During last night’s telecast of the Pistons-Bulls game, Neil Funk — Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s play-by-play man — tried to put the Bulls’ recent woes into perspective by reminding his audience (and I’m paraphrasing here) that the New Jersey Nets have set a new NBA record for futility by losing their first 18 games in a row to start the season. And what’s a little old five-game losing streak compared to something as historically depressing as that?
That’s like comforting a friend who just broke his leg by pointing out that at least he doesn’t have cancer. But thanks for trying to cheer us up, Neil.
Anyway, last night’s game was just…strange. Ben Gordon returned from injury to face his old team, but BG wasn’t exactly his old self. He nearly fouled out in only 31 minutes and scored a mere 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting (including 2-for-8 from three-point land). Maybe it was emotion, maybe it was the bum ankle, maybe it was the defense. I don’t know. But there were no “Air Gordon” exploits in the United Center last night. Bulls fans did have some boos for their former hero, though.
Said Gordon: “It is what it is. It’s not like I won the championship while I was here or anything. I just had a couple of good years, so I wasn’t surprised at all. … I expected that, seeing past players come back after going to another team.”
It’s so weird watching a beloved former player play against his old team. It’s like running into an old girlfriend. On the one hand, you wish her well (kinda) and want her to be happy (sorta), but it also makes you want to throw up in your own mouth to see her holding hands with her new boyfriend. I mean, you kind of want to punch him right in his smug mouth, right? Well, I hope Ben understands those boos were the equivalent of Bulls fans punching the Pistons in the mouth.
Meanwhile, the Bulls managed to snap their losing streak by beating a Detroit squad that was withoug three of its four best players (Charlie Villanueva, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince). Frankly, even with Kirk Hinrich (sprained thumb) and Tyrus Thomas (forearm fracture) on the injured list, Chicago should have won in a blowout. The Bulls kept building double-digit leads and threatening to pull away, but they never did.
Look, Detroit’s starting five scored only 33 points and finished with almost as many turnovers (9) as field goals (11). Shouldn’t the Bulls have won by more than seven points? Yes. Yes, they should have. Frankly, it worries me. It worries me a lot. The Bulls played last night’s game like they expected to win. I never really saw a sense of urgency, which is shocking considering how badly they got kicked around on their circus road trip.
And now the Bulls have to face the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday? Gulp.
The new Big Sexy had a good game (19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) even if he did commit a game-high 5 turnovers. But wowed the hell out of the UC crowd by throwing down not one but two alley oop dunks, both off picture-perfect feeds from Brad Miller. One of them was the NBA.com Dunk of the Night…and deservedly so.
When I see plays like that — plays that show off his extreme athleticism — I can’t help but wonder why he averages only 3.1 free throw attempts per game. That’s fifth on the team and barely ahead of Miller (3.0). Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade — another super-athletic slasher — is averaging more than 10 foul shots per contest.
Look, I get that Derrick hurt his ankle in the offseason. But you know, he averaged exactly 3.1 FTAs per game last season too. Frankly, it’s time for Rose to put his speed and strength to use. He needs to explode into the paint and attack the rim with savage intensity. He needs to put more pressure on opposing defenses. As it is, running into a double or triple team usually either stops him cold or forces him into a bad pass.
I’d love to see Rose develop more of a killer instinct and an attacker’s mentality. It would be great for his game and, by extension, great for the Bulls.
Pain in the Paint:
There weren’t any obvious big-game performers in Detroit’s frontcourt. Heck, Ben Wallace didn’t even score a point. But the Pistons still pulled down 17 offensive rebounds. That’s not acceptable. Nor is the fact that Kwame Brown scored 10 points and earned eight free throw attempts in limited action. I mean, Kwame outscored Joakim Noah 10-7 even though he played 23 minutes to Noah’s 46. Although Noah did kick butt in several other ways (14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots).
That’s a relief:
John Salmons went 3-for-4 from downtown, 7-for-12 overall, and finished with a game-high 22 points. You think he wasn’t aware of the fact that he was going up against the man he basically replaced?
Thanks for being the bench, Brad:
The big guy contributed 16 points (6-for-12), 7 boards, 6 assists and a block off the bench. Oh, what am I saying? He was the bench. Have I mentioned the Bulls really need a bench? Man, this team looked so deep coming into the season. Huh. I wonder why Vinny gave James Johnson another DNP-CD? Isn’t this the time to try and develop the rookie?