April 18, 2013
Game 1 in Brooklyn: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Game 2 in Brooklyn: Monday at 7 p.m.
Game 3 in Chicago: Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 in Chicago on Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m.
Game 5* in Brooklyn on Monday, April 29 (TBD)
Game 6* in Chicago on Thursday, May 2 (TBD)
Game 7* in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 4 (TBD)
Bulls Status Check:
Home Record: 24-17
Road Record: 21-20
PPG: 93.2 (29th)
FG%: .437 (25th)
3P%: .353 (21st)
FT%: .773 (9th)
Opponents PPG: 92.9 (3rd)
Opponents FG%: .443 (9th)
Opponents 3P%: .346 (5th)
Offensive Efficiency: 100.4 (24th)
Defensive Efficiency: 100.3 (5th)
Pace: 89.3 (27th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .470 (29th)
Turnover Percentage: 13.6 (10th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: 73.6 (14th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 29.4 (5th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .201 (18th)
Opp. eFG%: .477 (4th)
Opp. TO%: 13.2 (22nd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .206 (16th)
Nets Status Check:
Home Record: 26-15
Road Record: 23-18
PPG: 96.9 (17th)
FG%: .450 (13th)
3P%: .357 (17th)
FT%: .731 (21st)
Opponents PPG: 95.1 (6th)
Opponents FG%: .464 (23rd)
Opponents 3P%: .366 (21st)
Offensive Efficiency: 105.0 (9th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.6 (18th)
Pace: 88.8 (28th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .498 (14th)
Turnover Percentage: 14.0 (21st)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: 73.7 (12th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 30.9 (3rd)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .219 (8th)
Opp. eFG%: .503 (20th)
Opp. TO%: 13.1 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .174 (2nd)
Bulls Shot Locations – Attempts / FG%:
At the Rim: 26.7 (8th) / 63.5 (19th)
3-9 Feet: 8.0 (23rd) / 30.8 (30th)
10-15 Feet: 7.5 (7th) / 40.4 (19th)
16-23 Feet: 22.9 (3rd) / 36.2 (23rd)
Three-pointers: 14.9 (29th) / 35.3 (21st)
Nets Shot Locations (Att / FG%):
At the Rim: 24.2 (18th) / 62.0 (24th)
3-9 Feet: 10.7 (6th) / 42.5 (8th)
10-15 Feet: 5.7 (18th) / 43.5 (9th)
16-23 Feet: 14.3 (28th) / 40.0 (7th)
Three-pointers: 21.8 (6th) / 35.7 (17th)
The Bulls won the season series 3-1. Here’s a breakdown of those f our games:
December 15, 2012: Bulls win 83-83 in Chicago behind Marco Belinelli (19 points) and Joakim Noah (12 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots). Kirk Hinrich missed the game with a knee injury, which meant a big game for Deron Williams (24 points, 10-for-13 from the free throw line, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block). Still, the Bulls got key stops down the stretch, and rookie Marquis Teague (20 minutes, 8 points, 4-for-6, 2 assists) forced Williams into a tough miss in the closing seconds. Said Teague: ”I was just trying to contain him, just keep him in front of me. It’s hard to keep a player like that from scoring.”
It’s probably worth noting that the Nets were playing their fourth game in five nights and were coming off a double-overtime game against the Pistons the night before. It’s also worth noting that Brook Lopez (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) played just 25 minutes in his second game back after missing seven games with a right foot injury.
The Bulls held Brooklyn to 38 percent shooting and outscored them 42-30 in the paint, but the Nets outrebounded the Bulls 41-33.
February 1: Nets win 93-89 in Brooklyn behind Brook Lopez (20 points, 9-for-16, 4 rebounds) and strong play off the bench from MarShon Brooks (13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Andray Blatche (11 points, 5-for-7, 3 rebounds). The Bulls — who were without Carlos Boozer (hamstring), Joakim Noah (plantar faciitis) and Kirk Hinrich (right elbow) — actually had a four-point lead going after three quarters but then shot 8-for-18 and got outscored 30-22 in the fourth. In fact, Chicago’s fourth quarter points were matched by Brooks and Blatche alone. Said Joe Johnson: ”MarShon and Blatche, man, carried us in that fourth quarter.”
