April 11, 2011
Found this quote via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Danny Granger: “Boston’s a different monster. They don’t have the best record in the East, but they won championships. They know how to do it. They have four, five guys you have to worry about, from (Paul) Pierce, (Rajon) Rondo, (Kevin) Garnett and (Ray) Allen. Chicago, they go as Derrick Rose goes. If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance to beat them.”
It’s certainly not the worst thing Granger could have said…but the Bulls are a strong team. Somehow, I don’t think the non-Rose players will appreciate the (mild) insult. I guess the Pacers-Bulls series has officially started.
December 13, 2010
Indiana Pacers Status Check:
Road Record: 5-6
Last game: Lost 97-83 @ Atlanta
Last 10 Games: 5-5
PPG: 99.6 (16th)
Opponents PPG: 97.4 (13th)
Offensive Rating: 105.0 (20th)
Defensive Rating: 102.6 (9th)
Pace: 94.5 (7th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .504 (11th)
Turnover Percentage: .146 (25th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .741 (18th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .225 (27th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .209 (28th)
Opp. eFG%: .462 (2nd)
Opp. TO%: .130 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .261 (23rd)
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
With the ongoing mediocrity of the Pistons (7-18), the hapless fall of the LeBron James-less Cavaliers (7-17), and the surprising ineptitude (if you really didn’t know what to expect from Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and pre-trade deadline John Salmons) of the Bucks (9-13), the Pacers have emerged as Chicago’s closest rival in the Central Division.
Who would’ve thought?
The Pacers have been in freefall for years. In the six seasons after Ron Artest got hit by a Diet Coke in Detroit, the Pacers went from 61 wins to 44, 41, 35, 36, 36 and 32 wins.
But this season, the Pacers have shown real signs of progress. During the 2009-10 campaign, they didn’t win their 11th game until January 5, by which time they were 11-23 andvirtually out of playoff contention. As of today, they’re in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isnt some drama going on in Indy. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien has been benching starting point guard Darren Collison in favor of T.J. Ford and even A.J. Price. In fact, Price played in place of Collison for the entire fourth quarter of the Pacers’ loss in Atlanta on Friday night.
Said Collison: ”I don’t know why I didn’t play. I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough. Right now, I’m not used to it. It is what it is.”
It’s hard to figure. Collison is shooting 41 percent from downtown — compared to only 27 and 25 percent for Ford and Price, respectively — and Ford’s Player Efficiency Rating (9.0) and Offensive Rating (89) are so bad it’s hard to believe he’s still in the rotation. As for Price, he’s appeared in only five games this season. How’d he earn the crunch time PT?
Said O’Brien: ”I thought our best chance of coming back was with A.J. in the game because he spaces the court, he shoots the 3 and he also needed playing time. I also think he did a nice job.”
Price is 3-for-12 on threes this season. I’m just sayin’.
Well, with all due respect, whoever plays at the point for Indy will probably end up getting eaten alive by Derrick Rose. In his last five games against the Pacers, Rose has averaged 24.6 points and 55.4 percent shooting. On the season, Derrick is ranked 4th in PPG (25.1), 8th in Assist Percentage (40.5) and 9th in APG (8.1).
But that’s not all. After hitting a career-best five three-pointers (in only six attempts) against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, Rose is shooting 41.6 percent from downtown and 64.0 percent (16-for-25) during Chicago’s current five-game winning streak.
And to think: People used to say he couldn’t shoot.
Said Rose: “I’m trying to show everybody what I’m working on. You want to show opponents new things so when they’re going to play you, they know it’s going to be a hard night.”
Rose has scored 20 or more points in 16 of the 21 games he’s played this season. He’s had seven games of 30 or more points. So, yeah, anybody who plays against Rose is in for a hard night. About the only thing Derrick hasn’t done is figure out a way to get to the free throw line consistently. When that happens…look out.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau will have to figure out something to do about Danny Granger. After all, Granger has averaged 28.0 PPG in his last five games against the Bulls. That said, Granger is having a bit of a down year. His PER has dropped from 19.8 to 16.8 and he’s having a rough December: 6 games, 16.8 PPG, 35 percent shooting, and only 22 percent on threes.
And his last game — during which he went 3-for-14 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc — was one of his worst shooting performances of the season.
