March 23, 2013
Indiana Pacers Status Check:
Road Record: 15-18
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Won 3
Last game: 102-78 win over Milwaukee
PPG: 94.4 (21st)
Opponents PPG: 89.8 (2nd)
Offensive Rating: 103.9 (20th)
Defensive Rating: 98.8 (1st)
Pace: 90.0 (26th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .477 (23rd)
Turnover Percentage: .142 (25th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .749 (3rd)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .303 (4th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .211 (11th)
Opp. eFG%: .448 (1st)
Opp. TO%: .129 (25th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .198 (9th)
Leading scorer: Paul George (17.6)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Indiana Injury Report:
Danny Granger: missed Friday’s game (sore knee)
David West: missed Friday’s game (sprained lower back)
The rollercoaster that is the 2012-2013 Chicago Bulls season took another dip on Thursday night when the Bulls slept through the second quarter and lost by double digits to the Trail Blazers. It’s the point on the ride when you feel like you’re going to throw up, but then remember you threw up on that last dip (the loss to Charlotte, probably). Chicago has a tougher opponent tonight in Indiana, the second place team in the East. They do luck out a little bit though, as the Pacers will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Bulls will try to avoid a sweep from their division rivals at home tonight, having dropped the first three games in the series by four, ten and five points.
Who knows which Chicago Bulls will show up tonight, which is really what the game boils down to. Will it be the team that got blown out by the Kings and zombie-walked throught Thursday’s second quarter? Or will it be the squad that dominated Golden State and stuck right with Denver?
To say most of the Bulls were awful against the Blazers would be an understatement. It would have been better if many of them hadn’t been on the court. Kirk Hinrich, in his long awaited return from a somewhat phantom injury, scored two points on 1-7 shooting to go with two turnovers and three assists. Production from your starting point guard!
But it didn’t end there. Nate Robinson finished 4-12 from the field, but at least he had nine assists. Production from your back-up point guard! Luol Deng couldn’t find the hole, going 2-7. Same with Marco Belinelli, who shot 3-10.
Joakim Noah (7-10), Carlos Boozer (8-18), Taj Gibson (7-14) and Jimmy Butler (4-7) played well. But it wasn’t close to enough to overcome that awful guard play.
It was an ugly game, but Tom Thibodeau did something crazy…he played Noah and Deng less than 30 minutes each. Lu played 26 minutes, while Joakim logged 27. I don’t know why Thibs chose this game to rest his guys, considering it wasn’t a back-to-back scenario, and the Bulls actually had a solid amount of rest on each side of the contest. Whatever his reason, I’m not complaining, because I’ve been all over Thibs for his minute allocation this season.
Rest is never a bad thing really in my opinion, and both guys will probably log huge minutes in each game of this upcoming back-to-back.
The Bulls have been getting beaten on the glass so far this season against the Pacers, bringing down just 38.3 boards per game against Indiana, compared to 43.2 rebounds per contest on the season. Noah did miss one game against the Pacers, in which the Bulls 47-35.
The other reason the Bulls are 0-3 against Indiana is foul shots. Chicago has shot 20.0 free throws per game against Indy, a little under their average of 21.3. The Pacers, on the other hand, have shot nearly 31.3 free throws in the three contests against Chicago, almost ten more than their season average (22.7). In games that have been decided by ten or fewer points, those extra foul shots can be the difference between a win and a loss.
The problem for the Bulls, is that they don’t have anyone to really drive and make contact. Boozer fades as far away from contact as possible, and everyone else struggles to create their own shot. Jimmy Butler seems like the only guy on the team that isn’t afraid to drive and take some contact.
The Bulls will luck out as David West is expected to miss the game. West scored 31 points and 29 points in the last two match-ups, after finishing with just ten in the first contest.
Tyler Hansbrough, filling in for West, scored 22 points (8-14) and brought down 12 boards against the Bucks as the Pacers cruised to victory. Paul George scored 20 points, Roy Hibbert posted eleven points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, while the Bucks made just 31 of their 101 field goals (30.7 percent). Milwaukee brought down 22 offensive rebounds, but just could not get the ball to fall.
Indiana is third in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (.749) and will focus on controlling the defensive glass for tonight’s game.
