I just want to say up front that, when the Bulls were searching for a shooting guard last summer, I really wanted them to sign Shannon Brown. I felt like he had greater potential and a more complete skill set than the other players the Bulls were considering.
Instead, management went with Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans. And, as far as I could tell, Brown — a Chicago native by the way – was never seriously considered.
Sure enough, Brown busted the Bulls last night, scoring 21 points off the Lakers’ bench while shooting 7-for-14 from the field and 5-for-10 from three-point range. And it’s not like this was an aberration game. On the season, Brown is shooting 52 percent from the field (including 50 percent from downtown) and has a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.7.
Meanwhile, Bogans and Brewer combined for 9 points on 2-for-9 shooting. And the Bulls hit fewer threes (4-for-20) than Brown did by himself.
Adding insult to injury, the Bulls were actually leading 81-79 with 7:48 to go when Brown drilled a triple that gave L.A. the lead for good. Bogans and Brewer were watching from the bench at that point.
And when it comes right down to it, Chicago was beaten by the Lakers’ depth. During the Lakers’ decisive 17-2 fourth quarter run, Steve Blake hit two threes and Matt Barnes nailed another.
But you’ve got to hand it to the Bulls. They held the league’s best offensive team to 98 points on 39 percent shooting. They shut down Pau Gasol (3-for-10), Ron Artest (1-for-8) and Derek Fisher (0-for-6). And they contained Kobe Bryant (8-for-18). But L.A.’s bench outscored Chicago’s reserves 39-10.
That was the difference.
Said Derrick Rose: “They went small, and they made some tough shots. A lot of their players stepped up their game. Shannon Brown is shooting the ball well this year. He’s got a lot of confidence, and he’s doing great for them. Everybody in the league knows that their bench is like a transition team. They get out in the open and shoot a lot of 3s, and they were hitting them tonight.”
Still, in the big picture, the Bulls hung with the Lakers, even outrebounding them (46-38) and outscoring them in the paint (42-36). Joakim Noah (19 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks) outplayed Gasol, and Taj Gibson (16 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots) had a game too.
Unfortunately, down the stretch, L.A. clogged the paint and forced the Bulls to shoot jumpers. And the strategy worked.
But the Bulls are playing tough, gritty, spirited basketball right now. If they keep playing this way, a lot of good things are going to happen.