A cold slap of reality: Wizards 101, Bulls 95

Did anyone else know Flip Murray could jam like this?!

Did anyone else know Flip Murray could jam like this?!

Last night, the Bulls went into halftime with a 56-46 advantage…

…and that lead didn’t make me feel even remotely comfortable.

Through the first two quarters, it felt like the Bulls were doing pretty much whatever they wanted to do. I got the feeling that 10-point lead could have been 20 or so, only Chicago never really put the hammer down. The Wizards kept hanging around.

In the NBA, it’s dangerous to let any team — be it good or bad — hang around. However, young teams that haven’t quite developed a killer instinct tend to do it, especially against bad teams. Call it complacency, call it human nature, call it whatever you want. It happens. It’s happened to the Bulls this season. More than once.

It happened last night, too. And part of what made this game against the Wizards a bit of a trap is…do we even know what kind of team this is yet? On paper, they’re a bad team and have been all season. But Washington went through an extreme makeover before last week’s trade deadline.

Next thing you know, they beat the Denver Nuggets by 10 on Friday. Sure, the Nuggets were a little gassed from beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland the night before, but Denver is still the second-best team in the Western Conference. On Saturday night, the Wizards almost beat the Raptors in Toronto — Washington actually led 100-91 with 5:40 left — before losing their legs down the stretch. Toronto’s not a great team, and they were without Chris Bosh, but they’re 31-24 and have won nine of their last 10 home games.

Maybe it’s the Wounded Tiger Theory. Or, if you prefer, the Ewing Theory. Or maybe it’s just a fresh start for guys like Andray Blatche (a game-high 25 points plus 11 rebounds), Al Thornton (17 points, 7 rebounds), Randy Foye (16 points, 9 assists) and James Singleton (a game-high 12 boards).

After all, fresh starts can do wonders. Just ask Chicago’s new arrivals, Hakim Warrick (12 poins, 5 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) and Flip Murray (16 points, 6-for-10, 2-for-3 from downtown). The provided a real boost off the bench. In fact, Chicago’s reserves all played really well — scoring 43 points on 18-for-30 shooting — but the starters not named “Derrick Rose” really struggled.

The best non-Rose starter was Luol Deng, and he went 4-for-11 and had the worst plus-minus score of the game (-17). Taj Gibson almost had a double-double (9 points, 8 rebounds) but shot 3-for-7 and struggled defensively. Kirk Hinrich finished with 6 points on 2-for-7 shooting. And Brad Miller (4 points, 1-for-7) made me wish that Joakim Noah had been healthy enough to play more than 12 minutes last night.

Whatever stank the Wizards have had all season seemed to rub off on the Bulls in the third quarter, during when they shot 7-for-21 and got outscored 31-16. The Chicago players just never looked like they had a sense of urgency. Not until abou midway through the fourth quarter, anyway. And it cost them.

Said coach Vinny Del Negro: “Third quarter was terrible.”

Pretty much, yeah.

Washington built it’s lead to 13 points (93-80) with with 5:25 to play. That’s when Rose turned it on. Derrick scored nine points in a 15-3 run that pulled the Bulls to within a point (96-95) with just under two minutes to play. He hit a mid-range jumper. He hit a long-range jumper.  He hit again. He drove in and hit a crazy scooping shot — with his body behind the backboard no less! — while getting fouled.

It was a pretty sweet “turning it on” performance for Rose, which is important for his development as Chicago’s franchise player. Said Rose: “No way we should have lost this game tonight. I tried, just trying to attack the hole, doing whatever it takes to win.”

Unfortunately, that effort came too late. The third quarter would have been a much better time for Derrick to take over. But Rose is young. He’s still learning about when to assert himself. It’s all good.

As for Deng, Gibson, Hinrich and Miller…definitely not so good. And if the Bulls have any aspirations for grabbing onto the fifth seed — which is currently in the possession of the Raptors — they can’t lose to, well, whatever kind of team these Wizards end up being.

Let’s hope they figure things out for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers.

Timeout tally:
1st timeout: Jannero Pargo turnover
2nd timeout: Luol Deng made 16-footer
3rd timeout: Kirk Hinrich missed 19-footer
4th timeout: Rose made jumper (Hinrich assists)
5th timeout: Brad Miller missed thee-pointer
6th timeout: Flip Murray missed three-pointer
7th timeout: Miller missed three-pointer

Another bad post-timeout showing for the Bulls, although it’s worth noting that the last three timeouts were called in the final minute of the game, and the treys were part of Chicago’s attempt to come back. However, when a team is down five with a minute to go, it’s not necessarily time to start jacking up threes.