Concerns about Granger aside, Chicago’s real challenge will be shooting the basketball. Pacers opponents are shooting only 42.8 percent of their shots from the field this season. That’s the second-best FGP defense in the league, barely trailing the Miami Heat, who hold their opponents to 42.7 percent shooting.
Indy is getting it done with defense. No question about it.
The Bulls will need to be aggressive. Opponents don’t shoot well against the Pacers…but they go to the line. Indiana has given up 621 free throw attempts this season. That’s the ninth-most in the league. And eight-place Portland has given up only three more foul shots. It’s a weakness the Bulls need to exploit. Unfortunately, Chicago ranks 20th in total free throw attempts and a dismal 24th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt.
Let’s hope that can change tonight.
February 10, 2010
Going into last night’s game, Chicago had compiled a 3-17 record at Conseco Fieldhouse since Indy’s basketball palace first opened in 1999. And it’s not like the Pacers have been a powerhouse team the last several seasons. For whatever reason, the Bulls simply haven’t been able to win there.
That all changed last night. I have to admit, though, it looked like they were destined to leave Indianapolis with a 3-18 record at Conseco. For most of the game, the Bulls played defense like were just waiting to get back on offense. The Pacers scored 60 points in the first half and had 86 through three quarters.
Fortunately, Chicago finally put the clamps on in the fourth quarter, during which Indiana scored only 15 points on 33 percent shooting. It helped that Danny Granger (27 points, 9-for-23) was chucking up jumper after jumper, and Roy Hibbert (4-for-13) was just flinging the ball at the basket. The Bulls also forced six turnovers in the final quarter, thanks to the fact that the Pacers are forced to masquerade Earl Watson and T.J. Ford as point guards.
Said Kirk Hinrich: “We were able to string some stops together, and we did a good job of moving the ball down the stretch. Guys just started making simple plays, and it seemed like things started going our way when we got some stops.”
Another huge factor in this game was Chicago’s aggressiveness. The Bulls forced the action toward the hoop, earning 33 free throw attempts to only 19 for the Pacers. A big reason for that was the play of John Salmons, who scored 21 points of te Bulls bench by going 7-for-10 from the field and 7-for-10 at the charity stripe.
Said Salmons: “I felt pretty good tonight. I wanted to attack the rim as much as possible. I feel that by doing that, I can take a lot of pressure off Derrick Rose so he doesn’t have to make all the plays for us. He’s been doing a great job of that for us lately.”
Rose finished with 21 points (9-for-18) and a game-high 7 assists. Unfortunately, Derrick also tied Watson with a game-high 5 turnovers. But he began and ended a 9-0 fourth quarter run with a three-point play and a long jumper that turned a 92-86 deficit into a 96-92 lead. And the Bulls never looked back.
Said Pacers coach Jim O’Brien: “Rose in the open court was the difference in the basketball game. He attacks like a running back. There is no point guard in the league that can guard him one on one.”
O’Brien is exactly right. I just wish Derrick would use his gifts to draw more fouls. Rose finished with three foul shots, and he’s averaging only four attempts per game on the season. Free throws are what sustain a team down the stretch and during those long stretches when their offense gets out of whack. Given his speed and strength, there’s no reason Rose shouldn’t be getting seven or eight foul shots a night.
Not that I’m trying to nitpick or anything.
Luol Deng had an…unusual game. He scored a team-high 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots. But after a fire-and-lightning first quarter in which he scored 14 points, Deng just kind of hung back on offense. This has been a recurring theme for Luol lately: A strong first quarter followed by three quiet ones. I don’t know if he’s pulling back on his own or whether Vinny Del Negro just stops calling his number. All I know is that if Deng ever plays a full game the way he’s been starting them, he’s going to score 50 one of these days.
In case you’re wondering, Tyrus Thomas behaved himself, and nearly ended up with a double-double (9 points, 7 boards) in 28 minutes. The numbers aren’t great, but he provided some stability off the bench, which is all Vinny has been asking of him.
The good news is the Bulls (23-23) made it back to .500. The bad news is they have to face Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic tonight in Chicago. On the second night of back-to-backs. Without Joakim Noah. That’s a pretty tall order. Let’s hope the team is up to the challenge. It would be nice to be above .500 before the All-Star break for a change.
