May 2, 2013
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.
April 29, 2013
MVP (Most Valuable Player): Brook Lopez once again led the Nets, posting 28 points and ten boards. Lopez also got to the line seven times, hitting six of those freebies. He was 8-11 on shots at the rim and 10-14 inside the paint. On everything else he was 1-6. The Bulls had been doing a solid job of keeping him away from the bucket, but not in Game 6.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): I feel like I’ve said it a lot this season, but with Derrick Rose out and Joakim Noah injured, the Bulls’ other “All-Star” needs to show up. Well, Deng hasn’t been there this series. Lu finished with 12 points on 6-14 from the field and 0-3 from deep. For the series, Deng is 1-18 from three point range.
Defining Moment: Gerald Wallace’s five points in 17 seconds with just over two minutes left in the game put it out of reach. Wallace hit a corner three and then stole an errant Nate Robinson pass and slammed home a breakaway dunk. Unfortunately he didn’t miss it like C.J. Watson did, and the Bulls hopes of another comeback were dashed.
X factor: The Bulls were allowing nine offensive rebounds per game in this series.Tonight they gave up 17 offensive rebounds and 24 second chance points. Chicago allowed the Nets to shoot 50 percent from the field—they can’t also give up 17 offensive rebounds and expect to win. C.J. Watson even had two O-boards.
April 27, 2013
With some help from Brooklyn’s offense, the Bulls’ defense has been fantastic the past two games, helping Chicago to a 2-1 lead in the series. But, not surprisingly, the Bulls haven’t been able to pull away and capture a convincing win.
C.J. Watson missed a chance to tie at the buzzer, but looking at the Nets’ stats, they should have been nowhere near the Bulls. Let’s take a gander at some of the most surprising stats on the Nets’ offense.
Brooklyn shot 9-40 in the first half, which equates to 22.5 percent. They missed 14 shots in a row while Bulls went on 14-0 run—which helped Chicago dig itself out of an early 17-5 hole— that extended into a 28-4 run. During that stretch, the Nets missed 25 of 26 shots. But wait, it doesn’t end there.
Game 2 and Game 3 were two of the four worst shooting nights on the year for Brooklyn at 35.4 percent and 34.6 percent.
And with how terrible they’ve been shooting, John Schuhmann tweeted out a great stat: Reggie Evans has just two offensive rebounds this playoff series. Evans averaged 3.3 offensive boards per game this season. But it’s not just Evans that can’t get any offensive boards, it’s everybody. Brooklyn was third during the regular season in offensive rebounding percentage at 30.9. In Game 3, they had a 15.2 offensive rebounding percentage—their lowest of the season. In Game 2, it was 23.9. Chicago was a middle of the road defensive rebounding team, so credit to Carlos Boozer (keeping Evans off the glass) and the rest of the squad for realizing how important it is to control the defensive rebounds.
(Side note: Boozer’s offense has been great, which has to be connected to him having the ability to purely focus on scoring and rebounding. With the bulk of his minutes coming against Evans, Boozer doesn’t have to worry about pretending to try on defense. He just has to rebound and score, two things he is quite good at.)
Despite all these ugly stats, the Nets still had a chance to tie and steal Game 3. Why? Well because the Bulls offense is never much better than the other team’s. The Bulls had just one field goal in the final seven minutes and of course didn’t hit all their foul shots down the stretch (50 percent in the fourth quarter). This allowed Brooklyn to close the game on a 12-2 run.
But, as has been the case all season, the Bulls did enough to win. This ugly three-point victory counts just the same as Brooklyn’s Game 1 blowout. And the Bulls are fine with winning this way. “It’s not going to be pretty,” Noah said after Game 3. “We have to grind it out, tough it out. This is our style of play. Go out and fight. We’ve dealt with so much this year; to just win is huge. So, it’s not easy, it’s not pretty … but it is rewarding.”
The question is if the Bulls can shut down this Brooklyn offense for three straight games? Or perhaps have its offense come alive, so it doesn’t have to hold the Nets under 90 points to get the victory. You’re right, the first one seems more likely.
