In the NBA, whether a team loses by one point or 30, it still counts as only one loss. And even some blowout losses have lesser meaning, such as when they happen on the second night of back-to-back games, or when the team’s star has an off night, or when the team simply has a group meltdown.
But some blowout losses feel downright bad. I’m talking “kick a cat” bad. (Don’t worry, PETA. I’m only kidding. Don’t give me the Manu Ginobili treatement.) Take last night’s defeat in L.A. The Bulls weren’t awful. Their best player, Derrick Rose, performed reasonably well (20 points, 9-for-20, 6 assists)…although his 2-for-11 shooting in the first half may have gotten the blowout ball rolling. And yet the Lakers swatted the Bulls aside rather casually, seemingly with the kind of effort reserved for a scrimmage. Or a shootaround. Or, geez, maybe even a game of NBA Live.
I mean, the Bulls lost by 17 on a night in which Kobe Bryant was only 7-for-21 from the field.
This fact was not lost on Joakim Noah: “To me, the most amazing thing about it is you’re out there competing hard, and these guys are hardly breaking a sweat because they’re so comfortable running their offense. They look like it’s very easy.”
In the end, this game illustrated the relatively wide gulf between these Bulls and the league’s elite. The 6-4 start to this season was nice, especially considering Chicago’s offensive woes, but the Bulls are still very much a work-in-progress. And considering the fact that half the roster could be playing elsewhere next season, we aren’t going to see the finished product any time soon.
The Four Factors:
Effective Field Goal Percentage was a dead heat (48.9 for the Lakers, 48.2 for the Bulls). Not surprisingly, Chicago had the higher Turnover Percentage (15.3 to 12.2), and L.A. ended up +7 in points off turnovers. The Lakers handily won Offensive Rebounding Percentage (29.1 to 21.2) and were +10 in second chance points. L.A. also won Free Throw Rate (23.9 to 20.2). They also knocked down a better percentage of their freebies (81% to 70%) and finished +6 in points off foul shots. That made the Lakers +23 points in three key categories…which is usually a bad sign.
Pain in the Paint:
The disparity in Offensive Rebounding Percentage was indicative of how badly the Bulls were manhandled inside. But here’s another ugly stat for you: L.A. outscored Chicago 60-40 in the paint. (Make that L.A. +43 in four key categories.) The Lakers, whom Vinny Del Negro described as “really, really long,” also forced the Bulls into 10 misses at the rim (11-for-21 on layups/tip shots).
Said Rose: “It definitely wasn’t the right time [to face the Lakers]. You’ve got two 7-footers out there tipping balls to each other. It’s tough. Doesn’t matter if it’s (Gasol’s) first game or last. He’s a great player.” Speaking of which…
Frontcourt defensive woes:
Pau finished with a game-high 24 points (9-for-15) and 13 rebounds (7 offensive). There’s no shame in getting schooled by Gasol, because he’s a fantastic player. But still…it simply continues the trend of a frontcourt player scorching the Bulls.
Player of the Game:
Here we “Jo” again:
Here’s a shocker: Noah was once again the Bulls’ best player: 12 points (6-for-12), a game-high 15 rebounds (5 offensive), 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocked shots. It was Jo’s 10th double-digit rebounding effort in 11 games this season. He also did a servicable job on Andrew Bynum (11 points, 5-for-12, 8 boards).
It wasn’t all violins and roses, though. Noah was only 2-for-5 at the front of the rim, went 0-for-3 at the charity stripe, and committed a game-high 4 turnovers. However, at times, he looked very, very alone inside against the Lakers’ giants.
Luol Deng’s comeback hit a speed bump last night — or, since this was L.A. we’re talking about, maybe it got stuck in traffic — as Deng shot 3-for-11 and finished with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and no assists. He looked a little too much like the Invisible Lou of the last couple seasons for my comfort, but then again, facing Ron Artest’s pit bull defense will do that to a player.
Not slumping, slumping again:
John Salmons played pretty well in the first half (18 points on 7-for-10 shooting) and then disappeared in the second (zero points on 0-for-3 shooting). Of course, that’s mostly because he spent most of his time riding the pine due to foul trouble.
L.A.’s 108 points were the second-most (to Boston’s 118) that Chicago has given up this season. The defensive no-show dropped the Bulls from 4th to 7th in Defensive Rating (100.6 Points Per 100 Possessions).
Actually, calling it a “no-show” probably isn’t fair. The Bulls were simply overwhelmed by a much better team. Which, now that I think about it, doesn’t make me feel any better.
In case you were wondering:
The Bulls have “improved” to 26th in the NBA in Three-Point Percentage…at 29.9 percent. They were 5-for-15 (33 percent) last night. They’re 27th in Field Goal Percentage (43.1) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (45.3). They’re also 27th in Offensive Rating (97.8 Points Per 100 Possessions).
Still, Noah remains optimistic that the corpse of the Chicago offense will return to life. “”I think that we got some good shots. We moved the ball pretty good in spurts and played pretty well in spurts but we just need to keep up that intensity and ball movement. I think we’ll be all right.”