There is one thing all of these timeouts had in common: None of them were called during Washington’s game-breaking 14-0 run during the third quarter. As By The Horns reader Tony C. put it: “VDN’s time out selection was also quite poor. Notice that when the Wzard’s went on a 14-0 run, VDN sat with his hands under his ass. When the Bulls went on a (later) mini-run, Flip Saunders called an immediate time out to stop the momentum. This is coaching 101; why hasn’t VDN figured it out yet?”

That’s a fair question. Phil Jackson might be able to let his team “play through” rough patches…but he’s Phil Jackson. Plus, he’s always had one of the best players alive in his corner. That provides a certain amount of leeway. This Bulls team isn’t qutie ready to weather the storm. Of course, with the way Chicago performs coming out of a timeout, it’s also possible that the Bulls would have simply chucked up a bad shot or turned the ball over even if Vinny had called a timeout during that run.

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos

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24 Responses to A cold slap of reality: Wizards 101, Bulls 95

  1. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. February 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    “Last night, the Bulls went into halftime with a 56-46 advantage…

    …and that lead didn’t make me feel even remotely comfortable.”

    Couldn’t agree more, Matt. I thought that the Bulls were playing poorly (albeit shooting well) throughout the first half. Among other notable (and inexcusable) mistakes was Deng barreling into two or three Wizard players on three consecutive out-of-control drives. They resulted in one miss, and two obvious charges. What the hell was he thinking? And why didn’t VDN yank his ass immediately? There’s no excuse for multiple stupid decisions in such a short span of time.

    VDN’s time out selection was also quite poor. Notice that when the Wzard’s went on a 14-0 run, VDN sat with his hands under his ass. When the Bulls went on a (later) mini-run, Flip Saunders called an immediate time out to stop the momentum. This is coaching 101; why hasn’t VDN figured it out yet?

  2. denksucks February 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    As Tony mentioned above, Deng seems to barrel out of control on drives and on fast breaks every game. How many times is Stacey King going to have to say, Deng should have given up the ball (and he would get the ball right back). He puts his head down and doesn’t look who is open.

  3. chicondo@hotmail.com'
    luvabullnj February 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Arrrugh! That brought back nightmarish memories of the Sacramento Choke Job. Hey that could be a new term for “come from a comfortably ahead lead to blow the game”. As in the Bulls pulled another “Sacramento Choke Job” (SCJ) against the Wizards last night. Better yet let call it the “Kings Choke Job” or KCJ in honor of our very own K.C.Johnson LOL.
    Hey all kidding aside, the new guys (Warrick and Murray) are looking pretty good so far. I hope they don’t pull a Jalen Rose though. It’s a painful memory but when the Bulls first acquired Jalen Rose he played and meshed with the young Bulls well the first three games and I think they won all three. Then of course he turned into the J-Rose we all love to hate.

    I was actually surprised and a bit peeved that the Bulls did not go after and sign Warrick in the 2009 summer with our need for an offensive big man especially since the Bucks signed him to a one year deal so cheep. But when I watched him play for the Bucks against the Bulls, I was not too impressed. But he has impressed me so far with the Bulls both offensively AND defensively. Offensively he just seems to have nose for the ball. And while Murray may not match Salmons performance of last season, he is matching Salmons of this season quite nicely. The best thing, both guys appear to have at least some post ability which is so desperately needed.
    So I’m keeping my fingers crossed all the way into June or at least the second round.

  4. 2189alex@comcast.net'
    Alex R February 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    Watching the 3rd quarter last night was pretty painful to say the least. Bulls couldn’t buy a bucket until the last few minutes of the quarter. Bulls got outplayed by a pathetic Wizards team without Josh Howard for most of the game. I am pleased to see the Bulls using their depth more effectively, at one point I could have sworn Pargo, Noah, James Johnson, Warrick, and Hinrich were in control of the game in the first half. The Bulls need to continue to take advantage of their depth to give more guys breathers during the game.

    I read on ESPN insider today that the Bulls should consider the option of picking up Kobe Bryant if Phil Jackson does decide to call it quits in Los Angeles. Any thoughts?