The always short-handed Bulls got 18 points a piece from Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli plus a double-double from Nate Robinson (12 points and 11 assists) and a near double-double from Taj Gibson (16 points and 9 rebounds).
The Nets shot 52 percent and outscored the Bulls 56-44 in the paint. Brooklyn also won the rebounding battle 40-29. Meanwhile, Chicago was 1-for-14 from three-point range.
March 2: Bulls win 96-85 in Chicago behind the frontcourt dominance of Joakim Noah (21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals) and Carlos Boozer (20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists, 1 blocked shot). As usual, the Bulls were two men down — Rip Hamilton (back spasms) and Taj Gibson (knee) — and Luol Deng was still recovering from getting elbowed in the mouth by Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes two days prior…a blow that left with internal bleeding in the mouth (Deng went on to say his “whole bottom jaw is out of line” and that he may eventually need root canals to repair the damage).
Brook Lopez scored 14 points in the first quarter and finished with 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting. However, thanks to Kirk Hinrich’s pesky defense, Deron Williams (14 points, 4-for-12, 6 assists) had a very average game. Note that Joe Johnson (11 points, 5-for-10, 5 turnovers) was playing in his second game back after missing three games with a foot injury.
The Bulls shot 52 percent while the Nets committed 21 turnovers for 24 points going the other way.
April 4: The Bulls win 92-90 in Brooklyn behind a monster game from Carlos Boozer (29 points, 12-for-22, 18 rebounds) and strong performances from Luol Deng (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Jimmy Butler (16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block). This win was especially impressive considering the Bulls pulled it off on the road without Joakim Noah (plantar faciitis), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain), Rip Hamilton (back spasms) and Taj Gibson (knee injury). All that and Kirk Hinrich fouled out with 3:38 remaining.
Said Nate Robinson (12 points, 4-for-8, 5 assists): “For us, it’s big. Kirk fouled out. You got Marco out. Rip out. D-Rose out. Taj out. Guys are just stepping up, man, and that’s what teams do. You got Jo out and [Nazr Mohammed] stepping in for him. These guys are coming in and it’s like old school wrestling. Tag team. You know when one guy goes in, tag him, the other guy go out. Back and forth. We just got to keep playing and keep doing that, we’ll be OK.”
On defense, the Bulls got lit up by Deron Williams (30 points, 9-for-16, 10 assists) and Brook Lopez (28 points, 10-for-19, 5 rebounds). Of course, Lopez scored 18 of those points on 8-for-9 shooting in the first quarter then scored only 10 on 2-for-10 shooting over the final three quarters. Lopez also turned goat in the final minute by turning the ball over, getting a layup attempt stuffed and then missing a baseline jumper in the closing seconds that would have forced overtime. Joe Johnson (12 points, 4-for-11, 2 steals) was playing his first game back after missing five games with a sore left heel.
The Bulls dominated the boards (46-30) and scored 21 points off 16 Brooklyn turnovers. The Nets kept things even by going to the line 30 times.
In terms of production by position, the Nets usually win the point guard and center match-ups thanks to the play of Deron Williams (18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 20.3 PER) and Brook Lopez (19.4 PPG, 52% shooting, 24.7 PER). This will put a lot of pressure on Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah on defense. This means that Noah’s plantar faciitis could be a huge factor in this series. Lopez averaged 22 points on 53 percent shooting in four games against the Bulls this season…and that can’t be allowed to continue.
Williams had that one big game against the Bulls, but his overall numbers against Chicago’s D were pretty humble (19.8 PPG, 42% shooting, 6.8 APG, 3.2 TO). Still, Williams was on fire in April, averaging 24.6 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 52 percent over that eight-game stretch.
