It pains me to say this, because I’ve loved making fun of him (and his contract) all season, but the Bulls clearly missed Kirk Hinrich in Game 5. It wasn’t his 11.3 points on 43.2 percent shooting that he’s averaging this series that left a hole, but it’s his defense on Deron Williams. Williams went 6-14 from the field, which isn’t good, but he took ten foul shots to help him score 23 points. It is unlikely that Hinrich will be able to play through his calf injury, meaning Tom Thibodeau will have to come up with something for slowing down Williams.
Williams did a good job getting to the line, but it was once again Brook Lopez who gave the Bulls the most trouble. The center recorded 28 points and ten boards, six of those rebounds being offensive. Lopez scored 20 points in the paint, hitting 8-14 from that area. He was 1-6 outside the paint, once again showing the importance of pushing Lopez out away from the basket and into lower percentage shots.
Lopez and Williams got their points, which the Bulls could live with. What they can’t live with is the role players toasting them. Gerald Wallace had his second good game this series—which could also be his second good game of the entire year—hitting 5-8 from the field and 2-3 from deep. Andray Blatche also went 5-8, scoring 13 off the bench to go with five boards. C.J. Watson tallied eleven points, and even grabbed two offensive rebounds. Good games from the Nets role players in Game 1 also resulted in a loss for Chicago.
Those three role players hurt the Bulls, but something Chicago knew it would have to stop coming into this series really dug them the deepest hole in Game 5. The Bulls gave up 17 offensive rebounds, after giving up just 36 through the first four games of the series combined. Those 17 boards translated into 24 second-chance points.
And while we are pointing fingers, it’s Luol Deng’s turn. He has failed to step up even with the Bulls two best players out or injured, including his 6-14 for 12 points in Game 5. He’s 1-18 from three in this series. Deng averaged one made three per game for the year. Joakim Noah isn’t getting much healthier than he is now, so Lu needs find his shot and shut down whoever he is guarding at the moment, especially when it’s Gerald Wallace.
Game 5 felt a lot like Game 1 to me. Brooklyn got lots of points in the paint. Their role players contributed. And they pulled away from Chicago to get a pretty convincing win.
All that means Thibs will once again have to make his adjustments, although with Hinrich potentially out, it’ll be tougher. It might be best for Marco Belinelli to start, rather than Nate Robinson. That way Nate could do his normal “shoot all the time” off the bench routine, and Belinelli could guard Joe Johnson, freeing up Jimmy Butler to guard Deron Williams from the start. Starting Nate Robinson is like eating a ton of candy right before dinner; it may sound like a good idea, but you’re going to throw up all over.
Nate, not surprisingly, put up little resistance for Williams, but Butler has done a good job on him all series. This idea of starting Belinelli was tossed around before Game 5, but Thibs decided against it. Given a second chance, maybe he’ll try and switch things up and not allow Deron to get into a rhythm.
Tom Thibodeau could have more on his hands than just figuring out how to replace Hinrich’s defense though. Both Luol Deng and Taj Gibson stayed home on Wednesday because they were sick. Thibs is hopeful they can go, but if not…well if not Vladimir Radmanovic is a possibility to get playing time in the postseason and that’s just scary.
No matter who is out there, this will be the Bulls best chance to close out the Nets as they return to the United Center. Brooklyn’s Andray Blatche said on Wednesday “there’s no doubt in our mind. We are the better team.” That should give whoever is healthy some extra motivation to get that last win.
Did anyone else know Flip Murray could jam like this?!
Last night, the Bulls went into halftime with a 56-46 advantage…
…and that lead didn’t make me feel even remotely comfortable.
Through the first two quarters, it felt like the Bulls were doing pretty much whatever they wanted to do. I got the feeling that 10-point lead could have been 20 or so, only Chicago never really put the hammer down. The Wizards kept hanging around.
In the NBA, it’s dangerous to let any team — be it good or bad — hang around. However, young teams that haven’t quite developed a killer instinct tend to do it, especially against bad teams. Call it complacency, call it human nature, call it whatever you want. It happens. It’s happened to the Bulls this season. More than once.
It happened last night, too. And part of what made this game against the Wizards a bit of a trap is…do we even know what kind of team this is yet? On paper, they’re a bad team and have been all season. But Washington went through an extreme makeover before last week’s trade deadline.