Since that Game 1 shellacking, the Bulls have done exactly what they needed to do. They’ve protected the paint (Nets went 15-28 at the rim and 19-39 in the paint), shut down the role players (combined 6-28 for Gerald Wallace, Andray Blatche, Jerry Stackhouse and C.J. Watson in Game 3) and made everything tough on Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
Lopez has been the only consistent scorer for Brooklyn, averaging 21.3 points on 48.9 percent from the field. Stopping a 7-footer with solid range is tough, especially without Joakim Noah fully healthy, but if the Bulls can continue to hold everyone else down, they won’t need to stop Lopez. The only guy slowing down Lopez effectively is P.J. Carlesimo, who has decided to play the center 34.0 minutes per game. Maybe this is the Bulls fan in me, as I’ve seen a starting center get run into the ground 40 minutes per night, but Lopez should be getting more run. It’s the playoffs and he has been their only consistent scorer. Tim Duncan is averaging about 34 minutes per contest in the postseason, and no one takes it easier on their big guy than Gregg Popovic.
The wins aren’t pretty or all that great to watch for a casual fan, but it’s the way the Bulls are built to do it. “We did what we had to do to win the game,” Boozer said. “In the playoffs, you have to win different ways. Nothing is perfect.”
I don’t think anybody will confuse what the Bulls are doing for “perfect,” but a 3-1 series lead with Rose out and Noah hobbling would be as close as this team can get.
Stat of the day: The Nets haven’t won a road playoff game since April, 21 2007, a 96-91 victory at Toronto.
April 24, 2013
With the series heading to Chicago, the Bulls find themselves back on track, after righting the ship in Game 2 of their matchup with Brooklyn. The Bulls followed up a dismal Game 1 performance with a much more spirited defensive effort, and managed to wrestle home-court advantage from the Nets.
Fighting through injury Joakim Noah was the Bulls’ MVP once again, a spot he held down for most of the year. Nazr Mohammed stepped up, Kirk Hinrich’s defense was much improved and Rip Hamilton didn’t see the floor. Plus, nearly everything that worked for Brooklyn in Game 1, failed them in Game 2.
First, they couldn’t hit at the rim. After shooting 22-27 at the basket in the opening game of the series, Brooklyn struggled from in close, shooting 12-26. Brook Lopez was 2-6, Gerald Wallace was 1-5 and Kris Humphries was 1-3 at the bucket. The Bulls were contesting everything in close, and that goes for everyone from Joakim Noah to Nazr Mohammed to Luol Deng to Jimmy Butler.
Chicago also shut down Brooklyn’s role players. Wallace was 5-7 in Game 1 for 14 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and two blocks. In Game 2 he had just two points, on 1-7 shooting and grabbed three boards. That wasn’t necessarily the most surprising regression, considering Wallace has played poorly this season. And while Deng didn’t have a great shooting game (7-17 FG, 15 points), he didn’t get outplayed by Wallace like he did in the opening contest (ten rebounds, four assists, two blocks).
Back to the Nets role players, after combining for 26 points on 12-19 shooting, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche struggled a little on Monday, hitting 8-18 from the field for 18 points.
The Bulls are playing without their star, and with their second best player hindered by plantar fasciitis. They need their role players to out-play Brooklyn’s. Butler needs to slow Joe Johnson. Deng clearly needs to outplay Wallace. Boozer, who had a down night with just 13 points, needs to control the boards against Reggie Evans and score on the other end. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are almost always going to get their points, but the Bulls should win the rest of the battles.
I say “almost always going to get their points,” because both Williams and Lopez had trouble in Game 2. Deron Williams had an awful game, hitting just a single shot from the floor (1-9) and finishing in single digits (eight points). I’d love to say this was all the Bulls’ defense, but that wasn’t the whole story. Hinrich did a good job defending Williams, but Deron missed some open shots. (The same can be said of Joe Johnson who went 6-18.) What the Bulls did do, was keep Williams away from the basket. In Game 1, Deron went 4-4 at the rim and 3-4 from 3-9 feet. In Game 2, he was 0-1 at the rim and 1-2 from 3-9 feet. Hinrich and good help defense are to credit for Williams being unable to get anything going inside.
And although Brook Lopez was still solid he did most of his damage from outside. That’s exactly where the Bulls want him to work. Lopez went 2-6 at the rim and 3-5 from 16-23 feet. Lopez can hit that long two, but the Bulls will give it to him rather than getting roasted in the paint again. Lopez hit all three of those jumpers in the last 4:41 of the second quarter. The Bulls played it the same every time. Noah, who was a step slow, didn’t contest as he usually would have, but the bottom line is that if Lopez wins the series with that shot, the Bulls will live with it. Brook shot 37 percent from 16-23 feet this season.
