February 25, 2010
Luol Deng got to pad his stats against Indy's "defense."
I guess you could say this game was a little up and down.
The Bulls won the first quarter 37-18 and appeared to be on their way to a comfy-cozy win. Then the Pacers won the second quarter 36-21 to make it a game again. Chicago came out of halftime and won the third quarter 37-28 to regain a solid double-digit advantage. They maintained that lead for most of the fourth quarter, but Indiana made a late run and pulled to within eight points with 1:14 to go, forcing Vinny Del Negro to re-insert Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson for mop-up duty.
On the one hand, the Bulls held the Pacers to 40 percent shooting, which makes it seem as though their defense was pretty solid. However, Indy’s Effective Field Goal Percentage was closer to 50 thanks to their three-point marksmanship (13-for-29) and near-perfect foul shooting (25-for-27). The Pacers scored 110 points in 106 possessions.
Indiana sure is a strange team. They hit only 42 percent (15-for-35) of their shots at the rim and went 0-for-12 from 16-to-23 feet. But they drilled 44 percent of their treys and couldn’t miss from the line. Okay, maybe that only strikes me as odd. But obviously the three-point shot is what keeps them in — or, if you think about it, out — of games. It helped kinda-sorta keep them in this one.
But the Bulls prevailed. And the victory bumped Chicago’s record to 30-27. If you enjoy simple math, they are 20-10 since starting the season 10-17. Which, as I’ve stated before, is pretty good considering all the injuries, drama and personnel changes that have gone down in the past few months.
I’m still not sure what to make of this team. By the numbers– specifically, defensive rating — their best two defensive players this season have been Tyrus Thomas and JoakimNoah. Only Thomas is gone. Meanwhile, Noah is dragging around a bum foot, and he’s averaging less than 10 minutes per game since his return (he played seven minutes last night against the Pacers). Meanwhile, Hakim Warrick has admitted to being confused by Chicago’s defensive system.
These factors could help explain why the Bulls have given up 211 points in their last two games, which feels a little worse when you consider the level of their competition. Looking ahead to the next five games, I see one road game versus the Pacers and then four home games against the Trail Blazers (34-26), Hawks (36-20), Grizzlies (29-28) and Mavericks (37-21).
To put it bluntly, Chicago is going to have to play better — and I mean mostly on the defensive end – to keep their hot streak going. This is going to be a tough stretch. Even that Pacers game could be tougher than it looks on paper. After all, the Bulls are only 4-17 in Indiana since Conceco Field House opened in 1999. That place is a Bulls graveyard.
I’m not trying to be overly negative. I’m totally stoked about how well Chicago has been playing (in general) over the last 30 games. But whenever a 23-point lead gets shaved down to only four, well, it’s a cause for at least some concern. Especially for a team that gave up a 35-point lead earlier this season.
The Bulls don’t always have a killer instinct. They can occasionally have stretches of bad decision-making and miscues (they gave up 21 points off 17 turnovers last night). And, as I pointed out, their defense is currently facing a (minor) identity crisis.
Still…the Bulls have won seven of their last nine games despite significant doubt and player turnover. Their currently sixth in the East and not that far out of fifth. So maybe it’s worth taking a deep sigh of relief for the moment.
The best part about facing a porous defensive team like the Pacers — they’re 24th in PPG allowed (104.1) — is that players get to pad their stats against them.
To wit: Deng scored a game-high 31 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Derrick Rose almost had a triple-double (23 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists). Gibson had a double-double (14 points, 11 boards) and 3 blocked shots. Hinrich finished with 14 points and 5 assists while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 2-for-3 from downtown.
Flip Murray added 16 points off the bench to go with 6 boards and 3 steals while going 8-for-10 from the line.
Power of the Paint:
Chicago outrebounded the Pacers 46-38 andhad a 27.9 to 17.0 advantage in Offensive Rebound Percentage. Furthermore, the Bulls had 10 blocked shots and outscored Indy 38-32 in the paint.
1st timeout: Rose was fouled before the timeout
2nd timeout: Hinrich missed 17-footer
3rd timeout: Called after Rose turned the ball over
4th timeout: Gibson turnover (offensive foul)
5th timeout: Murray drew a foul (2-for-2)
6th timeout: Murray missed 22-footer
I was recently asked to provide a little more information about what exactly happens out of each timeout. For instance, what kind of shot did the Bulls get (wide open versus contested), whether a turnover was the result of a busted play, etc. The reason I’m not doing that is because I’m more interested in the end result free of that level of analysis. This is because the assumption is that a team should be the most prepared and get the highest percentage shots following a timeout.
That said, I’ll give it some thought and consider delving deeper in the future.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos
March 5, 2009
This time when the Bulls fell behind by 14 in the first quarter, I wasn’t all that concerned. After all, the Golden State Warriors are undisciplined (at best) on offense and apathetic (at least) on defense. I figured that if the Bulls made even a half-hearted effort at getting back into the game, they’d win. And that’s what happened. Chicago pulled to within six by the end of the opening period, then outscored Golden State by 12, 7 and 11 points in the next three quarters to stampede their way to an almost-too-easy 110-88 victory.
Watching the Warriors play is always good for a few laughs. (Just ask Bulls broadcaster Stacey King, who chuckled in disbelief after almost every Warrior possession.) If Mike D’Antoni’s offense is called “Seven Seconds or Less,” then Nellie Ball could be referred to as “Four Seconds or Fewer” or maybe “One Pass and a Shot.” Don Nelson’s players sprint downcourt and shoot as soon as they can see the net, and sometimes even before that. Moreover, their approach to defense is, essentially, little more than a stare down. Let’s face it: When Brad Miller gets a quick first step on a team – several times, no less! – then that team’s D is mortally wounded and needs to be put out of its misery.
