I’m extremely excited to be recognized as an All-Star for the first time. It’s more of a team honor than an individual honor, because it would not have been possible without my teammates and coaches. I look forward to representing my teammates and the Bulls organization during All-Star Weekend.”
That was then. This is now.
Noah has been struggling with plantar faciitis in his right foot. For those of you who may have forgotten, Noah developed the same condition in his left foot during the 2009-10 season, eventually missing 18 games. If you check the stats, Noah was putting up similar numbers in fewer minutes and shooting better that season. And his Player Efficiency Rating was higher then (18.8) than it is now (17.2).
This is what Noah said back in 2010: ”Every morning when I wake up and don’t feel that pain, it’s a bright spot. You wake up in the morning and are always scared that you’re going to get that horrible feeling where you feel like you can hardly walk, knowing that you have a game that same day, going to push against those big bodies. [Plantar fasciitis] is no joke, especially because running is a big part of my game. When I don’t have that, it’s tough.”
How tough? Well, check out Noah’s splits from 2009-10. In January, he averaged 13.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.6 blocked shots over 14 games. Then the plantar faciitis flared up. In February, Noah played only six games, averaging 5.7 points, 5.2 rebounds. He had only one blocked shot. He also played only six games in March, averaging 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds.
My point is, the injury derailed an All-Star-caliber season three years ago. And it may do it again.
After Friday night’s loss in Denver, Noah admitted the injury is still a problem.
Said Noah: ”There’s really not that much you can do right now. I just want to keep getting all the treatments, and I want to be out there on the court for my teammates.”
Noah doesn’t want to miss time, which is admirable. But at what cost? We know the Bulls will almost certainly make the playoffs. But we also know that without Derrick Rose at 100 percent — and it is unlikely he’ll be back at 100 percent this season even if he does return — the Bulls probably can’t expect to make a title run this season.
So why push it?
Because that’s sort of how Noah and these Bulls roll.
Still, given the seriousness of the injury and Noah’s history, sitting him for a while would probably be the most prudent course of action. And he really shouldn’t risk further injury at the All-Star Game, even though he really wants to play.
Said Noah: ”To me, [the All-Star Game is] pretty important. I mean, it’s not that important, but it’s something I want to do. I also have to do what’s right for the team. There’s obviously a bigger picture than the All-Star Game. We’ll see.”
As usual, time will tell.
February 8, 2013
Utah Jazz Status Check:
Home Record: 19-5
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Won 2
Last game: 100-86 win over Milwaukee
PPG: 98.1 (11th)
Opponents PPG: 98.5 (18th)
Offensive Rating: 106.4 (11th)
Defensive Rating: 106.9 (23rd)
Pace: 91.2 (19th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .488 (18th)
Turnover Percentage: .138 (14th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .725 (22nd)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .289 (9th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .217 (24th)
Opp. eFG%: .500 (20th)
Opp. TO%: .139 (15th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .217 (24th)
Leading scorer: Al Jefferson (17.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Utah Injury Report:
Raja Bell: out (personal)
Gordon Hayward: doubtful (sprained shoulder)
Earl Watson: questionable (stress fracture)
Mo Williams: out (thumb)
The Bulls got utterly dominated last night against the Nuggets. They were crushed in fast break points (23-6), points in the paint (64-44) points off turnovers (28-10) and just plain old points (128-96). It was ugly. The 128 points were the most the Bulls have given up in the Tom Thibodeau era.
Chicago’s defense clearly didn’t show up, and neither did their hustle. The Nuggets were running all over the Bulls and beating them to rebounds, led by Kenneth Faried who never stopped moving. Faried scored 21 points on 9-10 shooting and grabbed 12 boards in his 26 minutes of action. Wilson Chandler went 5-5 from deep and dropped 24 points. Vladimir Radmanovic logged 13 minutes for the Bulls. That should tell you all you need to know.
The loss was awful, but Denver has won eight straight games now and is 22-3 at home, so there are much worse things than losing to the Nuggets in the Pepsi Center (like losing to the Bobcats at home).
The Bulls now head a little further west and turn their attention to the Jazz, who are also playing well. Utah has won two straight and nine of their last 12. They’re also no slouch at home, amassing a 19-5 record so far in the home arena. Chicago also ends its six-game road trip tonight in Salt Lake City, an injured road trip in which the Bulls have stumbled to a 2-3 record on.
Joakim Noah didn’t look good in his first game back from plantar fasciitis, and it will only get more difficult tonight for him and the rest of Chicago’s bigs. Utah has one of the best and deepest frontcourts in the league. It starts with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Jefferson is averaging a team-high 17.1 points to go with 9.6 rebounds. Millsap adds 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. It doesn’t end there though. Enes Kanter averages 15.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes and Derrick Favors averages 15.4 and 10.5 per 36. This is a game the Bulls are going to miss Omer Asik more than usual, especially if Noah still looks a step or two slow as he did last night. It also means the Bulls have to pick their poison with which one of these guys Carlos Boozer will be guarding (my guess would be Millsap).
The Jazz took care of Milwaukee in Salt Lake City their last time out. Millsap and Jefferson each scored 19 points and they combined for 17 boards and four blocks. Kanter came off the bench for 17 points and Favors just missed a double-double, tallying nine points and eleven boards in 22 minutes. The Jazz are using their bigs more and more because of their injuries elsewhere. Gordon Hayward missed the Milwaukee game and is doubtful for tonight’s matchup. Mo Williams hasn’t played since December.