  5. TexasBullsFan February 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    I could have sworn that during the 3rd, there were at least 3 or 4 straight possessions where the Bulls were whistled for traveling. What the heck? That doesn’t even happen in a high school game.

    Chalk it up to a young team playing down to the competition.

  6. tester123xyz@hotmail.com'
    bobbysimmons February 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    I too have noticed sometimes Deng goes out of control and refuses to pass the ball when double teamed. I think he does it out of pride since Derrick Rose has the option to take the ball by himself and score, Deng feels he should be able to do the same. Just watch, almost always when Deng gets the ball he’ll shoot it, he almost never passes, because he thinks if he does pass he’ll never get the ball back. He has to realize the Rose is the superstar of this team, and his job is to support Rose. Actually Deng has played really well this year, but since the arrival or Warrick and Murray his production has dropped a lot. I think he’s concerned that he may not be getting enough touches now that we have two other players who can shoot.

  7. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. February 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    By the way, I appreciate the relatively civil discourse found on this blog – in contrast to some others.

  8. rojer213@juno.com'
    Roger February 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    The inability to call time-outs when needed or coach his players to have successful plays after time-outs is just another reason Da Bulls need to FIRE VINNY DEL NEGRO!

    Regardless of having a solid core of Rose, Noah, and Gibson, NO elite player will want to sign with a team coached by someone with absolutely no experience and no ability.

    WAKE UP MANAGEMENT- VDN MUST GO!

  9. bullsblogger@gmail.com'
    your friendly BullsBlogger February 23, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Matt, not to be a jerk (not entirely), but I thought I should ask how team chemistry effected this loss. Did it wear off already? If it’s always there, and always important, then it has to mean something in the poorly played games as well as the well-played ones.

  10. davidpaulroosa@yahoo.com'
    AK Dave February 23, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Joakim is making a valiant effort, but I’m pretty sure he’s still in a lot of pain, and he’s only making matters worse by forcing his way back onto the court.

    I said it once before and it bears repeating: plantar fasciitis is unbelievably painful, and takes serious time to heal. Months, not weeks. Months, plural, not “a month”. I know the Joker wants to play, but if he knows what’s good for himself long-term, he will sit and rest that foot. With luck he’ll be OK again in late April or May. But if he keeps trying to play, he will inflame that injury again and again, and then he will have bone spurs, at which time he’ll need surgery.

    Don’t be a hero, Joak. Injury sucks, but this is an injury you just can’t play through.

    P.S.: Flip Murray sure made me eat my words from yesterday. But fear not: he will fall back to earth with an inglorious “thud”, together with 4 turnovers, 1 assist, and 3-10 shooting. Wait. Was I talking about Flip or Hinrich?

  11. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale February 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    “Hey all kidding aside, the new guys (Warrick and Murray) are looking pretty good so far. I hope they don’t pull a Jalen Rose though. It’s a painful memory but when the Bulls first acquired Jalen Rose he played and meshed with the young Bulls well the first three games and I think they won all three. Then of course he turned into the J-Rose we all love to hate.”

    I hear you. Rose was almost doomed to fail here, because he was still in a mode of thinking a team should build around him based on the success he had in Indy. But that was a very special situation. Sadly, by the time Rose figured out his limitations, he was stuck in Toronto. Cautionary tale, anyone?

    Anyway, as encouraged as I am with the play of Warrick and Murray, I’m also wary of the midseason rental effect, not to mention the Contract Year Phenomenon. They have reasons to fit in and kick butt. They want to prove themselves to their new AND old teams, and they have contracts on the line. The important thing to remember, I think, is that ultimately, they’re roleplayers, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

    “Bulls got outplayed by a pathetic Wizards team without Josh Howard for most of the game.”

    Like I said, even tho’ the Wiz have been a joke all season, we really don’t know this new Wizards team. Now they have several guys with a fresh start who have something to prove. They’re going to play above their heads some nights and lose others. Plus, beware the Wounded Tiger playing at home…

    “I too have noticed sometimes Deng goes out of control and refuses to pass the ball when double teamed. I think he does it out of pride since Derrick Rose has the option to take the ball by himself and score, Deng feels he should be able to do the same.”

    Well, Deng also has coaches and trainers — not to mention media members and bloggers — begging for him to scale back his long, contested two-point jumpers and take it to the rack. Not really Lou’s game, though. He does get the occasional opportunistic drive, but he’s much more comfortable shooting from midrange or beyond. I’m cool with him attacking the rim, but he needs to be smarter about it. And post up more. Could be a problem with the playcalling, though.