So this win was a stat-padder, no question about it. Six Bulls scored in double figures, led by newcomers John Salmons (23 points, 7-for-14) and Miller (19 points, 7-for-9). Joakim Noah had a double-double (14 points, 17 rebounds) to go along with 4 blocked shots. (I’ll try to overlook Noah’s 3-for-11 shooting.) Derrick Rose finished with 14 points and 6 assists (although he was only 6-for-14 from the field). Ben Gordon added 15 (6-for-15) and Kirk Hinrich chipped in another 13 (4-for-10) off the bench. The only guy left out in the cold was Tyrus Thomas (8 points, 4-for-10, 7 rebounds). Ty picked up a couple quick fouls and made a few early mistakes, mostly because he got into a little one-on-one duel with Golden State’s Anthony Randolph. That took Thomas out of his game, and he never really recovered.
It’s hard to derive anything meaningful out of this win. With the way the Warriors played, the game was little more than an glorified scrimmage. However, this Bulls victory combined with losses by the Bucks (in Cleveland) and the Nets (versus the Celtics) moved Chicago into a tie with Milwaukee and kept them a half-game up on New Jersey for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot. So Friday’s home game against the Bucks will be huge, a must-win, really, since the Bulls’ next four games are at Miami, at Orlando, at Philly and then back home for the Hornets.
Coaching wisdom: So sayeth the Notorious V.D.N.: “‘We need to get some sort of attitude or professionalism or whatever the word is to get going. We have it sometimes. We’re not consistent with it, and whether it’s because we’re young or we just brought in new guys or whatever, I’m not big into excuses. You’re paid to play, and you have to go out there and play.”
Quote of the night: Regarding the team’s up-and-down play on the road: “To tell you the truth, I really don’t know. We’ve been trying to figure that out the whole season. The only thing I can say is that we need to be consistent, no matter where we are at,here, Mars, anywhere, we still have to play more consistent and together.” Mars? I thought David Stern wanted to take the NBA global, not interplanetary.
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
January 31, 2009
Well, then. Those 11 years sure flew by, didn’t they? The Bulls notched their first post-Jordan win over the Kings in Sacramento — 109-88 if you care about that sort of thing — to match their season-best winning streak. At two games. Hey, it’s been a rough year, okay? It was also their second-largest margin of victory of the 2008-09 campaign, just surpassing the 20-point bulge they enjoyed on Wednesday against the Clippers. Gosh it feels good to slap around the really bad teams. (I can’t wait for February 27th, when we get to play the Wizards Generals in Washington!)
It wasn’t much of a battle, really. The Bulls were up 34-22 at the end of the first quarter and maintained a double-figure lead most of the night. Watching lopsided contests like this is kind of like replaying a video game after you already beat it once and get to go through it again with all your weapons/power-ups/whatever: It’s so easy that the outcome, however gratifying, ends up feeling a little meaningless. But, as documented in detail on this very blog, the Kings are the worst defensive team in the NBA. (In fact, their loss to the Bulls was the 10th straight game in which they’ve surrendered at least 106 points.) And you know what that means: Stat padding!
Chicago shot nearly 56 percent as a team…significantly better than their season average of 44 percent. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng both rung up 20 points. Joakim Noah had 17 (on 8-for-11 from the field), which was only a couple points off his career high. Tyrus Thomas had his second consecutive double-double (14 points, 10 boards) to go along with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Derrick Rose finished with only 4 points — just the fifth time this season he hasn’t reached double digits — but had a game-high 11 assists. Kirk Hinrich added 11 points and 7 dimes off the bench. And Cedric Simmons even had 5 points in garbage time, marking his third-best offensive output of the season. (Seriously.)
The Kings had been averaging 106 PPG in January, so going into the game I was somehat concerned that it might turn into a shootout. Particularly since Kevin Martin has shown an alarming tendency to light up the Bulls (29, 26, 30 and 29 points, respectively, in his last four games against them). And, sure enough, Speedracer got his points — 27 of ‘em — but the Kings came out firing blanks as a unit and finished 28-for-76 from the field (36 percent). Even more damaging (to their cause, anyway), they had a group case of butterfinger-itis, bumbling the ball away 22 times and thereby giving the Bulls 28 bonus points.
Said Kings coach Kenny Natt: “We’re going to have to do whatever we have to do to make this change because it’s not fair to anyone — as a team, as an organization, for the fans — the whole bit. We all deserve a lot better so from that standpoint I’ve was very disappointed in our effort.” I feel you, Kenny. Bulls Nation felt pretty much the same way right up until this little two-game reprieve.
Last night’s win was nice, but there was a reason or two for concern. Like the 12 missed free throws (Joakim and Tyrus were 3-for-11) and the 44-37 rebounding disadvantage (including Sactown’s 15 offensive boards). Oh, and that whole Jerry Reinsdorf not publically backing Vinny Del Negro thing. Hey, when your team chairman declares the season “a disaster” and “embarrassing, well, that’s not a good thing. So tomorrow night’s game against the Suns in Phoenix looms large. As in, Shaq-sized. Said Noah: “I’m happy we won and to be able to be a part of it, but tomorrow is Shaq so you don’t want to get too high.” I couldn’t agree more, even if the Suns are having their own problems. As always, stay tuned…
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.