The Jazz scored 56 points in the paint compared to 36 for the Bucks. Utah also dominated the glass, winning the offensive rebounding battle 17-9 and the overall battle 50-37. The Bulls got out-rebounded 46-34 last night and gave up 64 points in the paint. That was mostly because of their lackadaisical defense, rather than good post play from Denver. Kosta Koufos scored just four points and JaVale McGee added ten, almost exclusively on dunks.
The good news is that since the Bulls got beaten so badly, and a lot of that was the starters, they are rested tonight. Noah played 23 minutes, Boozer played 22, Taj Gibson logged 17. Luol Deng (31) and Jimmy Butler (32) were the only guys to play more than 30 minutes (surprise, surprise).
The Bulls got their butts kicked last night. It’s pretty much that simple.
The Nuggets put on an offensive show. As you can see from the Four Factors in the Basketball-Reference box score, Denver finished with a Effective Field Goal Percentage of 63.4 percent and scored at a phenomenal rate of 143.9 points per 100 possessions. What’s more, their Offensive Rebound Rate was 47.1 percent. In other words, the Nuggets barely misfired last night, but they rebounded nearly half of those rare misses.
The Nuggets sprinted out for 23 fast break points. They scored 66 points in the paint. Although, to be fair, the Bulls put up little resistance regardless of where the Nuggets tried to score from. Denver’s 128 points were a season-best and the highest scoring total of any Bulls opponent.
Joakim Noah — who returned from a plantar fasciitis flareup in his right foot — said: ”We didn’t play well defensively. We didn’t play well offensively. They beat us down the court every time. Just an embarrassing loss.”
A very embarrassing loss. And, as ESPNChicago’s Nick Freidell writes, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was furious.
Said Thibs: “What we have to do to win is defend, rebound, keep our turnovers down. [Be] inside-out and share the ball. When we start making it up, we start taking shortcuts. We’re going to get our ass kicked, that’s what it’s going to be. It’s not the way to win in this league. We’re kidding ourselves. Just kidding ourselves.”
The Bulls played poorly all night, but the third quarter was when they stuck their heads into the guillotine. During that horrific 12-minute sequence, Chicago shot 6-for-22 from the field and got outscored 37-16.
Here’s how bad the Bulls were playing. With 6:40 left in third, Thibodeau called a full timeout to stop an 8-2 run by the Nuggets. The Bulls responded with three straight turnovers, which included two terrible passes by Noah and a Luol Deng drive in which Ty Lawson ripped the ball away from him.
Then, after those three consecutive turnovers, Noah tried a drive of his own only to get tied up by Kenneth Faried. The Bulls won the tip, but Deng missed an 11-footer which led to another embarrassing sequence. Lawson missed a 16-footer, but nobody boxed out JaVale McGee, who missed a wide-open tip shot, then grabbed another uncontested offensive rebound and threw down a vicious dunk.
A couple possessions later, after a turnover by Marquis Teague, McGee beat everybody down the court hammered down another dunk off a pass by Andre Iguodala. About a minute later, McGee ran out for another slammer off another Teague turnover, this time from a pass by Lawson.
Imagine being Tom Thibodea and watching McGee — a mercurial and inconsistent player about whom Denver coach George Karl recently said “He’s got to understand that lazy and crazy isn’t going to make it work” — outwork and outrun his team. His blood must have been boiling.
Said Thibs: ”Until we change [the defense], the result’s not going to be good. We’re trying to make it an offensive game and the ball’s going wherever they want the ball to go. We’re not containing the ball, not keeping it out of the paint, not challenging shots, not rebounding the ball. It’s very difficult to win like that.”
Actually, it’s impossible to win the way the Bulls were playing last night. As embarrassing as McGee’s dunk contest was, it was even more embarrassing to watch one of the league’s best defenses get sliced-and-diced by Faried (21 points, 9-for-10, 12 rebounds) and Wilson Chandler (24 points, 8-for-9, 5-for-5 on threes).
Said Karl: ”Wilson and Kenneth, what an incredible performance. That’s 45 points on 19 shots. I’ll take that every night.”
Added Faried: ”I came out with a mindset tonight just to dominate. I just wanted to come out and make a statement, and Wilson came out and did the same thing. Our team did the same thing, wanted to come out and make a statement in a nationally televised game. We did what we had to do tonight.”
And the Bulls didn’t.
I mean, it says something that the team’s leading scorer was Daequan Cook (19 points on 6-for-16 shooting).
Boozer played a strong offensive game, scoring 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting in 22 minutes in the shadow of rumors that he could be traded to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani, but he grabbed only 3 rebounds. Nate Robinson scored 14 points on eight shots and dished out 6 assists, but he couldn’t keep anybody in front of him. Noah struggled to convert one of his field shot attempts and nabbed only 5 boards. Rip Hamilton (1-for-7) was terrible. Deng (4-for-13 with 4 turnovers) wasn’t much better.
And of course Kirk Hinrich (elbow injury) and Marco Belinelli (ankle injury) didn’t play.
It was a bad night. And embarrassing night. But meltdowns happen in the NBA. Especially when teams are missing their superstar and dealing with a host of other injuries. Plus the Bulls are on one of those dreaded long winter road trips.
Today’s another day. Hopefully they play better in Utah.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.