Dance party in Cleveland: Cavaliers 101, Bulls 87

If I’m being completely realistic, it was probably too much to ask for this particular Bulls team — still without starter Tyrus Thomas and key reserve Kirk Hinrich — to beat this particular Cavaliers team in Cleveland for a second time this season.

It was simply a bad matchup on paper, and a worse matchup in reality. NBA players are a proud breed, and the great ones are even prouder. Back on November 5, LeBron James didn’t really play up to his typical ultra-lofty standards. Moreover, he lost the ball at the buzzer on a potentially game-winning drive. (For his part, James thought he was fouled.) Players like LeBron don’t forget about losses like that. They store the memory for motivation, and they almost alway exact a little revenge later, especially against lesser teams. Which, unfortunately, the Bulls are…for now.

The Bulls were actually pretty competitive for the first two quarters — the halftime score was Cavs 47, Bulls 46 — but Cleveland started pulling away in the third quarter as LeBron imposed his will: hitting jumpers, earning foul shots, dishing to his teammates. LeBron finished with 23 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds and an unspecified number of hip-hop dance moves. And that last “stat” got one of the Bulls pretty fired up…

Here we “Jo” again:
Joakim Noah had a rough night. He missed one layup and had another stuffed by Jamario Moon. He bricked a couple jumpers from about 17 feet out. (Uhm, why were you taking 17-footers, Jo?) He finished with 7 points (2-for-7), 10 boards, 3 assists, a steal, a blocked shot and a game-worst plus-minus score of -18.

Look, Noah may not be a great player yet, but he’s got almost as much pride as LeBron James. He doesn’t like losing, and he doesn’t like having a loss rubbed in his face, either intentionally or unintentionally. Which is what happened last night when LeBron started dancing a jig on the Bulls’ grave:

Noah didn’t like that. Not one bit.

I’m not sure what Hubie Brown was so confused about. Back in his coaching days – particularly when he was coaching the New York Knicks in the mid-1980s — Hubie would have gotten pretty upset if, say, Larry Bird had started dancing all over the place during the fourth quarter of a 20-point Boston Celtics blowout. I don’t blame Joakim for being angry. He should have been. All of the Bulls should have been. It was an embarrassing loss, and the fact that LeBron was dancing all over the court was symbolic of how easily they swatted the Bulls down in the second half.

Said Noah: “When you’re losing the way you’re losing and guys are rubbing it in your face, dancing and all that. I have a lot of respect for LeBron. It’s just a frustrating situation. … It stinks to lose, man. That’s the toughest thing, we can’t compete for 48 minutes. We’ve got to find a way to win games because this losing thing is not a good look, man, it’s just not. It’s not what anybody in this locker room expected. This losing thing is really frustrating.”

It sure is.

As for LeBron, he said he was just having a good time. “It’s nothing against the Bulls and it’s nothing against Joakim or none of those guys. It’s nothing about showboating on a team. I’ve seen it happen all last year. I think he [Noah] was more frustrated about the way he played as an individual. He didn’t help his team win.”

Of course, this is the same guy who thinks thinks “winners” don’t have to display good sportsmanship after tough playoff losses. So of course he’s not going to think anything about busting a move in the face of his fallen opponents. Hey, he’s King James, right? I guess kings get to make up their own rules for oncourt behavior.

But Joakim doesn’t have to like it.

Pain in the paint:
Same old story. Cleveland pulled down 17 offensive rebounds en route to a 24-10 advantage in second-chance points. They also and outscored Chicago 46-20 in the paint. Of course, credit goes to the Cavaliers’ defense, which either kept the Bulls out of the painted rectangle or forced a tough shot at the basket.

Here’s some extra bad news courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information: “When the Bulls struggle with their interior defense, it has hurt in the win column — this season, Chicago has allowed 38 points per game in the paint in its seven wins, compared to 47.4 paint points per game in its 10 losses.” Yep. That’s pretty much what I’ve been saying all season.

By the Horns reader Mike also wrote in with some good points: “We have no one who can get calls in the paint. Also, every time someone goes into the paint, there are 2-3 defenders collapsing. This is the biggest problem with the offensive system. Rose and Salmons are both penetrating slashers, but since we don’t have anyone to spread the floor, the shots that both players are getting in the paint are low-percentage. Derrick’s most reliable shot is the one where he bursts through the lane, leaps and tosses the floater. He’s good at it, but here’s my issue: it’s not a “downhill” attack. He’s slashing across the lane at more of an angle, rather than directly at the basket. It’s a less-aggressive move that fundamentally avoids contact, rather than seeking it. This shot and the 18-footer feel like they make up about 75% of derrick’s shots. If he’s going to thrive, those shots shouldn’t top 50%, with the other half coming on “downhill” drives all the way to the basket for lay-ups/ fouls, and back-cuts for lay-ups and dunks.”