As for the Bulls, their biggest upsides in terms of production by position were at the small forward and power forward positions. And Carlos Boozer certainly had his way with the Nets, averaging 21.3 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 54 percent against them. And note that Boozer missed Chicago’s only loss to the Nets with a hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, Deng didn’t have quite as much success. In the four-game series, Deng averaged 15.3 points on 39 percent shooting to go with 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
Still, assuming a reasonably healthy roster, the Bulls have a major size advantage over the Nets. With Boozer, Deng, Gibson, Noah and Mohammed, Chicago will need to bully Brooklyn inside and dominate the rebounding battle. The Bulls will have to be especially mindful of their defensive backboards because the Nets are a premier offensive rebounding team.
Assuming the Bulls frontcourt can impose its will while slowing down Lopez, that leaves Bulls coach Tom Thibodea with the task for designing defensive schemes to neutralize Williams. Considering the job he’s done on superstars like Kobe Bryant in the past, I’d be willing to bet Thibs (with help from Hinrich and possibly even Jimmy Butler) comes up with something.
If Thibodeau’s schemes focus on stopping Lopez and Williams, then guys like Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are going to have to really pick up their games, which didn’t happen against the Bulls in the regular season.
Bulls in six games.
*All statistics courtesy of 82games.com, Basketball-Reference, ESPN.com, and Hoopdata.
April 27, 2012
Not to overlook last night’s game against the Cavaliers — which the Bulls won 107-75 despite resting Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kyle Korver — but the regular season is over.
The Bulls (50-16) once again compiled the league’s best record. San Antonio again has the second-best record (the Spurs are also 50-16, but Chicago beat them in their only head-to-head meeting, giving the Bulls the tiebreaker).
Mind you, both teams dealt with injuries to key players but managed to plug-and-play their way to the top seeds in their respective conferences. The Bulls and Spurs have been built around high-character players, brilliant coaches, and excellent systems. In many ways, these teams mirror each other in terms of drive, follow-through, and success.
Of course, the Bulls would like to emulate San Antonio’s championship success of the past decade as well.
The road to that elusive seventh championship begins on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Congratulations to Philly’s Evan Turner. He got what he wanted. I think he may end up getting more than he bargained for.
(In all fairness, Turner has since clarified his comments, and he comes off somewhat better in his expanded explanation. But still.)
What are we to make of this Sixers team? They opened the season 18-7 and then went 17-24 the rest of the way. Here are their monthly won-loss records:
So…what in the world happened? Philly’s season began so promising then semi-collapsed to the point where there was some question about whether they’d make the playoffs at all.
Earlier this month, former Sixers beat writer and current ESPN.com contributor Kate Fagan suggested the team might be turning on coach Doug Collins. Or, at the very least, tuning him out.
Since around early March, guys on the team have struggled with Doug Collins’ coaching style. Look, we all knew at the beginning of last year, when Collins took over this young team, that he had a history of turning around young squads. And we also knew that he had (sometimes as early as the second season) a history of over-coaching, at which point his players tend to become frustrated and tune him out. The Sixers have been struggling with this for at least a month, if not longer. This has led to heated interactions, sometimes even in the middle of games. On more than one occasion, players have let Collins know — during a game — that they’re sick of the relentless nitpicking. This incessant nagging (or even the perception of it) leads to fractured relationships. The Sixers have reached the point where, at least some of them, have addressed this issue with Collins.
The lockout-shortened season is contributing to the problem, because it’s game after game after game. There is no time to get in the gym and practice. By all accounts from within the Sixers, this season has not been fun — it’s been a struggle. A long, frustrating struggle. You’re seeing poor play because of this behind-the-scenes struggle. Obviously, Collins’ coaching style is a huge issue within the locker room. As players become frustrated and annoyed with the micromanaging, it becomes more difficult to make the necessary in-game changes. It’s the basketball version of crying wolf. If you’re always correcting something out of nervousness and habit, players are less likely to respond when the correction is important.
I’m not sure it’s fair to say that Collins has lost the team, and there’s evidence to suggest Philly might have tanked their last game to avoid playing the Miami Heat, but clearly this is a situation that could work against the Sixers. Although, to be honest, I’m willing to bet that tuning Collins out was more of a regular season problem. I believe the team will refocus for the playoffs. This year at least.
But other than internal strife, what else precipitated the Sixers’ fall from grace this season?
Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference and ESPN.com writes:
Negative momentum like that isn’t necessarily a harbinger of playoff doom (to the contrary, late-season form is often overrated by analysts when predicting which teams will rise or fall in the playoffs), but it is troubling that the Sixers’ biggest decline down the stretch has been on defense, which had been the team’s biggest strength.
Over the past month, Philly’s D has gone from being the NBA’s best — a distinction the Sixers had held practically all season long — to merely its third-best, courtesy of allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions since March 30 (compared to the 97.7 mark the Sixers had on the season beforehand). You can’t blame that performance on scheduling, since just two of Philadelphia’s last nine opponents ranked in the league’s top half offensively.
Philadelphia was just demonstrably worse at stopping opponents from scoring, and this period of uncharacteristically pedestrian defense coincided with a stretch when the Sixers won just three times in 11 games — a tailspin that at one point had them flirting with missing the playoffs.
If the Sixers aren’t dominating defensively, they have practically no chance of succeeding in the postseason. Philly’s offense, a weak point all season relative to the team’s previously stellar defense, slipped to 18th in the latest efficiency rankings. As a team, the Sixers settle for too many long jump shots and struggle to score in the clutch, which seems to justify what everyone’s biggest concern about them was this whole time: that they don’t have a traditional star scorer who can be isolated in crucial situations.
Paine is correct. Philly’s D became demonstrably worse as the season progressed. However, I’m guessing that trend may right itself as the playoffs begin. After all, defense is less about raw talent than it is about the system implemented by the coach combined with the focus and determination of the players. It’s possible the defense started to deteriorate because, as Fagan supposed, the team was beginning to tire of Collins’ relentless drive. But teams in a tailspin can sometimes hit the “reset” button. And if the Sixers’ defense returns to form, it could give the Bulls problems.
But, believe you me, the Bulls defense is sure going to give Philly’s offense problems. In fact, you could argue that the Sixers’ offense has enough problems of its own.
The Sixers have five players who average in double figures: Lou Williams (14.9), Jrue Holiday (13.5), Thaddeus Young (12.8), Andre Iguodala (12.4) and Elton Brand (11.0). It’s nice to have a diverse set of offensive weapons…but, as Paine noted, they do not have a single dominant scorer. Or even a semi-dominant scorer.
And the foundation of their offense is fundamentally flawed. According to Hoopdata, Philly ranks dead last in free throw attempts (18.2) and shot attempts at the rim (21.1). Meanwhile, they rank first overall in shot attempts from 10-15 feet (11.9) and second (to the worst-NBA-team-ever Charlotte Bobcats) in shot attempts from 16-23 feet (24.5). They shoot the three-ball pretty well — ranking eighth in the league at 36.2 percent — but rank 25th in three-point attempts per game (14.6).
Further, according to Basketball-Reference, the Sixers finished the season ranked 23rd in points per game (93.6) and 20th in Offensive Rating (103.9 points scored per 100 possessions). So, basically, Philly doesn’t have a go-to scorer and depends primarily on long, contested, two-point jump shots to score points.
And they don’t do that particularly well from an efficiency standpoint.
Oh, and did I happen to mention that the Bulls completed their season ranked first in opponents points per game (88.2) and second in Defensive Rating (98.3 points given up per 100 possessions).
Memo to Evan Turner: Are you absolutely certain this is what you wanted?
I understand the Bulls have a few question marks of their own. The biggest of which are: Is Derrick Rose completely healthy and can he shake off the rust to regain his MVP form from last season?
Only time will answer the questions about Rose. But the Bulls proved they were capable of competing with elite teams even without their superstar. They have an amazing defense and home court advantage. The Sixers are defiant and scrappy. But, if the Bulls play the way they’re capable of playing, I can’t see this series lasting more than five or (at the absolute most) six games.
April 17, 2009
The basics: The Chicago Bulls (41-41) versus the Boston Celtics (62-20). The Bulls are 28-13 at home (yay!) but only 13-28 on the road (boo!). Meanwhile, the Celtics are 35-6 in Boston (the third-best home record in the league) and 27-14 outside of Beantown (tied for the second-best road record). Is it a bad sign for the Bulls that Boston’s road record is almost as good as Chicago’s home record? Yeah, probably.
