The game: Chicago Bulls (6-6 overall, 2-5 on the road) at Portland Trail Blazers (10-5 overall, 5-2 at home).
The history: Last season, the Blazers won the season series 2-0, beating the Bulls 116-74 during last year’s circus trip as Andres Nocioni (13 points), Drew Gooden (11 points) and Derrick Rose (11) points were the only Chicago players to reach double figures. The Blazers also won 109-95 in Chicago thanks to a 33-point explosion from reserve Travis Outlaw.
The stats: The Bulls rank a solid 9th in Defensive Rating (102.0 Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions) but dismal 27th in Offensive Rating (97.7 Points Per 100 Possessions). And Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro just blasted his team for not trying hard enough on offense. How often do you hear coaches make that complaint? Meanwhile, the Blazers are a strong third in DR (99.3) and slightly above average 13th in OR (107.3). More telling, Portland ranks first in both Field Goal Percentage Defense (.412) and Effective Field Goal Percentage Defense (.443).
I try to be optimistic, but asking Chicago’s terrible offense to score enough points to win against one of the league’s best defenses is kind of like asking an orangutan to build a pair of rocket boots and fly to the moon.
The big question: Assuming the Bulls can hold their own on defense, what are they going to do on offense? So far, only Joakim Noah and Luol Deng have played with the kind of consistency the team needs…although Rose has picked up his scoring the last two games (even if they were blowout losses). Who else is going to step up? John Salmons, who happens to be the worst shooter on the Bulls roster (34.5 percent)? Kirk Hinrich, who’s the second-worst shooter (36 percent)? Taj Gibson, the rookie who’s starting only because Tyrus Thomas is injured? Brad Miller (43.4 FG%) or Jannero Pargo (40.4 FG%)?
Vinny wants better ball movement and more transition opportunities. He thinks the Bulls have been standing around too often on offense, and maybe he’s right. But the ball movement is suffering because opposing defenses can sag off the team’s shooters and clog the passing lanes. Not to mention the driving lanes, which as I’ve been repeatedly pointing out, has been preventing the players from driving to the hoop and/or getting clean shots at the rim.
So yeah, more ball movement would be good, but guys have to start knocking down shots. More importantly, Rose needs to start creating easy shots for his teammates. Among NBA point guards, he’s currently 17th in Assists Per Game (5.3) and tied for 34th in Assists Per Turnover (1.78). That latter stat puts him behind guys like Sacramento’s Beno Udrih (2.14), Indiana’s Earl Watson (2.13), and Minnesota’s Ramon Sessions (2.00). And it’s not like those guys are dishing off to lights-out shooters.
In short, Derrick has to create, and guys have to finish. Sounds easy. So why is it so damn hard?