Player of the Game:
Taj Gibson was on fire in the first quarter, during which he scored 11 of his team-high 14 points (7-for-14). He also snared a game-high 13 rebounds. Of course, it’s probably a bad sign that the Bulls got their best performance out of a rookie who, if Tyrus Thomas hadn’t gotten hurt, might not be seeing much playing time.

Derrick Rose:
Rose had 13 points and 7 assists in only 29 minutes. He went 5-for-16 from the field, and 13 of his shot attempts were jumpers…of which he hit three. Look, I understand why Derrick would like to play with LeBron — who wouldn’t — but right now the Bulls need Rose to play a little more like LeBron. Rose is the team’s superstar. He has to be his absolute best for Chicago to compete against the best.

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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12 Responses to Dance party in Cleveland: Cavaliers 101, Bulls 87

  1. danvogl001@yahoo.com'
    Dan December 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    I dont remember Magic, Larry, MJ, Kareem, Russell, or Kobe ever dancing on the court. If he wants to dance during games he should join the pep squad. Just another example of LeBron’s lack of professionalism.

  2. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. December 5, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    It is truly painful to watch the Bulls play, and not because they are losing to better teams, but because they are underperforming so badly.

    This is, as I’ve mentioned before, principally a function of poor coaching. I don’t know if anyone keeps track of this sort of thing, but VDN must be one of the worst NBA coaches ever when it comes to production out of timeouts. It’s overly simplistic, of course, but a good, simple way to identify good coaches is that their adjustments and/or designed plays out off timeouts are PRODUCTIVE. The Bulls are almost invariably at a disadvantage out of timeouts because they are consistently being OUT-COACHED by the opposing team’s coaches.

    Also, it is deeply embarrassing to listen to VDN when he is “wired” during timeouts. His repetitive platitudes wouldn’t distinguish a high school coach. Also, he sounds like his channeling a scriptwriter for Russ Meyer films; can’t you just hear him exhorting ‘Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”?

    On another matter, it is deeply ironic that Lindsay Hunter, a 39yo player, is moving better without the ball than most of the Bulls. He also makes much better and smarter passes than Rose, on balance. And the latter continues to disappoint. Yes, he’s a terrific athlete, and is strong around the basket when finishing a drive, but need I tick off the many weaknesses that he has yet to seriously address?

    It’s too early, of course, to suggest that Rose won’t develop into a true all-around star, but he’s got a long, long way to go.

  3. mjlynch2@gmail.com'
    Mike December 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    1. Rose is our only athletic guy. He’d bust out on several fast breaks, attempting to push the tempo, only to pull up at the arc and set up the O, as his teammates lumbered down the court. Or worse, another bull gets the steal, tries to push a fast break, then gets the ball stolen for a counter-attack four point swing. I saw this happen twice, and it killed the bulls. Ty helps this — he runs the floor, which means that in a typical 2 on 1 or 2 on 2, the defender(s) can’t key in on rose exclusively. I feel like this would create an additional 3-5 fg attempts in transition between them, while also generating FTAs.

    2. Our offensive sets seem slow. Not the pace of the offense, per se, but the decisions. Passing and ball movement is decent, but it feels like it’s taking about a half-second too long. On the apple-scale, it’s somewhere between mushy and crisp.

    3. We have no one who can get calls in the paint. Also, every time someone goes into the paint, there are 2-3 defenders collapsing. This is the biggest problem with the offensive system. Rose and Salmons are both penetrating slashers, but since we don’t have anyone to spread the floor, the shots that both players are getting in the paint are low-percentage. Derrick’s most reliable shot is the one where he bursts through the lane, leaps and tosses the floater. He’s good at it, but here’s my issue: it’s not a “downhill” attack. He’s slashing across the lane at more of an angle, rather than directly at the basket. It’s a less-aggressive move that fundamentally avoids contact, rather than seeking it. This shot and the 18-footer feel like they make up about 75% of derrick’s shots. If he’s going to thrive, those shots shouldn’t top 50%, with the other half coming on “downhill” drives all the way to the basket for lay-ups/ fouls, and back-cuts for lay-ups and dunks.

    4. Because opposing defenses are able to collapse the painted area (© Hubie Brown), they are able to prevent crisp interior passing, which is exactly what this Bulls team needs to score efficiently.

