There are certain things I’ve learned to accept about the 2009-10 version of the Chicago Bulls.
For instance, I have accepted that they rank 28th out of 30 in scoring (92.3 PPG) and are next to dead last in Offensive Efficiency…the latter of which means the only team less efficient at scoring is currently 3-33 and on pace to be the worst team in NBA history.
Furthermore, I have accepted that their scoring woes are due in large part to the following facts: 1) the team has no inside scoring threat and 2) no high-percentage outside shooters. The NBA is simple in that you have to score either from the inside or the outside. The Bulls can’t do either very well. They currently rank 28th in Field Goal Percentage (43.1) and 29th in both Effective Field Goal Percentage (45.3) and True Shooting Percentage (49.7).
Yes, it’s rough, but I have accepted these things.
One thing I cannot accept, however, is poor free throw shooting. The Bulls are knocking down only 75.6 percent of their foul shots this season, which ranks them in the bottom third of the league. Free throws are free points! No team can afford to regularly kick away free points, especially teams that struggle to put the ball in the basket.
That’s not to say they haven’t had several games in which they drilled their free throws. But they have 12 games so far this season in which they’ve missed at least seven freebies. What is especially damning about that is the Bulls are 27th in free throw attempts (22.7). Teams that can’t score and rarely get to the line need to take advantage of every opportunity they get.
I bring this up because, after last night’s loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee, the Bulls have lost two very winnable games. In their five-point loss to the Bobcats in Charlotte, the Bulls missed seven of their 22 attempts at the stripe (68 percent). I let that slide because they made such a spirited effort on the road against a solid defensive team on the second night of back-to-backs.
But against the Bucks, it was worse, with the Bulls shanking 10 of 31 from the line (67 percent). Even more catastrophic was that four of those misses happened in the fourthquarter, including two consecutive misses by Derrick Rose when the team was down 85-80 with about three and a half minutes to go.
Four fourth-quarter misses at the line in a three-point loss. I’m just sayin’.
Actually, it was borderline amazing that Chicago managed to keep this one close in the final quarter. After Rose hit a hook shot at the 9:33 mark, the Bulls did not hit another field goal until LuolDeng canned a 19-footer with 1:51 left in the game. That’s nearly eight minutes without hitting a shot. Toss in the missed foul shots, and you almost have to wonder how the Bulls kept this one competitive, especially considering they were behind by as many as 17 in the first quarter.
The Bulls managed to comeback and almost steal this one from the Bucks thanks in large part to Rose, who finished with 25 points and a game-high 9 assists. He caught fire in the second quarter (7 points, 4 assists) as Chicago pulled to within six points by halftime. Then he had 6 points and 2 more assists as the Bulls pulled even at 64-64 after three quarters.
Unfortunately, after his fourth-quarter hook shot — which put Chicago ahead 74-68 — Derrick went as cold as the rest of the team. During that nearly eight-minute stretch of missed shots, Rose bricked three jumpers, missed a layup, committed an offensive foul and then misfired on his only two free throws of the second half.
That’s right: Rose made only one trip to the line in the final 24 minutes.
Of course, Chicago’s offensive fail in the fourthalso happened to coincide with some extra spirited play by the Bucks following a scuffle that almost broke out between Kirk Hinrich, Andrew Bogut and Hakim Warrick. The Bucks apparently used that as a rallying point.
Said Warrick: “We had to calm down. That’s what Andrew did. He got us in, told us to take a deep breath, stick together, and we did.”
Bogut (game-high 27 points, 13 rebounds, and career-high 6 blocks) added: “[It was] a little bit physical, a little bit testy at times, but I think that got us going. We went on a run after that, got the lead back and won the game.”
It didn’t hurt that Michael Redd pulled out of his funk to score 14 of his 24 points in the final 7:09, an outburst that included several clutch baskets. It was a painful reminder that Rose, despite his vastly improved play, isn’t an elite go-to guy just yet.
Jeremy of Bucksketball: “Heading towards a loss just before a very difficult six game road trip to the West, Bogut helped regroup his teammates after a difficult fourthquarter stretch that left them down seven. Withtheir (occasional) three-point shooting prowess, you’d think the Bucks would be the kind of team that can come back from a deficit, but that hadn’t been the case all that often over the past monthfor Milwaukee. Lately, when the Bucks took a shot to the mouth, it was easy to sense the panic coming over the team. Jump-shots would begin to fly at record pace and misses would usually end up the result. But that wasn’t the case Friday. When the Bucks got down seven with eight minutes to go it was Michael Redd who continued to attack the basket, resulting in 11 straight points from the free throw line or paint. Attacking the paint to erase a fourth quarter deficit? A seemingly foreign concept prior to Friday night, but it was the rare answer for the Bucks.”