Chicago also benefited from Brooklyn shooting 2-of-19 in the third quarter and missing their last 10 shots in the frame. That helped the Bulls turn a one-point halftime lead into a 12-point advantage going into the fourth.
Finally, the Nets went 8-10 on isolation shots in Game 1. In Game 2, they were 2-15.
Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls clearly made their adjustments after Game 1, and Game 2 was much more what I expected from this series. It was close and ugly. The Bulls defense showed up and made the Nets work. But at the same time, Williams isn’t going to have another 1-9 shooting night and Brooklyn missed an awful lot of open shots. The Bulls made their changes, especially protecting the rim, but the Nets had a pretty bad night.
In the end, Chicago did what it needed to do: it stole home-court by gutting out a win, and now needs replicate that in the United Center.
The biggest question is how well Noah will play: will it be Game 1 Jo or Game 2 Jo? Heading into the playoffs, Noah has three days of rest before the opening contest. He managed just 13 minutes in that matchup, and they weren’t very productive minutes. Then, he got two days of rest before carrying the Bulls in Game 2. Now, he is back to having three days of rest before playing in the United Center. Hopefully, the extra day of rest means Noah will have the same type of energy he did in Game 2. According to Tom Thibodeau, Noah is expected to be on the 25-minute limit once again.
And speaking of plantar fasciitis, Joe Johnson did not practice on Wednesday because of it. He is listed as a game-time decision for Game 3.
The Bulls went 24-17 in the United Center, while the Nets were 23-18 on the road.
April 21, 2013
Game 1: Brooklyn wins 106-89
Nets lead series 1-0
Brooklyn: Brook Lopez: 21 points, 5 rebounds
Deron Williams: 22 points, 7 assists
Chicago: Carlos Boozer: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists
Nate Robinson: 17 points
Almost nothing went right for the Bulls in their opening game of the postseason and it was over before halftime. If playoff series are all about adjustments, Tom Thibodeau has a chance to show how good of a coach he is. It’ll be an uphill battle, but there are plenty of changes he can make.
Chicago got beaten in every facet of the game. Brooklyn’s stars showed up (Brook Lopez had 21 points and Deron Williams had 22), while the Bulls’ stars were sidelined (Rose), hobbled (Noah) or invisible (Deng). When Carlos Boozer leads your team in points, rebounds and assists, something has gone terribly wrong.
What I would suggest? Do everything differently—everything.
The Bulls gave up 40 points in the paint in the first half, while managing to score 35 total points. They let the Nets convert 20 of 24 shots at the rim for the game and 8 of 12 shots from 3-9 feet. That’s 28-36 inside of nine feet. The Bulls cannot allow that type of conversion if they want to win this series.
The guy who did the most damage in the paint was Brook Lopez. Brooklyn’s center was 7-8 at the rim and 7-7 from the line, meaning all 21 of his points came from those two areas. He was 0-1 from 3-9 feet and 0-5 from 16-23 feet. That shows how imperative it is for the Bulls to keep Lopez away from the basket.
Unfortunately, Lopez showed that Taj Gibson can’t guard him on the block. Lopez was too strong for Taj, leaving the only options either Boozer or Nazr Mohammed (Noah didn’t play enough minutes to be a factor). As much as the idea of playoff minutes for Nazr probably scares Bulls fans, it may be a necessity. Because if Chicago cannot find a way to make it harder for Lopez to score—preferably pushing him out and forcing him to shoot midrange jumpers instead getting buckets at the rim—then this series will be over quickly.
Stopping, or rather slowing, Lopez and Deron Williams would be nice, but the Bulls may want to focus on stopping the role players. During the regular season, Lopez scored 22.0 points per game against the Bulls. Williams added 19.8 in the four games with Chicago. So that combination averaged 42 points against the Bulls in the regular season, and scored 43 in Game 1. News flash: the Bulls didn’t lose by one point.
It was the other guys that hurt the Bulls more. C.J. Watson (OF ALL PEOPLE) went 6-8 for 14 points off the bench. Gerald Wallace woke up from his season slumber to score 14 points (5-7 FG) as well. Joe Johnson tallied four assists and four rebounds to go along with his 16 points. And Andray Blatche dropped 12. Hell, even Reggie Evans scored five points (Evans averaged 4.5 points this season).