1st timeout: Deng fouled by Granger (2-for-2)
2nd timeout: Hinrich three-pointer (Rose assists)
3rd timeout: Rose missed three-pointer
4th timeout: Miller layup and the foul (1-for-1)
5th timeout: Miller missed jumper
Note that Derrick’s three-pointer was an attempt to beat the halftime buzzer on a play that started with only two seconds left on the clock. So that “failure” after the timeout can be forgiven. If we scratch that possession, the Bulls were successful on four of five post-timeout possessions. Note also that Chicago went on a 10-3 run after the first timeout.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
December 30, 2009
With rumors swirling about Vinny Del Negro’s dubious future, Bulls GM Gar Forman finally spoke up: “Vinny is our coach. Our goal is to get better each and every day. As a management team, we’re exploring all options in order to get better. We expect our coaches each and every day to get this team better. And I met with the team [Monday] for a while, and we expect them to work each and every day to get better. And that’s where we’re at at this point.”
So there you have it. Vinny is still the coach until he isn’t the coach, and the team goal is simply to “get better each and every day.” Not quite “Start moving toward championship number seven” is it? Nor were Forman’s words what you’d call a ringing endorsement of Del Negro’s coaching performance. Especially the “we’re exploring all options in order to get better” part. After all, firing Vinny certainly is one option for improvement.
Were the Bulls better during last night’s home victory over the Danny Granger-less Pacers? Insomuch as wins are better than losses, yes they were. But the game was a little too similar to that nightmare loss to the Kings for my tastes. Chicago started out on fire, outscoring the Pacers 34-15 in the first quarter. It looked like the Bulls were going to run their hapless opponent out of the building. After all, Indiana was without their best player, had lost six straight, and was coming off a 34-point blowout loss to the Miami Heat.
Talk about a team ready to roll over and die.
But just like in the Sacramento debacle, Indy came back, outscoring the Bulls 38-23 in the second quarter. Let me be frank: there is no reasonable excuse for letting this particular Pacers squad — who, again, are missing their leading scorer and best player — drop 38 points in a 12-minutes span.
Indiana drilled five three-pointers in that second quarter. What I don’t understand is how the Pacers kept getting open. They attempt 20.2 threes per game. That’s the seventh-most in the league. Everybody knows they want to shoot threes. So hands in the faces of the shooters, right? Only the Bulls struggle to deny penetration and have trouble protecting the paint. That tends to get players open for long-range jumpers.
The Pacers kept fighting tooth and nail, and they eventually took a 72-71 lead with 6:24 left in the third quarter. Deja vu all over again, right? However, less than a minute later, Troy Murphy left the game with an ankle sprain and didn’t return. Murphy is Indy’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. Obviously that was a big break for the Bulls.
They made the most of it. Chicago immediately ripped off a 10-0 run that was capped off by back-to-back three-pointers from John Salmons (17 points, 5 assists) and Luol Deng (15 points, 8 rebounds). The Pacers never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Despite Indiana’s almost-comeback, the game may well represent Chicago’s best offensive performance of the season. They scored a season-high 104 points on 53 percent shooting while also hitting 60 percent of their three-pointers (6-for-10) and 92 percent of their foul shots (22-for-24). To top it off, they outrebounded the Pacers 47-31.
If you’re wondering why the Bulls didn’t win by 30, you can blame sloppy defense in the second quarter and a case of group butterfingers (they surrendered 17 points off 21 turnovers). Chicago’s big men also had a rough night. Both Joakim Noah (4 points, 5 rebounds and 5 fouls in 24 minutes) and Taj Gibson (6 points, 5 rebounds and 5 fouls in 18 minutes) were limited by foul trouble, and Tyrus Thomas (2-for-10, 5 turnovers and a missed dunk) looked incredibly rusty (although he did grab a game-high 15 rebounds and block a game-best 3 shots).
One positive sign was the aggressive offensive play of Derrick Rose. D-Rose scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, including 11 in the fourth quarter. I like that Rose looks ready to be the team’s closer. I do. Really.
But…I also worry about little things. Little things like the fact that 18 of his 20 field goal attempts were jump shots. Like the fact that he had only 6 assists while also committing a game-high 6 turnovers. The fact that Rose often looks like a shooting guard who’s being forced to play point guard worries me a lot. Maybe it’s the coaching, maybe it’s the system, or maybe that’s just the player Derrick is.