Indiana is 11-6 when playing on no rest, good for second best win percentage in the league trailing only Miami (12-1).
March 4, 2013
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.
An undermanned Bulls team — currently missing their superstar (Derrick Rose), two starters (Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton), and their top reserve (Taj Gibson) — playing with their backs against the wall against a top-notch opponent.
It’s been that kind of season. Actually, it’s been this way for the past two seasons.
During last year’s lockout-shortened season, the Bulls lost 52 player games to injury. This season, the Bulls have lost 109 players games to injury. And counting.
Insert standard Tom Thibodeau response here: ”It’s the NBA, we’ve got plenty in that locker room, we’ve got to get the job done.”
I get the feelings Thibs would say that even if all 12 of his players were injured and the entire roster was replaced with D-League players.
About the only thing that changed in the Bulls favor last night is that Rose was actually present and on the bench. Other than that, it was business as usual, with the players giving their best effort without complaining or making excuses.
The Bulls certainly competed. They just couldn’t finish.
The Bulls got another strong effort out of Joakim Noah (14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists). Marco Belinelli started in place of Hamilton, scoring 20 points and connecting on four of his five three-point attempts. Jimmy Butler was great off the bench, scoring 20 points on 11 shots and hitting three three-pointers. And Deng (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) came alive in the fourth quarter when the Bulls were trying to rally.
However, the Bulls couldn’t contain David West, who matched his season-high with 31 points on 11-for-18 shooting. West also went 9-for-9 from the line and got pretty much whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it, particularly off pick and rolls, and especially down the stretch.
After the Bulls had managed to tie the game at 80-80 with just over seven minutes to go, West ran a pick and roll with George Hill and got a layup. On Indy’s next possession, West drew a foul and hit both freebies.
Following two baskets by Roy Hibbert — one coming from an offensive rebound — Paul George found West for another layup. Still later, with the Bulls trailing only 92-89 with about a half minute to go, West missed a layup attempt, snared the rebound (after Noah sailed by and fell down) and put in the shot to make it a two possession game.
Butler made things exciting by hitting a three to pull the Bulls to within three with 19.9 seconds left, and Hill made things even more exciting by missing both free throws with 13.6 seconds left to give the Bulls one final chance. But there was West again, stealing the ball from Noah and sealing the game with a couple free throws.
Too. Much. David. West.
Said Pacers coach Frank Vogel: ”[West] leads our team in will. He has a great will to do whatever is necessary to get the job done and to get a ‘W’ and that was clear tonight.”
I can’t disagree. Although I sure would have liked to see West’s will tested by a healthy Gibson.
Of course the Pacers would probably have liked to have had a healthy Danny Granger. And the Bulls a healthy Rose. So on and so forth. But, as Thibodeau says, this is the NBA, and you play the guys who can suit up.
The Bulls were outrebounded 42-34. The Pacers also had a slight edge in offensive boards, which gave them a slim advantage in second-chance points (15-14). These are areas in which the Bulls usually need to excel in order to beat the league’s better teams. Without Gibson, and with Boozer (6 points, 3-for-9, 2 rebounds) limited to a mostly ineffective 17 minutes, that just didn’t happen.
Those little things can kill a team. And prevent them from finishing games…or starting them well.
Said Thibs: ”The thing is we got to find ways to win games. It doesn’t matter. We have more than enough in that locker room. Those guys are all capable of doing well. We played from behind most of the night, and it’s important to play with a lead. We got to come out with more fire to start the game, more intensity; the level of intensity has to be a lot higher.”
One golden nugget from the game was Chicago’s bench production. Nazr Mohammed (7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) nearly outplayed Indiana’s bench (8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block) by himself. And as you can tell from the plus-minus scores, it was the bench that brought the Bulls back in this one.
Said Noah: ”[The second group] played really well and that’s what we need. We need a team effort every night and everybody to be into it. It’s always tough to lose, but I think that we fought collectively and I think we fought really hard.”
Countered Deng: ”We lost. You always acknowledge the great things we did out there, but at the end of the day we got to find ways to get that win. It’s tough every time you lose.”
It’s true. There are no moral victories in this league. Only wins and losses.