Next thing you know, they beat the Denver Nuggets by 10 on Friday. Sure, the Nuggets were a little gassed from beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland the night before, but Denver is still the second-best team in the Western Conference. On Saturday night, the Wizards almost beat the Raptors in Toronto — Washington actually led 100-91 with 5:40 left — before losing their legs down the stretch. Toronto’s not a great team, and they were without Chris Bosh, but they’re 31-24 and have won nine of their last 10 home games.
Maybe it’s the Wounded Tiger Theory. Or, if you prefer, the Ewing Theory. Or maybe it’s just a fresh start for guys like Andray Blatche (a game-high 25 points plus 11 rebounds), Al Thornton (17 points, 7 rebounds), Randy Foye (16 points, 9 assists) and James Singleton (a game-high 12 boards).
After all, fresh starts can do wonders. Just ask Chicago’s new arrivals, Hakim Warrick (12 poins, 5 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) and Flip Murray (16 points, 6-for-10, 2-for-3 from downtown). The provided a real boost off the bench. In fact, Chicago’s reserves all played really well — scoring 43 points on 18-for-30 shooting — but the starters not named “Derrick Rose” really struggled.
The best non-Rose starter was Luol Deng, and he went 4-for-11 and had the worst plus-minus score of the game (-17). Taj Gibson almost had a double-double (9 points, 8 rebounds) but shot 3-for-7 and struggled defensively. Kirk Hinrich finished with 6 points on 2-for-7 shooting. And Brad Miller (4 points, 1-for-7) made me wish that Joakim Noah had been healthy enough to play more than 12 minutes last night.
Whatever stank the Wizards have had all season seemed to rub off on the Bulls in the third quarter, during when they shot 7-for-21 and got outscored 31-16. The Chicago players just never looked like they had a sense of urgency. Not until abou midway through the fourth quarter, anyway. And it cost them.
Said coach Vinny Del Negro: “Third quarter was terrible.”
Pretty much, yeah.
Washington built it’s lead to 13 points (93-80) with with 5:25 to play. That’s when Rose turned it on. Derrick scored nine points in a 15-3 run that pulled the Bulls to within a point (96-95) with just under two minutes to play. He hit a mid-range jumper. He hit a long-range jumper. He hit again. He drove in and hit a crazy scooping shot — with his body behind the backboard no less! — while getting fouled.
It was a pretty sweet “turning it on” performance for Rose, which is important for his development as Chicago’s franchise player. Said Rose: “No way we should have lost this game tonight. I tried, just trying to attack the hole, doing whatever it takes to win.”
Unfortunately, that effort came too late. The third quarter would have been a much better time for Derrick to take over. But Rose is young. He’s still learning about when to assert himself. It’s all good.
As for Deng, Gibson, Hinrich and Miller…definitely not so good. And if the Bulls have any aspirations for grabbing onto the fifth seed — which is currently in the possession of the Raptors — they can’t lose to, well, whatever kind of team these Wizards end up being.
Let’s hope they figure things out for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers.
1st timeout: Jannero Pargo turnover
2nd timeout: Luol Deng made 16-footer
3rd timeout: Kirk Hinrich missed 19-footer
4th timeout: Rose made jumper (Hinrich assists)
5th timeout: Brad Miller missed thee-pointer
6th timeout: Flip Murray missed three-pointer
7th timeout: Miller missed three-pointer
Another bad post-timeout showing for the Bulls, although it’s worth noting that the last three timeouts were called in the final minute of the game, and the treys were part of Chicago’s attempt to come back. However, when a team is down five with a minute to go, it’s not necessarily time to start jacking up threes.
There is one thing all of these timeouts had in common: None of them were called during Washington’s game-breaking 14-0 run during the third quarter. As By The Horns reader Tony C. put it: “VDN’s time out selection was also quite poor. Notice that when the Wzard’s went on a 14-0 run, VDN sat with his hands under his ass. When the Bulls went on a (later) mini-run, Flip Saunders called an immediate time out to stop the momentum. This is coaching 101; why hasn’t VDN figured it out yet?”
That’s a fair question. Phil Jackson might be able to let his team “play through” rough patches…but he’s Phil Jackson. Plus, he’s always had one of the best players alive in his corner. That provides a certain amount of leeway. This Bulls team isn’t qutie ready to weather the storm. Of course, with the way Chicago performs coming out of a timeout, it’s also possible that the Bulls would have simply chucked up a bad shot or turned the ball over even if Vinny had called a timeout during that run.
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