    “By the way, I appreciate the relatively civil discourse found on this blog – in contrast to some others.”

    What’s the point of getting pissy? We’re all Bulls fans, right? I don’t chew my mom’s head off during family get togethers because she prefers Clue to Monopoly.

    “The inability to call time-outs when needed or coach his players to have successful plays after time-outs is just another reason Da Bulls need to FIRE VINNY DEL NEGRO!”

    Seems like Vinny does a decent job of getting the players prepared for a game, but his inability to make in-game adjustments is his greatest weakness. This has become (even more) painfully apparent since (per Tony C.’s suggestion) I started tracking the timeouts.

    I know part of that could be the talent at his disposal. For more information, see Rivers, Doc. But I’d probably feel a little more comfortable if we had a more experienced and capable captain helming the ship.

    “Matt, not to be a jerk (not entirely), but I thought I should ask how team chemistry effected this loss. Did it wear off already? If it’s always there, and always important, then it has to mean something in the poorly played games as well as the well-played ones.”

    First, team chemistry isn’t going to win every game. It’s a single component that increases the chances of success. It’s not absolute. If chemistry won every game, the Phoenix Suns might be undefeated. It’s a logical fallacy to assume that Chicago’s failure against the Wizard is proof against the notion that team chemistry contributes to success.

    Mindset and coaching cost the Bulls this game. They didn’t play with a sense of urgency — they seemed to assume a weak opponent would simply roll over for them at some point — and Vinny didn’t (or couldn’t) do anything to shake them out of their stupor. Nor, as Tony C. pointed out, did he call a single timeout while Washington was going on their game-breaking run.

    Can you break a game, or a team, down into all its meaningful, significant components and how every component affects a win? Can anybody? Can you prove God doesn’t exist by saying you can’t see or touch him? If you have irrefutable proof against team chemistry, by all means, share it.

  12. big baller 86 February 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    people still have to remember; we are still da bulls no lead is safe with us, I dont relax til the 4th quarter buzzer sounds lol but I do like the way we are getting out and running and glad to see James Johnson getting some playing time. All I can hope 4 is a 6 seed and another shot at Boston, I think we can take them but our year to get expectations up isn’t til next year people.

  13. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale February 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    “Joakim is making a valiant effort, but I’m pretty sure he’s still in a lot of pain, and he’s only making matters worse by forcing his way back onto the court.”

    Yes. And the Bulls miss his interior defense and (even more importantly) his rebounding. Honestly, it might be better to just shut him down until closer to the playoffs.

  14. big baller 86 February 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    and phil jackson aint comin back to chicago people quit dreamin, for one he always has the best or close to the best player on his teams and as great as D. Rose will be, Kobe-Odom-Gasol-Artest-Bynum is a little more attractive than Rose-Deng-Noah-Gibson and MAYBE a top tier free agent, phils not in it for challenges or projects anymore he all about rings and unless we figure out a way for atlanta to take kirk in a sign and trade deal for Joe Johnson and sign Bosh or Boozer, we still wont be better on paper than the lakers next season and with lebron probably going back to cavs we’d be in a fight for best team in the conference because i believe if we do end up wit 2 max players cavs will make something happen to better thier team. I wish Pax and Forman had half the balls Danny Ferry does becuz maybe we’d have KG or Gasol or Kobe all of whom has won a title since we wouldnt give up the great Loul Deng for those guys…damn shame!!

  15. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. February 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    “Matt, not to be a jerk (not entirely), but I thought I should ask how team chemistry effected this loss. Did it wear off already? If it’s always there, and always important, then it has to mean something in the poorly played games as well as the well-played ones.”

    I’m not Matt, but I’ll throw in my 2¢:

    You are being a jerk. Either that, or you are remarkably obtuse. In the same respect that individual players have lapses and play poorly in certain games, teams obviously throw clunkers in as well. Neither Matt, nor I, nor anyone else I am aware of suggested that after two games the Bulls had definitely found some kind of brilliant new chemistry. There was a suggestion in those two games that the new players might contribute to better team chemistry, and, ironically, absolutely nothing about the Wizard’s game suggested otherwise.

    It’s obvious that you underrate (or completely discount) the significance of intangibles such as team chemistry. What isn’t obvious is why you would want to trumpet your lack of appreciation for such an important nuance.