Next up: The Spurs in San Antonio on Wednesday.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
March 3, 2013
Indiana Pacers Status Check:
Home Record: 24-6
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 93-81 win over Toronto
PPG: 93.9 (25th)
Opponents PPG: 89.6 (1st)
Offensive Rating: 103.5 (21st)
Defensive Rating: 98.8 (1st)
Pace: 89.8 (26th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .477 (22nd)
Turnover Percentage: .144 (27th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .744 (8th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .301 (4th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .209 (13th)
Opp. eFG%: .446 (1st)
Opp. TO%: .129 (25th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .200 (12th)
Leading scorer: Paul George (17.8)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Pacers Injury Report:
Chicago moved a half-game ahead of Brooklyn and into a tie with Atlanta for fourth place in the Eastern Conference by beating the Nets last night. The Bulls can put a little more cushion between them and the Nets tonight when they take on third-place Indiana on the road.
The Bulls played a good game against Brooklyn last night. Chicago started slow, but the Nets faded quickly on the second night of a back-to-back and then the Bulls took over. After an early deficit, they fought back to end the first quarter in a tie, then ended the half on a 13-0 run and had the lead the rest of the way.
Chicago overcame a poor shooting night from Luol Deng (3-10) thanks to solid nights from both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson also shot relatively well from the field.
Noah didn’t have another triple-double, but he scored 21 points on 10-13 shooting to go with ten rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks (he also had five turnovers). Boozer tallied 20 points and five steals. It was Boozington’s third straight game scoring at least 20 points.
It’ll be great for the Bulls if he can continue that scoring run tonight. Boozer has averaged just 12.0 points in the two previous games against the Pacers.
The Bulls finally found a team that liked to turn it over more than them. Chicago scored 24 points off of 20 Brooklyn turnovers, while the Bulls turned it over 19 times.
The Bulls had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the starters, as expected, still finished the game, which ended as an eleven-point victory.
“I saw the way the game was going,” Tom Thibodeau said when asked why the starters finished. “You’re jogging back. They have a lot of 3-point shooting on the floor.”
I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but for some reason I am. Thibodeau does it every game. It’s as sure to happen as an ill-advised Nate Robinson three-pointer or Carlos Boozer being made to look like a traffic cone on defense. Luckily for Thibodeau, he has the support of his current best player.
“We have a great coach but he doesn’t understand whole rest thing yet I don’t think,” Noah said. “We all want to win, so it’s all good.”
It’s good until an injury happens, or maybe even when Noah (41 minutes), Luol Deng (44) and Kirk (39) come out looking flat on the second night of a back-to-back. Stay tuned for that.
Indiana is going for their seventh win in eight games, and looking to improve to 3-0 against the Bulls this season. Their only loss during their last eight was to the Clippers, one of three losses in February. The Pacers haven’t allowed an opponent to score 100 points since a February 8 overtime loss to Toronto, though the Bulls did score 101 points the last time these two teams met.
David West struggled in the first match-up, going 3-12and managing just ten points, but he exploded the second time around, dropping 29 points on 18 shots. Marco Belinelli also went off in that February game, scoring 24 points off the bench. Noah missed the second contest, and it showed on the glass. The Bulls were out-rebounded 47-35.
Chicago has their work cut out for them on the offensive end going up against the top defense in the league. Indiana is first in defensive rating and 21st in offensive rating, while the Bulls are fourth and 23rd respectively. That probably means we are in for a low scoring game. In its last seven games, Indiana has been holding opponents to 85.6 points and 38.0 percent shooting, according to STATS LLC. The Bulls are coming off a game in which they shot 52.1 percent, their best in a long time.
Luol Deng plans to play today, even though he may need a root canal and says his bottom jaw is out of line from a Spencer Hawes elbow.
Indiana is 24-6 at home while the Bulls are 7-6 playing on no rest.
February 4, 2013
Update: Carlos Boozer will return tonight and is in the starting lineup. That means Jimmy Butler will once again come off the bench.