Lopez and Williams are star players. It will be very tough to stop them. With Noah either out or a couple of steps slow, it will be even tougher to handle Lopez and protect the rim in general. But the Bulls have been doing that all season. Chicago was seventh best in the league at protecting the rim, holding teams to 63.0 percent from there. They also held opponents to 38.9 from 3-9 feet. Chicago will need to get closer to those numbers to keep this series within reach.
K.C. Johnson says that it’s possible either Marco Belinelli or Rip Hamilton may be bumped out of the rotation. I have my fingers crossed that it’s Rip. He was dreadful in game one, and considering Hamilton played just seven minutes compared to 20 for Belinelli, I’d say Thibs knows who should sit as well.
The bigger news is that Noah is apparently going to give it a go again tonight. He wasn’t good in Game 1, hobbling through 13 minutes of action in which he recorded four points and five boards. I don’t know if Joakim can do any more damage to the injury by playing on it, but at this point, in his bruised state, I’m also not sure he is doing the Bulls a ton of good. Although an injured Noah was far the Bulls only problem.
“The thing is, we’re disappointed. We played poorly and we have to change the mentality. We have to correct the mistakes,” Thibodeau said after the loss.
Usually, Thibs does a great job of correcting the Bulls errors, at least on defense, and getting them to respond and come out strong after a loss. Game 2 is when the adjustments take place and if Thibs can get the Bulls protecting the rim, Chicago can get right back in this series.
Boozer added: “We feel like we got our butts kicked, in the first half especially, but we didn’t play our best game. We all felt we can do so much more. That’s where it’s at. To a man we’ve got to do a lot better.”
The Bulls did do better in each one of the four regular season games they played against Brooklyn. They need to protect the rim, contain the role players and show that they belong in this series.
As awful as that game was—and we all know it was awful, probably one of the worst defeats under Tom Thibodeau—it still just counts as one loss. Meaning if the Bulls win in Game 2, whether by two points or 20, they are tied in the series.
April 4, 2013
Brooklyn Nets Status Check:
Home Record: 22-14
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 113-95 win over Cleveland
PPG: 96.4 (18th)
Opponents PPG: 95.0 (5th)
Offensive Rating: 107.9 (8th)
Defensive Rating: 106.4 (18th)
Pace: 88.5 (29th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .496 (14th)
Turnover Percentage: .142 (23rd)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .738 (11th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .310 (3rd)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .218 (8th)
Opp. eFG%: .504 (18th)
Opp. TO%: .130 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .170 (2nd)
Leading scorer: Brook Lopez (19.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Brooklyn Injury Report:
Joe Johnson: missed Wednesday’s game (sore heel)
Gerald Wallace: missed Wednesday’s game (sore foot)
One team can beat any other team on a given night in the NBA, and there may not be a better example of that than the Chicago Bulls. They ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak, without many of their best players. Three games later, they lost their second game this season to the Washington Wizards, with the same lineup.
Now the Wizards aren’t as bad as they have been in recent season. Or even as bad as they were to start this year, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t ugly. Whenever you get outscored by the worst offense in the league, it’s been a bad day at the office. Although when your offense is 22nd in the league, it happens more often than one would think. In the end it was a loss to a subpar team that, with the win over the Bulls, has won eight straight at home.
Brooklyn will be on the second night of a back-to-back after blowing out Cleveland on Wednesday night. MarShon Brooks scored a career-high 27 points (12-16 FG) to go with seven assists and Deron Williams posted 24 points and eight assists.
Because it was a blowout, nobody had to log huge minutes for the Nets. Brooks was the highest with 37 minutes, with everyone else playing 27 minutes (Williams and Reggie Evans) or less.
The Nets won’t have too many tired bodies tonight, but the Bulls will after this game. Chicago has five players out for this game: Rip Hamilton, Derrick Rose, Marco Belinelli, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. That means Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler are all but guaranteed to play at least 44 minutes. This isn’t exactly what you want to be forced into doing in the stretch run before the playoffs, but it’s exactly how the Bulls’ season is going. Or the Bulls could play the likes of Daequan Cook, Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague while getting some rest for the more important players.
“The No. 1 thing is just getting guys healthy and seeing who’s available,” Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo said before Wednesday’s game. “We’ve got to get through these next couple (of games) and hopefully we can take a deep breath and get situated.”
