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 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.
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).