Advanced stuff: The Bulls rank 19th in offensive efficiency (105.1 points per 100 possessions) and 18th in defensive efficiency (105.8 points given up per 100 possessions). The C’s? They’re 6th (108.1) and 2nd (99.4), respectively. Boston also has the edge in rebounding: They’re 2nd in the NBA with a rebounding rate (the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds) of 52.8. Chicago ranks 20th (49.6). It turns out Boston isn’t just better offensively, defensively and on the boards…they’re way better. As bad signs go, that ranks somewhere between waking up next to a bloody corpse and finding out that Soylent green is people.
The season series: The Leprechauns won it 2-1.
Bad news for the Bulls: The Celtics won both games in Boston by an average of 17 points. Chicago shot 29.8 percent in the first game. They then lost the second contest by 18 despite shooting 50 percent both from the field and beyond the arc. That might have something to do with the fact that the C’s hit almost 60 percent of their field goal attempts (including 12-for-24 from downtown).
Good news for the Bulls: They did manage to win in the Celtics’ only trip to the United Center. It was an exciting (if rather defenseless) 127-121 affair in which John Salmons matched his career-high by scoring 38 points on sizzling 14-for-20 shooting. Some people felt the victory was marred by the fact that Kevin Garnett missed the game with that pesky knee injury. But, as it turns out, KG’s knee hasn’t gotten any better…and he won’t suit up for this series. Or maybe at all during this postseason. Bad news for Boston fans is good news for the Chicago faithful.
Reality check: The champs weren’t only missing Garnett. They also were without Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine, and they lost Leon Powe a few minutes into the game after he bruised his right knee in a collision with Ben Gordon. The Celtics might be sans Garnett, but those other guys — well, except for Scalabrine — are back and ready to go. Oh, and Salmons’ ongoing groinal dysfunction will probably prevent him from enjoying any more scoring explosions.
A slight ray of hope: No matter how you look at it, the Celtics aren’t the same team without Garnett. They were “only” 18-7 without him (versus 44-13 with him). And they enjoyed far more success against non-playoff teams (10-2) than squads headed for the postseason (8-5). In fact, they’re giving up 107.5 PPG to playoff teams when KG isn’t around to bolster the D.
Celtics player to watch: Paul Pierce. He’s really picked up his game in KG’s absence, scoring 24.1 PPG while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 41.0 in threes. And, uh, he’s pretty much owned the Bulls this season: 22.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 56.8 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from threeland. And John Salmons, who will have to guard Pierce, is hobbling around with an injured groin. This could get ugly.
Bulls player to watch: Derrick Rose. His season averages against Boston — 14.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 42.9 percent shooting — weren’t the stuff of legends, and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (14.7 PPG, 10.3 APG, 55.6 percent shooting versus Chicago) pretty much had his way. But this kid is already the Bulls’ best player. He’s got to be aggressive and set the tone offensively if the Chi-towners are going to have any hope at all of winning a game, let alone the series.
Key(s) to the series: First, Boston’s second-best-in-the-league defense. If the Bulls aren’t extremely careful, the C’s D might smother them like a kitten in a burlap sack. (Warning: Do not put kittens in burlap sacks…they’re so cute!) Second, Chicago’s bottom-half-of-the-league defense. The Bulls aren’t stopping anybody. If they’re forced to outscore the Celtics, well, it’s going to be a short series.
Fun fact: This will be the fourth time the Bulls have faced the Celtics in the playoffs. Boston won all three previous series in sweeps (4-0, 3-0 and 3-0). There is an odd symmetry to it all, though: In the first two series (in 1981 and 1986), the Celtics were on their way to a championship. In the third series (1987) and this one, the C’s were defending their title.
Prediction: Unless something unthinkable (like, say, Paul Pierce’s right leg falls off) or bizarre (like both of Paul’s legs fall off) happens, the Celtics should win this series 4-1. Unless John Salmons gets a bionic groin implant. But then again, if a man can cut steel with a piece of bacon — yes, it’s happened — then why can’t the Bulls beat the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics? As KG himself has pointed out: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLLLLLLLLEEEE!!!!