Indiana Pacers Status Check:
Home Record: 18-3
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Won 2
Last game: 102-89 win over Miami
PPG: 92.0 (29th)
Opponents PPG: 89.9 (2nd)
Offensive Rating: 102.0 (27th)
Defensive Rating: 99.6 (1st)
Pace: 89.4 (27th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .470 (24th)
Turnover Percentage: .145 (26th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .745 (5th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .303 (4th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .197 (21st)
Opp. eFG%: .452 (1st)
Opp. TO%: .128 (26th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .192 (7th)
Leading scorer: Paul George (17.3)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Pacers Injury Report:
Danny Granger: out (knee)
George Hill: questionable (bruised shoulder)
Originally scheduled for December 26, the Bulls and Pacers will play more than a month after their game was postponed because of weather. It isn’t the best time for the Bulls to face a tough Central Division opponent, as they are dealing with multiple injuries, but the Bulls showed in Atlanta that they can overcome missing three starters (four if you count Rose). Chicago enters Monday’s contest with a one-game lead over Indiana in the Central Division race.
Indiana is also coming off of an impressive win, theirs over the Heat. David West led the way with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Pacers topped Miami for the second time this season. Paul George and Lance Stephenson both scored 16 points on 6-11 shooting and Tyler Hansbrough finished with eleven points off the bench.
Perhaps the good news for the Bulls is that Roy Hibbert scored seven points on 3-8 shooting. The Bulls will probably be without Joakim Noah, and perhaps Carlos Boozer again, so the fewer bigs Chicago has to worry about the better. Hibbert is averaging 11.3 points on 47.4 percent shooting over his last ten games.
Tom Thibodeau has decided he would rather play small, with Luol Deng at the four and Taj Gibson at center, than give any time to Nazr Mohammed. Mohammed played eight minutes against the Nets, scoring four points, before Thibs decided that was enough.
Going small is not an issue in itself. The Bulls beat the Hawks that way, and Al Horford is a good center. The Heat won the Finals last season going small. The only issue with it is that those “small” guys are playing too many minutes.
Deng played 93:41 and Gibson played 93:13 out of a possible 96 minutes in a back-to-back situation. And that situation wasn’t the NBA Finals. Nate Robinson played 81 minutes and Jimmy Butler played 85. The win was more than impressive, and even the way Chicago fought against the Nets was surprising, but there is a chance these high minutes could cause more injuries, then who do the Bulls turn to?
Mohammaed and Daequan Cook each got “DNP Coach’s Decision” against Atlanta. Playing on no rest, with ten healthy bodies, you’d think everyone would at least get a little run. But apparently that’s not “Thibs Ball,” as basically six guys did all the work. Marquis Teague played seven minutes and Vladimir Radmanovic played five against the Hawks. Similar to Nazr’s eight and Teague’s seven against the Nets.
And again, this isn’t to take anything away from the Bulls. They fought hard both games, ultimately coming up short against the Nets when they ran out of gas. They got some help from the Hawks, in that Atlanta didn’t play its best basketball. The Bulls won the rebounding battle 53-45 in a game which they were playing small.
Two of the NBA’s best defenses face off in this one, with the first (Indiana) and fourth (Chicago) best squads when it comes to defensive rating. The Pacers are first in opponent effective field goal percentage (.452) and the Bulls are second (.459).
Chicago hasn’t allowed its opponent to score 100 points since January 16, and has held opponents to less than 90 points in eight of the past nine games (Brooklyn scored 93). The Bulls are 6-3 in those games.
The Pacers have allowed 100 points in three of their last 17 games. Those three games resulted in a three-game losing skid, against the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Nuggets. Indy has rebounded, giving up 79 to the Pistons and 89 to the Heat (Miami is 3rd in offensive efficiency and averages 102.4 per game).
Indiana is tied for the fourth best home record in the league, at 18-3. The Bulls still have the best road record at 14-7.
Trending up: David West and Paul George are both shooting well over their last ten games. West is 53.5 percent over his last ten, up from 48.5 and George has improved from 42.7 percent on the season to 44.5 over the last ten.
February 5, 2009
You know those National Geographic-style nature specials where a pack of hungry lions stumbles across an injured buffalo/elephant/hyena/whatever? The moment those lions sense weakness or smell a little blood, they launch into a brutal and savage feeding frenzy. Have you ever seen a buffalo get stuffed into a blender? No, probably not, because that’s crazy. But it’s sort of what the attack looks like, only the “blender” is a throbbing mass of swiping claws and snapping teeth. It’s vicious and it’s ugly. It’s also nature in action: Only the strong survive.