  16. rfmdpres@comcast.net'
    cleansupwell February 24, 2010 at 12:02 am #

    Why didn’t DelNegro call a time out during Washington’s 14-0 run?…I’ll tell you why, because he’s a dunder head. Why doesn’t he shut down Noah until he’s well enough to play. He brings him back too soon and the 7 game rest he got goes to waste. The guy has missed two dunks, that ought to tell dunder head the guy can’t even jump let alone run the floor and rebound.

  17. dssinger@law.gwu.edu'
    DS February 24, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    VDN messed up bad during the 14-0 run and the 3rd quarter overall. In addition to not calling a timeout during the Wizards run, VDN didn’t change the matchup against Mike Miller after he kept getting wide open looks on Flip. Flip gave us some nice offense, but he was totally overmatched by Miller on the other end.

    Also, how does VDN continue to fail to get the ball to DRose during key possessions. I’m sorry, but as a coach you have to figure out how to get your best player the ball and not let Brad Miller jack up a 3 with the game on the line.

    Btw, I love the post-timeout monitor. VDN has a long way to go before becoming a serious NBA coach.

  18. tester123xyz@hotmail.com'
    bobbysimmons February 24, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    So i was bored today, taking breaks while studying so I looked up Bulls Rosters over the last decade and was curious who you guys think the most infamous Post-Jordan Bulls players were. It’s just fun to think about for me now, because just seeing these names made me laugh out loud:

    Kornell David, Fred Hoiberg, Dalibor Bargaric, Bryce Drew, Khalil El Amin, AJ Guyton, Dragac Tarlac, Lonny Baxter, Rick Brunson, Mike Sweetney, Luke Schenschner, Vickor Khryapa

    Oh man we used to laugh at Hoiberg’s combover, the fact that El Amin had six kids before the age of 24, Luke Schenschner I think was from Australia, Lonny Baxter had his initials tattooed on his shoulder, which also stood for lazy bum… oh the memories, at least we have a brighter future now.

  19. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath February 24, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    damn, bobby, that is like a casting call for Star Trek extras …

    That was one strange game to watch. So many new faces. But, it still felt like a game against the Wizards. They always find a way to turn a game into the Twilight Zone.

  20. m_nazabal@yahoo.com'
    Max February 24, 2010 at 2:24 am #

    Ron Mercer was the worst because they overpaid his ass so much but Khalid Al Amin was just straight up garbage!!!

  21. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale February 24, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    Ah, man, bobby, don’t be hatin’ on The Mayor. He gave the Bulls 9 PPG and 40 percent three-point shooting one season. I’d say that was about the max for his abilities.

    I don’t know if this counts as infamous, but I always thought it was funny when the Bulls got four games out of John Starks back in 1999-00. There were few players in the 90s, or any era, Bulls fans (and players) hated more than Dippy. Sure, the same could be said for Dennis Rodman, and that worked out pretty well for Chicago, but Starks was basically finished. Of course, it was one of those “pass the trash” situations.

    The funny thing is, the trade that brought Starks here was a three-team deal in which the Sixers sent Larry Hughes to the Golden State Warriors…which I guess sort of began Big Shot Larry’s NBA merry go ’round.

  22. emceemarshall@gmail.com'
    beegreezy February 24, 2010 at 5:17 am #

    Yep, been saying this; they’re not “there” yet. I like the state of the Bulls … last year … hell even when Skiles was here I was saying they are just a step away.

    Imagine if Skiles was here with this team ….

    Dreamin’, sure … Bulls will finish strong this year, no doubt … but they need to put games away they have LOCKED, none of this “winning a game we weren’t expected to win but lose a game we’re expected to win.”

    Bulls have so much potential …

  23. robby@eecs.northwestern.edu'
    Robby February 24, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    On the timeout tally: have you considered making a note of whether or not the play looks successful, instead of just the outcome? That is, shouldn’t we be looking for things like “open jumper” vs “completely broken play ending in jacked up shot” instead of “made” vs “miss”?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Agony of the feet » By The Horns - February 24, 2010

    [...] It’s affecting my pickup teams, and it’s affecting the Bulls. And don’t forget that — with much less limelight — Taj Gibson is also playing through a case of plantar fasciitis, and Brad Miller is being asked to log too many minutes in relief. That double whammy could certainly explain why those two guys played so badly against the Wizards on Monday. [...]

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