Wait a second. Is he trying to say you don’t have to win every single regular season game? But what if the Bulls have already clinched a playoff spot and could really only fall to seventh in the Eastern Conference, which right now would matchup with the Knicks, a team Chicago has had a lot of success against this season? I guess there are other options than running people into the ground.
If the Bulls do take down the Nets, it’ll help them in the playoff chase. Chicago is sixth right now and Brooklyn is in fourth, 2.5 games ahead of the Bulls. With many of Chicago’s opponents below .500 to finish the year, it’s possible that the Bulls could get to that fourth spot in the playoffs and have home court in round one. If that were the case, the Bulls would then have to face Miami if they were to make it past the first round.
The Bulls are 2-1 against the Nets this season, with every game being decided by single digits. Boozer is averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in his two games against Brooklyn this season.
But Noah, who will be out still battling that ever-present plantar fasciitis, was posting 16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 blocks in the two contests he played against Brooklyn.
March 2, 2013
Brooklyn Nets Status Check:
Road Record: 14-12
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 98-90 loss to Dallas
PPG: 95.2 (20th)
Opponents PPG: 94.9 (5th)
Offensive Rating: 106.7 (10th)
Defensive Rating: 106.4 (16th)
Pace: 88.1 (30th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .490 (16th)
Turnover Percentage: .141 (20th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .738 (13th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .302 (4th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .219 (8th)
Opp. eFG%: .505 (20th)
Opp. TO%: .131 (23rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .169 (2nd)
Leading scorer: Brook Lopez (18.8)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Brooklyn Injury Report:
Tornike Shengelia: out (concussion-like symptoms)
Jerry Stackhouse: missed Friday’s game (personal)
The Bulls got back on the winning track against the lowly Sixers, but now take on four straight playoffs teams and then the Lakers, who are playing their best basketball of the season, to start the month of March.
Brooklyn is up first on the schedule, and they are half a game ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference for the fifth place spot. Fifth place would match-up with the Hawks right now, while sixth place would take on the Pacers.
The first two games this season between the Nets and Bulls were both close. Chicago won the first matchup in December by one point, while the Nets took game two by a four-point margin. Both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer sat out that Chicago loss, while Kirk Hinrich didn’t play in either and Rip Hamilton sat out the Bulls’ win. Draw whatever conclusions from those facts that you want to.
In the game Noah did play, he only had a double-double—what a down night. Marco Belinelli led the Bulls in scoring with 19, while Noah tallied 12 points, ten rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Chicago outscored Brooklyn in fast break points by a total of 19-4. The Bulls also shot 44.0 percent from the field while the Nets finished at 38.7 percent.
Noah’s defense was clearly missing in game two, and the Nets took advantage of Chicago’s small lineup inside. Brooklyn scored 56 points in the paint without Noah on the floor, after scoring 30 points in the paint in the first contest. The Nets finished at 52.0 percent from the field, led by Brook Lopez’s 20 points on 9-16 shooting.
In that second game, with Noah missing and the Bulls going small because Nazr Mohammed’s basketball skills have disappeared faster than a sandwich in his presence, the Nets shot 74 percent at the rim (17-23). In the first contest, with Noah patrolling the paint, Brooklyn finished at 40 percent at the rim (8-20).
Some scary numbers for the Bulls, even with Noah on the floor, were Brooklyn’s offensive rebounding numbers. In the game without Jo, the Nets recorded a 37.9 offensive rebound rate. Even with Noah, Brooklyn posted a 35.0 offensive rebound rate. The Bulls can’t allow the Nets to grab more than 35 percent of the available offensive rebounds and expect to win this one, especially when they recorded rates of 20.6 and 27.5 (27.5 came without Noah). Brooklyn is fourth in the league in offensive rebounding percentage (30.2), while the Bulls are third (30.4).
It’s obvious that Joakim Noah has been the Bulls’ most important player this season while they try to stay afloat, waiting to see if Derrick Rose will return this season. The Noah show was on full display in his historic game with Philadelphia.
Chicago’s win against the Sixers wasn’t too impressive. After all, it was an eleven-point victory over a team that had lost six straight entering that night. But considering where the Bulls were, any victory was welcome. And while the win wasn’t head-turning by itself, Joakim Noah was. It was the first time in the history of ever (in the NBA) that a player recorded at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, ten blocks and shot better than 65-percent from the field in a game. That has a lot of qualifiers, but a triple-double is always impressive, and any time you can join the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon, it’s a good day at the office.
