With last night’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls finished their circus road trip 1-5. They are now 10-61 on that annual trek through hell over the last decade…so don’t blame the coaches or players if they get the shakes any time they hear the word “circus.”
Well. At least it’s over. Until next year.
I suppose there is some small consolation in the fact that — instead of getting blown out for the fifth consecutive game — the Bulls came back from a 14-point third-quarter hole to take an 89-87 lead on Luol Deng’s layup with 4:15 to go in the fourth. They also got a clean look at tying the game at the buzzer via a Derrick Rose/Brad Miller pick and roll. Unfortunately, Miller’s 18-footer came up just short.
Said Miller: “It was well within my range. I felt comfortable, and I just didn’t make it.”
Why didn’t Derrick just take it all the way himself? Said Rose: “Part of me being the point guard was to pass that ball. That’s why I did it.”
Added Vinny Del Negro: “Brad got a good look. They double teamed Derrick. Derrick swung and he made the right basketball play. The percentages will go in your favor if you make the right play.”
Unless they don’t. Although passing to an open teammate really is the right play. You can’t fault Rose for doing his job.
But again, it was better than getting blown out. Of course, whether a team ends the game down by 20 points or only two, the final result is still a loss. Last time I checked, the NBA standings don’t have a “Gosh, they came awfully close” column.
Pain in the Paint:
After getting manhandled inside for most of the trip, the Bulls actually came out kinda-sorta on top within the painted rectangle last night. They were +4 in rebounds (51-47), +4 in points in the paint (44-40), +1 in layups (14-13) and +1 in dunks (3-2). They also had a slight edge in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (40.0 to 37.7).
However, the Bulls still fell victim to their old Achilles’ heel Walton’s foot: namely, they were victimized by an opposing frontcourt player. Andrew Bogut was 10-for-19 from the field (mostly at or around the basket) and finished with 22 points (a team-high), 15 rebounds (another team-high), 3 assists, 3 steals (a co-game-high) and 4 blocked shots (another game-high).
He was also strong in the clutch. The Bucks were leading 93-90 with 1:30 to play when Bogut stuffed a dunk attempt by Deng. With 1:07 to go, Bogut hit a layup to build Milwaukee’s lead to five. Less than 10 seconds later, Bogut swatted a layup attempt by Rose on the other end. Deng got the offensive rebound and earned a foul, but that sequence was a microcosm of how dominant Bogut was for most of the night.
And he wasn’t even supposed to play!
Bogut missed the last six games with a lower left leg strain. That injury was supposed to keep him out up to four weeks. Instead, he came back early and beat the Bulls. The Milwaukee coaching staff intended to limit Bogut to 20 minutes. He played 35. Said Bogut: “I’ll be sore tomorrow. I’ll get in the ice bath, do my recovery and I should be all right.”
Don’t get me wrong. Joakim Noah (16 points, 17 rebounds, 8-for-10 from the line) had a strong game. But the Bulls desperately need to figure out how to stop opposing big men. Maybe it’ll help when Tyrus Thomas returns from injury. Maybe.
Another possible consolation was the solid team effort VDN got from his troops. I already mentioned Noah’s numbers. In addition, John Salmons scored a game-high 23 points (8-for-15) to go along with 3 boards, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots. Deng added 22 points (7-for-14) and 14 rebounds. Rose had 19 points (8-for-17) and 7 assists (and it might have been at least 8 if Miller could have knocked down that last-second jumper). Taj Gibson chipped in with 8 points and 5 boards (4 offensive).
Unfortunately, the bench play was weak. Chicago’s reserves shot 4-for-18 and got outscored 18-9. The Bulls really need Kirk Hinrich back. Unfortunately, he’s out for another week or two.
Jeremy of Bucksketball: “Bogut’s play figuratively (and at times quite literally) leapt off the court for the majority of his 34:39 on the court. He was mobile and showed no sign of the injury that had kept him shelved for the previous five games. He frequently carried the Bucks for extended stretches on offense. When he wasn’t the focal point, he was often the release valve if the Bucks struggled to get a good shot. Bogut brought his entire offensive repertoire in this one: hooks, baby hooks, left hand, right hand and runners. It all started with Bogut in the paint on offense. 22 points on 10-19 shooting. Ask Joakim Noah if Andrew Bogut is back, he spent the better part of four quarters getting destroyed.”
Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm thinks Joakim Noah should have taken that last-second jumper. More or less.