The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets are one of the worst teams in NBA history. They have 12 wins and 67 losses.
The 2009-10 Chicago Bulls — who, rumor has it, are fighting for a playoff spot — have given them two of those wins. In fact, the Nets won the season series against the Bulls 2-1.
If Chicago ends up missing the playoffs by one or two games, those two losses to New Jersey are going to haunt the Bulls players all summer. At least, I hope so. As a fan, they’re going to haunt me.
At any rate, here are some thoughts on last night’s game:
Chicago’s D wasn’t good. The Bulls couldn’t handle Brook Lopez (26 points, 14 rebounds), Devin Harris (19 points, 7-for-12) or rookie Terrence Williams (27 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). They left Yi Jianlian and Coutney Lee open for critical shots late in the game. There was entirely too much looking around and letting opposing players sprint by with no resistance, and not nearly enough fighting through screens.
And yes, I’m looking at you, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.
The Nets also came away with 13 offensive boards, including the biggest of the game. More on that below.
If the Bulls had pulled this one out, I was going to title this post “Brad Miller is my hero.” The former Boilermaker had a season-high 27 points and helped bring Chicago back from the brink. Not bad, considering that watching him drive to the hoop is like watchng a still-life painting. Of a statue.
Yi had just knocked down back-to-back jumpers to put New Jersey up by double digits with about four and a half minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Miller responded by hitting back-to-back threes to give the Bullies a little hope. While the Nets were missing free throws — Harris went 0-for-2 and then Jianlian went 1-for-2 — Chicago was getting layups from Rose (one) and Miller (two) to get back to within a point.
By the way, the second of Miller’s layups happened when he trapped a pick-and-roll with Deng, which helped force Williams into a turnover, and then sprinted downcourt to receive the pass from Deng for a layup. Just a great, savvy, veteran play.
The Bulls took a one-point lead off a tip-in by Joakim Noah and Miller padded that lead by hitting a couple clutch free throws with nine seconds left. Frankly, that should have been the game.
Unfortunately, Harris hit a tough running jumper over Kirk Hinrich with four seconds left. The Nets were forced to foul Rose who — gak! — knocked down only hit one of two. Now the Bulls were up only two points. After a timeout, Courtney Lee forced up an ugly shot over Miller, who had slid over to help on defense. Unfortunately, Miller only watched the shot go up instead of putting a body on anybody, which allowed Brook Lopez to tie the game with an uncontested putback slam (more on that below).
Now, admittedly, when a player helps on defense, another player must rotate to his man. So it wasn’t all Brad’s fault. That said, Miller has been in the league a long, long time. He got caught watching the ball…and it might have cost his team the game.
The officiating stunk. It did. There’s no denying it. Which isn’t really all that surprising, considering earlier this week the NBA had to admit a botched call at the end of a high-profile game between the Jazz and Thunder.
Look, I hate laying blame on the officials after a tough loss. It comes off like sour grapes. But in this case, I feel like it’s justified. Not all the blame, mind you. But some of it, at the very least.
Take the Lopez putback that sent the game to overtime. That ball was touching the rim when he slammed it down. In 50 out of 50 states, that’s called “goaltending.” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro pleaded with the officials to review the play, but apparently it wasn’t reviewable.
Fast forward to the end of the first overtime. The Bulls were up 112-108 with just under a minute to play. The officials decided it was okay for Courtney Lee to body bump and handcheck Rose all over the backcourt, which resulted in Derrick losing the ball out of bounds. Why the refs suddenly decided to choke down their whistles is anybody’s guess.
Harris pulled the Nets to within 112-110 with a quick layup. On the other end, Rose blew past Lee, who did the only thing he could do…he reached. Lee reached from behind and grabbed Derrick’s left arm, after which the ball flew out of bounds. Replays showed conclusively that this was the case. Rose could not have been fouled more blatantly without blood being involved.
The officials paused to review the play to determine who sent the ball out of bounds. Technically speaking, the ball went off Rose. But, as I said, the film made it pretty evident Rose was fouled. Here’s the problem: It’s not within an official’s power to rule a foul via video reply. Therefore, they awarded the ball to the Nets, who tied the game on a couple free throws by Lopez.
The Bulls — who were clearly fatigued, thanks in part to the previous night’s home game versus the Cavaliers — promptly fell to pieces in the second overtime.
Honestly, what’s the point in allowing video review if the officials aren’t allowed to make the right call? Why can’t an official review goaltending or a non-call? I mean, the Bulls could literally end up missing the playoffs in part because the video review system doesn’t make total sense.
Beyond that, why oh why isn’t Derrick Rose getting the benefit of the whistle? He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s an All-Star for pity’s sake. I’m not suggesting the refs should give him preferential treatment. Not by a long shot. But if Rose gets fouled, it should be called. Last night, Derrick was treated like a rookie nobody on a few plays, and that treatment proved critical.
A few observations:
First, Derrick finished with 7 turnovers. Two of those weren’t entirely his fault, but 5 is still an awful lot.
Second, he had only 6 assists, but he might have had 10 or 12 if his teammates could hit open jump shots. Honestly, Rose’s drives are so deadly that teams collapse on him with extreme prejudice. And, more often than not, Derrick makes the right play by passing the ball out to an open teammate. Unfortunately, he’s on a team full of lousy shooters.
Rose has taken some criticism with regards to his floor game, and no, his isn’t as good as Steve Nash’s or Chris Paul’s. But I’m telling you, if Chicago management can bring in another All-Star and surround Rose with some capable shooters, his assist numbers are going to go up. No question.
The Raptors lost to the Atlanta Hawks last night, which means Toronto and Chicago are still tied for the final playoff spot in the East, which should hereafter be referred to “Cleveland’s first round hors d’oeuvres.”
The Bulls play the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday. Considering that the Raptors have the tiebreaker, that game is…well, it’s as important as the games Chicago lost to the Bucks and Nets this week. So take that for whatever it’s worth. I’m not quite sure at this point.
It’s become quite evident that, as presently constructed, the Bulls are not a good team, healthy or otherwise. They have no inside game, no outside game, and they rely on contested two-point jumpers. This season has always been all about waiting for next season…and of course this summer’s free agent market.