Brooklyn fell to Dallas last night, as Deron Williams turned it over seven times. Williams had 24 points and just two assists with those turnovers, but he wasn’t the only Nets having trouble keeping possession. Joe Johnson, who tallied eleven points and six assists, coughed it up four times to add to the 20 turnovers for the Nets. Brooklyn out-rebounded Dallas 44-31, but let the Mavericks shoot 50 percent from the field. Gerald Wallace scored seven points, while Lopez dropped 19 points and grabbed nine boards. The Nets are 7-7 this season on the second night of back-to-backs.
February 1, 2013
Brooklyn Nets Status Check:
Home Record: 17-8
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 105-85 loss to Miami
PPG: 95.8 (17th)
Opponents PPG: 94.7 (5th)
Offensive Rating: 107.6 (9th)
Defensive Rating: 106.3 (19th)
Pace: 88.0 (30th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .492 (14th)
Turnover Percentage: .139 (15th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .728 (20th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .300 (5th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .228 (7th)
Opp. eFG%: .503 (22nd)
Opp. TO%: .133 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .172 (1st)
Leading scorer: Brook Lopez (18.6)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Brooklyn Injury Report:
Tornike Shengelia: out (concussion-like symptoms)
It’s now February and the Bulls have a 28-17 record, which is third in the Eastern Conference. They’ve won eight of their last ten, but enter an extremely tough portion of their schedule. Chicago’s next five games come on the road against playoff teams. After that they play the Heat and Spurs at home sprinkled between more road games.
The good news is the Bulls are probably playing their best basketball of the season, especially the bench. Over the last five games, Nate Robinson is shooting 55.2 percent from the field and tallying 18.2 points and 4.6 assists per contest. That is the very definition of “Good Nate.” Robinson scored 24 points (9-11 from the field) last time out against the Bucks, picking up a slow start for the Bulls. Nate’s always been a spark of energy, but if he continues to shoot well, he should really be playing more than Kirk Hinrich.
“I’m going back to being the old Nate,” Robinson told the Bulls’ official website. “Having fun and bringing energy and playing as hard as I can and not worrying about making mistakes and looking over my shoulder, playing as hard as I can and for as long as I can no matter if it’s 30 minutes or 30 seconds.” That could be bad, with Nate “not worrying about mistakes,” but for now it’s paying off for the Bulls.
Over that same five game period, Jimmy Butler is averaging 16.0 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting 56.6 percent (he did start some of those games). He’s giving Thibodeau the chance to rest Luol Deng and can play shooting guard and small forward, adding versatility to a team that needs to help at the shooting guard spot, because Rip Hamilton isn’t getting it done.
But while Butler and Robinson are playing their best ball, Marco Belinelli has been struggling. He’s averaging just 5.2 points on 32.1 percent shooting. In the month of January, he averaged only 8.0 points while shooting 36.8 percent. Marco had his best stretch as a starter, but hasn’t done much since then. He scored in double figures five times in January compared to eleven in December. He was a starter in December and got more minutes, but since he hasn’t been knocking down shots in January, Thibs has no reason to give him those minutes.
The Bulls improved to 13-6 on the road with a win over the Bucks. In addition to the bench guys named above, Joakim Noah (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Luol Deng (12 points, 13 rebounds) quietly recorded double-doubles. Taj Gibson, starting in place of the injured Carlos Boozer, established himself early in the post and finished with 14 points and nine boards.
Boozer is a game-time decision again tonight because of his hamstring injury. Honestly, Boozer matches up extremely well with the Nets, because Reggie Evans cannot play any offense. Boozer’s defensive issues wouldn’t be a problem and he could just focus on offense. But alas, since Boozington is listed as a game-time decision, it probably means that he will be out. Taj Gibson will do just fine against Evans, who hasn’t scored in his last two games. Taj will have the opportunity to roam more, helping out on other players.
Evans also unwisely awoke LeBron James before their matchup, downplaying the Heat’s title (because it came in a lockout shortened season) and LeBron’s talents. James scored 24 points and the Heat blew out the Nets, as Evans posted zero points and six boards. Brook Lopez had a solid game, tallying 21 points and seven boards. Joe Johnson scored 16 points, but went 4-15 from the field. Lopez and Johnson were the only starters to score in double figures for Brooklyn.