Watching the strong prey on the weak isn’t something that’s limited to Animal Planet programming, though. It happens in the NBA all the time. When a team senses that its opponent is vulnerable, that team immediately moves in for a swift and merciless kill. That’s exactly what happened in New Orleans last night. The Bulls pounced on the Chris Paul-less (not to mention Mo Pete-less and Tyson Chandler-less) Hornets from the opening tip, and in doing so they looked as confident and assertive as I’ve seen them this season.
The Men in Red — yes, it’s a blood analogy — hit 13 of their first 16 shots and were up 31-20 by the end of the first quarter. The bulge grew to 18 by halftime (62-44), and those first 24 minutes were like a pregame shootaround: Chicago hit 63.4 percent of their field goal attempts, converting seven layups and seven dunks in the process. (Again, there was no Tyson Chandler around to protect the rim.)
The Bulls’ lead bulged to 22 points in the third quarter and then again early in the fourth. The Hornets tried to rally — hey, it’s the NBA, and everybody makes a run — but the best they could manage was cutting the deficit to 10 with 4:01 left in the game. But from that point, the Bulls just ground things out and ended up winning 107-93.
The Hornets shot only 36 percent and committed 15 turnovers. But without Chris Paul to guide them, the offensive woes were to be expected. No, it was New Orleans’ relative defenselessness that was stunning. Those 62 points the Bulls scored in the first two quarters represented the most the Hornets have given up in a half this season. And Chicago’s 56 percent shooting was the highest field-goal percentage by a New Orleans opponent during the 2008-09 campaign. Simply put, they could not stop the Bulls. And at times, it was like they weren’t even trying.
Said Hornets coach Byron Scott: “Guys getting to the paint for layups and dunks — I don’t think that has a lot to do with Chris Paul. It has more to do with us and toughness and pride more than anything. … It’s got to get to a point where you say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Then you start taking some pride on the defensive end. We’ve got to really take pride in that end where we’re not allowing guys to get down the lane for layups and dunks that are uncontested. It’s got to be different than that.”
That sounds like something Vinny Del Negro could have said at various times throughout this up-and-mostly-down season. But he never did. And suddenly he doesn’t have to. A lot of people figured the Bulls would probably go 0-7 on this road trip. Instead, they’re 4-2 with one game to go (in Dallas on Saturday). That should be considered an unqualified success in anyone’s book, even if that person rated this season a “disaster” and “embarrassing” just a few days ago.
Of course, it would be easy enough to dismiss those four wins, coming as they did against the hapless Clippers, the hapless-er Kings, an imploding Suns team and now a Hornets squad that was missing a key reserve, their starting center and an MVP candidate. But whatever the circumstances, they all go into the win column in the season standings. And the Bulls have looked like an actual team. One that could be decent, even good someday…maybe even sooner rather than later.
Versus the Hornets, Derrick Rose was fantastic (21 points, 10-for-14, 4 rebounds, 6 assists). Tyrus Thomas had his fourth double-double in the last five games (15 points and 10 rebounds, plus 3 blocked shots). Joakim Noah came back from an embarrassing outing against the Rockets to contribute 16 points (on 7-for-9 shooting) and 9 boards. Ben Gordon added 19 points and a game-high 7 assists. Andres Nocioni provided 13 points and some attitude off the bench. Six Bulls scored in double figures, providing the kind of balanced, all-around effort coaches love.
Of course, the Bulls were once again exploited by an opposing big man: David West had 24 points, 14 rebounds (including 8 offensive boards), 4 assists, and 3 blocked shots. So Chicago’s interior defense is still an issue. But that’s a worry for another day. This win marks the first winning road trip the Bulls have enjoyed since 1997-98. So please excuse the team and their fans for basking in their 15 minutes of glory.
TrueHoop Network: According to Ryan Schwan of Hornets24/7: “The Bulls came out, smacked the Hornets in the mouth in the first half, and it was pretty much over. I know last game against Portland there was much criticism about the Hornets offense with Paul out — how Byron’s schemes were at fault – how the guys aren’t cutting enough, but here’s the reality — and it’s been the reality about the Hornets all season: The Hornets are a mediocre defensive team.” Read more.
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.