Those are the shooting stats for the Bulls’ starters against the Hornets on Saturday.
For those of you who enjoy simple math, that’s 14-for-53 combined, a conversion rate of 26.4 percent.
That starting unit was also 0-for-5 from three-point range (Luol Deng was 0-for-3 and Kirk Hinrich was 0-for-2).
There was some brick-laying off the bench, too, with Nate Robinson going 6-for-16 and Marco Belinelli finished 4-for-10 after a strong start.
As a team, the Bulls shot 33 percent from the field (29-for-88) and 3-for-17 on threes (17.6).
They committed only 12 turnovers, so they had that going for them, which is nice.
Still, the Hornets put on a pretty good defensive performance, especially considering they were playing on the road on the second night of back-to-back games. And they did it without both Eric Gordon and number one overall draft pick Anthony Davis, who was sitting out due to the NBA’s concussion rules.
New Orleans’ defense was aggressive and persistent. The Hornets players didn’t do anything flashy — although Robin Lopez finished with 4 blocked shots and Austin Rivers had 3 steals — but they were consistently physical and they contested everything. And, at times, the Bulls looked intimidated.
Said New Orleans coach Monty Williams: “We don’t get a lot of credit or notoriety for being a physical team, but that’s something we’ve prided ourselves on since I’ve been here, was to play a physical style of basketball, legally. I don’t think we out-worked them, I just think the ball came our way a few times and it was just a major battle in that paint. Anytime you play against Chicago, a team that (Tom Thibodeau) is gonna coach, you know you’re gonna play a team that is gonna hit you right in the mouth.”
On Saturday, it was Thibodeau’s team that got hit in the mouth. Repeatedly.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s a small sample size — only three games — but the Hornets currently rank eighth in Defensive Rating. They are limiting teams to 98.6 points per 100 possessions. They also rank fifth in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage (44.1). So far, they have held the Spurs (99), Jazz (86) and Bulls (82) below 100 points. Not bad considering that, in the early going, the Jazz are averaging 107.4 points per 100 possessions and the Spurs are scoring 105.8 points per 100 possessions.
So the Bulls got a taste of their own medicine: a team working hard and overachieving on defense.
How else do you explain a team with a starting lineup of Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Robin Lopez and Al-Farouq Aminu coming into the United Center and solidly outplaying a starting unit of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton?
Look, a lot is being made of Derrick Rose’s continuing absence, but the Bulls should be better than this Hornets team with or without Rose. Especially at home.
But on Saturday night, they were not.
According to Hoopdata, they went only 15-for-27 at the rim (55.6 percent). That’s not a great conversion rate around the basket. The Hornets were extremely physical in the paint, and the Bulls did not respond well to that. They became tentative, and coach Tom Thibodeau noted “a lot of flipping instead of attacking” when his players opted to drive.
The Bulls also chucked up a long of long two-pointers from 16-to-23 feet — 22 of them to be exact — but connected on only five of them for a conversion rate of 22.9 percent. And I already mentioned their dismal 3-for-17 shooting night from downtown, which made the Bulls 8-for-39 from long range.
Said Joakim Noah: “Tough day at the office. We got our asses kicked. They outplayed us. They were way more on edge than us. It’s unfortunate because it was a good opportunity to go 3-0.”
Look, some nights the shots aren’t going to go down, I get that. But this was far worse than it should have been.
Thibs, for his part, didn’t think his team’s misdirected shooting was the issue: “I thought the start of the game set the tone for the game. We were back on our heels. They got an early lead. Their big guys hurt us. The thing about shooting, that doesn’t bother me. If you are taking your shot and you are missing your shot, you can live with that. The thing about the game was our approach to defensive transition. When you are not shooting well, you cannot allow that to sap your energy. You have to get back and set your defense.”
The Bulls did give up 17 fast break points. But, then again, they also scored 21 points in transition. So that part of the game was pretty much a wash.
Look, with all due respect to the NBA’s former Coach of the Year, teams don’t often win shooting 33 percent from the field and 17 from three-point range. Winning under those circumstances would take an even greater defensive performance (which the Bulls did not have) or an overpowering advantage on the boards (only the Bulls were outrebounded 44-41).
Without Rose, the Bulls’ offense relies on timing, precision, and execution. Nobody — with the occasional exception of Robinson — can really create their own shot.
When a pesky (and very physical) defense digs in and refuses to surrender good looks…Chicago’s offense stalls. Big time.
And it’s likely this problem will occur at times throughout the season. At least until Rose gets back.