Brook Lopez has averaged 17.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in his ten matchups against Joakim Noah. Lopez has gotten the better of the stats, as Jo has averaged 9.2 points and 8.6 boards, but Noah is 7-3 against Lopez and the Nets.
The Nets started 12-2 under P.J. Carlesimo, but dropped three of four to end January. The loss to Miami was the first home loss under their new coach and snapped an eight-game winning streak in the Barclays Center. The Bulls went 6-1 on the road in January and still hold the NBA’s best record away from home (13-6).
December 15, 2012
Brooklyn Nets Status Check:
Road Record: 5-4
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Won 2
Last game: 107-105 double overtime win over Detroit
PPG: 96.5 (18th)
Opponents PPG: 94.3 (7th)
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (7th)
Defensive Rating: 105.5 (17th)
Pace: 88.1 (30th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .492 (13th)
Turnover Percentage: .133 (6th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .730 (18th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .299 (8th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .214 (13th)
Opp. eFG%: .499 (21st)
Opp. TO%: .136 (15th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .197 (9th)
Leading scorer: Brook Lopez (17.9)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Nets Injury Report:
Jerry Stackhouse: missed Friday’s game vs. Detroit (sore right knee)
Brook Lopez: played Friday vs. Detroit (foot)
After having off since their Wednesday night win in Philadelphia, the Bulls will square off against Brooklyn, who will be playing on their second night of a back-to-back after going to double overtime with Detroit on Friday night.
For once, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng may not be the most tired guys on the court.
Gerald Wallace played 50 minutes, Joe Johnson played 52 and Deron Williams played 43, which is actually a normal night for Deng or Jo. Brook Lopez was limited last night (24 minutes) and probably won’t play tonight because of a foot injury.
In Joe Johnson’s 52nd minute of playing time, he hit a buzzer beating, long two-pointer to top the Pistons 107-105. Johnson led all scorers with 28 points (12-22 from the field) while teammate Gerald Wallace recorded a double-double of 25 points and ten rebounds. Reggie Evans failed to score in 34 minutes before fouling out, but grabbed ten boards and got two steals. Andray Blatche continued his surprisingly competent season as he dropped 16 points, while shooting 7-12.
The Nets turned it over just eleven times in the entire game. The Bulls have had just three games all season in which they turned it over eleven or fewer times. One of those was their most recent game, against the Sixers. Another was December 7th against the same Pistons team, in which they turned it over eight times. The Pistons are 28th in opponent turnover percentage.
Although the Nets held onto the ball well (so did the Pistons, who turned it over 13 times) they let Detroit run all over them. The Pistons racked up 25 fast break points. They averaged 14.1 coming into Friday’s game. Brooklyn also got outrebounded 54-43 overall, including 18-10 on the offensive glass. The Nets overcame this by shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from deep.
The Bulls will probably also be without a starter as Kirk Hinrich, who is dealing with a bruised knee, could miss the game. Being the type of coach that always informs the media, Tom Thibodeau gave tons of information on Friday on Kirk’s status. “He could (play Saturday),” Thibodeau said. “He’s a lot better today.” Either way the Bulls will surely have “more than enough to win with.”
While the Nets look to build on their last-second win over Detroit, the Bulls can continue their longest winning streak of the season tonight. Chicago topped Philadelphia on Wednesday night behind another big night from Joakim Noah (21 points, seven rebounds, five assists). Deng tallied a double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Marco Belinelli (16) and Nate Robinson (14) both scored in double figures. The only starter not to reach double digits was Carlos Boozer, who finished with just five points on 1-6 shooting.
Philly shot better than the Bulls (45.1 percent to 43.6), outrebounded the Bulls (44-39) and dominated the paint (44-32), but Thibodeau’s squad still found a way to win. That way was the free throw line. They hit 24-26 from the charity stripe, while Philly hit just five of eleven. That’s 19 more points from the line for Chicago. Those 26 free throws are a good sign that the Bulls were attacking the basket, rather than settling for jumpers, which is their usual modus operandi.
January 6, 2010
Okay, first off: I don’t believe in moral victories. A moral victory and a punch to the face won’t get you anything other than a punch in the face. The Bulls lost a winnable game…and that’s always a bummer.