But at least we know that the team is working hard to get better each and every day. So I’m sure everything that went wrong last night should be improved by the time the Bulls play the Pistons in Detroit on Thursday.
Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
October 5, 2009
By and large, I don’t particularly enjoy preseason games. Ultimately, they’re meaningless, especially when they come against a lottery team that last season ranked 19th in Defensive Rating (109.2) and 26th in PPG Allowed (106.2). Of course, the Bulls ranked 18th in Defensive Rating (108.7) and 20th in PPG Allowed (102.5), so maybe I shouldn’t point fingers.
Anyway, Bulls versus Pacers ended with the Windy City Steers on top 104-95. And wins, even meaningless ones over bad teams, are better than losses, so that’s something. Here are the notables:
Guys who looked good:
Let’s hear it for the starting backcourt! Derrick Rose (17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers) and John Salmons (15 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover) combined to shoot 14-for-21 (66 percent) from the field (although they were 0-for-2 from downtown and Rose went 1-for-3 from the line).
Chicago’s player of the game was Taj Gibson, who submitted the following mighty fine rookie line: 19 points, 6-for-12 from the field, 7-for-8 from the line, 5 offensive rebounds, 9 total rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 5 fouls. Take special notice of the eight foul shots he earned. The dude brought some serious intensity…which I seriously loved. So did Vinny Del Negro: “Taj is like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps on coming at ya. He shoots it better than you think, he’s picking and popping, he’s long. Just a great effort for a first game for a rookie. It’s a good sign for him.” And a good sign for the Bulls.
And I like the kid’s attitude. Said Gibson: “I’m just an athletic, extremely high-energy guy. If I have to go out and get a couple rebounds, take a charge, I’m willing to do anything to help the team win. That’s my whole mind-frame right now.” Of course, the cynic in me realizes a lot of rookies make statements like that until they stop getting minutes and/or fall out of the regular rotation. But if Taj genuinely means what he says, and if he gives “first preseason game” effort all season, I don’t see him falling out of Vinny’s rotation.
Guys who looked both good and bad:
In 24 minutes, Joakim Noah notched game-highs in defensive rebounds (7) and total rebounds (10). He also had a team-high 3 blocked shots. BUT…his offense (4 points on 1-for-6 shooting) looked as awkward and clunky as ever. Noah also committed 4 fouls in limited PT. For Joakim’s positive development to continue, he has to stay out of foul trouble this season. Not that I want to read too much into his fouls. After all, it’s the preseason. (But still…)
Tyrus Thomas had 9 points, 3 boards and 3 steals before literally getting knocked out of the game with a concussion after he took a charge from Danny Granger in the third quarter. But his shooting was, well, pretty much on par for him (3-for-8) and he committed a couple turnovers. It might have been a bad sign for Ty’s future in Chicago that his potential replacement (Gibson) played so well. Oh, and the following comment from Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald is worth noting: “This would be the second concussion in less than a year for Thomas, who missed two games last December after taking an elbow to the head.”
Luol Deng gave a nice all-around contribution (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a perfect 9-for-9 from the line), but his shooting left a lot to be desired (3-for-10). And his man, Granger, went off for 27 points (7-for-13 from the field, 11-for-12 from the line) in 26 minutes.
Guys who looked bad:
While one rookie was catching fire, another was frosting over. James Johnson finished with more fouls (6) than points (4), shot only 1-for-6, and had no rebounds in 20 minutes. The fouls (he’s a rookie) and shooting I can forgive. But frontcourt players have to crash the boards. Zero rebounds in 20 minutes? That’s not even remotely acceptable in my book.
Guys who didn’t play:
Brad Miller (“rest”), Kirk Hinrich (hamstring), Jannero Pargo (sore right wrist), Aaron Gray (left fibula stress fracture).
Possible reason for concern:
The Bulls went 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. One of those three conversions came from Lindsey Hunter (who won’t be a regular) and two of them came from Derrick Byars (who probably won’t make the team). Of course, Hinrich and Pargo were out, so that’s some cosolation. That said, without Ben Gordon Chicago’s long-distance shooting will be a concern until they start hitting some.
Recap, Box Score, Photos.