    5. Our Fatal Flaw: the Bulls got KILLED on hustle plays against the Cavs. This is the #1 reason why they lost. On one play in the second quarter, the cavs missed a shot, and then released down the floor. The bulls had 3 players around the basket, yet daniel gibson (the only player who didn’t release) flashed in, grabbed the ball and put it back. It felt back-breaking. The Bulls lacked a hunger for the ball, whether off the glass or loose. JJ Hickson grabbed a rebound even though he was sandwiched between Noah and Deng. Even Shaq out-hustled the Bulls for a loose ball. Nitty-gritty, hustle plays, intangibles, whatever you want to call them–the Bulls got out-worked. I really love Jo No’s energy (even if it feels like he’s more into tipping the ball than grabbing it), but he’s not their intensity guy yet. If my life depended on the bulls’ getting an offensive rebound or a charge, no one stands out as the person to get them.

    It feels like an attitude thing. But it’s something I’m not sure you can coach, at least at the professional level.

    Outside of that, the bulls need two things:
    1. At least one more guy with some athleticism, who can run with Rose. Might be Tyrus, might be someone else.
    2. A guy who can spread the floor to open up the middle. Al Harrington fits the profile here.

  4. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale December 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    Great points, Mike. If not Harrington, I’d love to see the Bulls acquire SOMEBODY who can hit threes at a higher percentage.

    Also, the Bulls simply are not as talented as other teams. You’re right that they got outhustled, and the only way this team can win consistently and compete against better teams is to kill themselves on every play…like they did in the early years of the Scott Skiles era.

  5. bay32@sbcglobal.net'
    Danny Sammet December 5, 2009 at 7:39 pm #

    My biggest problem with Lebron last night was not the first couple of times that he was dancing, but when he did his little jig when he was actually in the game. If you are having fun on the sidelines with your teammates its one thing. But when you bring it onto the court it is totally different. It just became clear last night that Lebron can do pretty much anything he wants and the national media won’t call him out on it. I really wish I could have heard Stacy and Neil’s comments after they saw lebron as opposed to Hubie Brown’s. And Lebron’s post game comments about Jo seemed like something a little kid would say. “I think he [Noah] was more frustrated about the way he played as an individual. He didn’t help his team win.” That said, if the bulls would just start playing better Lebron wouldn’t have been on the bench and none of this would have happened.

  6. Mahmoud December 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

    I think we’re being a bit harsh on the guys…I mean, they’ve played so far probably the hardest schedule in the NBA. This happens every year, it’s gosh, we’re terrible, we don’t stand a chance, we have so many problems early on. But then later in the year when we start playing the crappy teams and we’re lighting them up, it’s all smiles. The Bulls aren’t as good as the Lakers, Cav’s, etc, and they’re just not going to win those games.

  7. davidpaulroosa@yahoo.com'
    AK Dave December 6, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    LeBron is acting like a 14 year old. Refusing to shake hands, dancing when he wins, moping and complaining about refs, implying that Shaq is messing up their chemistry, whining when he loses… I did that shit when I was in high school (except for the whole “blaming Shaq” part) and my brother and I played ping pong or whatever.

    This is the GD NBA, “dawg”. Pull your shit together and act like a man, not a spoiled brat. That’s why Nike pays you a bazillion dollars a year (give or take a few zillion). Not so you can jump around like a Kansas City F(*&)()(* (/Blazing Saddles reference).

  8. djhais@gmail.com'
    Ray December 6, 2009 at 5:34 am #

    I just gained more respect for Joakim Noah. #23 on his shirt doesn’t fit him at all, commentator: “i don’t know what noah is yelling about” come on, are you serious! Let see if he leads the cavs to six championships like MJ, it will never happen. I would love to see him dancing like that in some game in the south side, so they could wipe that smile off his face! hahahah It would be pretty funny though to see tiger woods put on a show like that on the golf course!

  9. t627l@aol.com'
    Tony December 7, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    Go Noah! Its good to see somebody play with some fire. Somebody has to step up and be this teams leader. I know Rose is only a sophmore mut he has to take control. He is the quarterback of this team. He is not showing sign of being a superstar or even an allstar. 16 points and six assist a game is about average for PGs. Last year I thought we had drafted our star to build around. Right now he looks like just another supporting cast member of a team with no leader

  10. bill.haisten@tulsaworld.com;'
    nba fan January 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball. ~Phil Jackson

  11. eiSupport@TicketsNow.com;'
    live nba January 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    “Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line. That means not only being brave, but being compassionate towards yourself, your teammates and your opponents.”

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