That said, if you had told me going in that the Bulls would score a season-high 108 points in the second of back-to-back games on the road against a team that ranks third in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency…I would have been pretty surprised. Stunned even. And a little impressed.
No the Bulls didn’t come away with the all-important W, but they did show signs of life. The Bobcats may be a sub-.500 team, but they entered the game 11-4 at home and were coming off big time road wins over the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. And, as I noted, they’re one of the league’s premier defensive squads. So they aren’t that bad of a team, even if their record doesn’t quite reflect that fact.
The Bulls, meanwhile, have been a shaky on the road all season and were coming off a tough home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Moreover, the Bobcats built double-digit leads in both the second and third quarters. All things considered, the Bulls had plenty of chances to roll over and die in this game.
But they did not. And that’s a good sign.
Another good sign was the continued strong play of Derrick Rose, who shot 11-for-19 and finished with team highs in both points (24) and assists (9). Rose scored 10 of those points in the fourth quarter — on some very, very tough shots no less — to give the Bulls a chance to win at the end. The only blights on his performance were 1) the game-high 7 turnovers and 2) the fact that the ball ended up in the hands of Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons instead of Rose on the two most critical plays of the final 25 seconds.
Hinrich ended up missing a jumper that would have tied the game, and Salmons over-dribbled before getting caught in the air and forcing a pass to Rose for a three-pointer…which is the one shot Rose probably shouldn’t be taking at this point in his career.
Honestly, I have to question Vinny Del Negro’s play-calling. On Hinrich’s jumper, Rose was tasked with inbounding the ball and never got into the play. On the other sequence, Salmons received the ball and was allowed to isolate almost caused a turnover before throwing the bailout pass to Rose. All this despite the fact that Rose was on fire in the fourth quarter. If I had been coaching the Bulls, I would have done everything in my power to make sure that Rose — and only Rose — ended up with the ball in those situations.
But I’m not the coach. Vinny noted in his postgame press conference that the Bulls “executed well” on those plays and got open shots. Which I guess, technically speaking, is true. But I don’t think that necessarily makes them good plays. I mean, do you think Phil Jackson would be giving clutch shots to Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom instead of Kobe Bryant under similar circumstances? Yeah, me neither.
As long as I’m complaining, I also want to call out Chicago’s team defense, which allowed Charlotte — a team that scores only 92.2 PPG — to score 113 points on 51 percent shooting. And Flip Murray killed the Bulls with 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting off the bench. Flip Murray! That guy is averaging 8.3 PPG on 36 percent shooting this season, and he scored at will against the Bulls’ D, mostly off cheap one-on-on plays. That shouldn’t happen. Like, ever.
But, as I said before, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Despite the obviously tired legs they were playing on, the Bulls gave it the old college try. They shot 51 percent from the field and a surprising 43 percent (7-for-16) from downtown. They outscored the Bobcats 54-48 in the paint and outrebounded them 40-30 (inluding a 9-1 edge on the offensive glass). And they came back at the end rather than giving up…which is something that might have happened as recently as a couple weeks ago.
Said Rose: “At least we fought back. Two or three weeks ago we would have let that game slip.”
However…tired legs. Which manifested itself on defense, and in transition (where the Bobcats enjoyed a 21-6 advantage), and in the Bulls’ ability to hold onto the ball (which is why they gave up 15 points off 19 turnovers).
What can you do?
Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll go ahead and give out gold stars to John Salmons (19 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 7 rebounds off the bench), Luol Deng (18 points, 9 boards, 3 assists) and Kirk Hinrich (who shot only 4-for-13 but made some crafty plays and ended up with 7 assists).
I will not, however, give out gold stars to the officiating crew. I’m not blaming the refs for this loss, but they did a pretty iffy job most of the night. It’s pretty rare for Vinny to lose his cool, but he earned a technical foul in the third quarter for flailing his arms after a few questionable no-calls on back-to-back blocked shots by the Bobcats, and he jumped off the bench in disbelief a few other times too. I honestly thought he was going to get T’d up a second time and earn an ejection. Maybe it would have helped the Bulls get a few extras calls down the stretch. Who knows?
In the final analysis, I’m about as satisfied as I could be after a loss. The Bulls fought, didn’t give up, and almost stole one on the road against a decent team. If they keep playing this way, and the players keep progressing, good things are going to happen.
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