Under the circumstances — no Joakim Noah, playing on the road against a great home team — the Bulls were pretty darn good through three quarters. And during that opening stretch, Derrick Rose gave us one of the great highlights of this season…or any other for that matter.
Freaking amazing, right?
Anyway, the Bulls played really well for three quarters and even entered the fourth with a 70-64 lead. Then they were outscored 27-11 in the final 12 minutes.
Credit the Hawks defense, and some truly shoddy play calling and execution, for the Bulls collapse. For your viewing displeasure, here’s a list of Chicago’s fourth-quarter possessions. Read ’em and weep.
Kirk Hinrich turnover (pass stolen by Josh Smith)
Devin Brown missed 17-footer
John Salmons missed layup
Taj Gibson turnover (traveling)
Taj Gibson missed 20-footer
Salmons missed 14-footer
Salmons made jumper (Brad Miller assists)
Miller missed three-pointer
Salmons missed three-pointer
Luol Deng missed three-pointer
Rose missed 19-footer
Deng made 17-footer
Rose made 18-footer
Hinrich missed 8-footer
Rose made layup
Rose missed three-pointer
Hinrich missed 21-footer
Deng missed jumper
Deng missed jumper
Rose drew a fouls (1-for-2)
So…the Bulls went 4-for-18 (mostly on long jump shots), committed a couple turnovers and made only one trip to the line (with 24 seconds left in the game). Ugly.
Chicago also gave up five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, including two possessions in which the Hawks snared two offensive boards in the same sequence. After those five offensive boards, Atlanta got a layup by Joe Johnson (Hawks 76, Bulls 72), a putback by Josh Smith (Hawks 78, Bulls 72), and a three-point dagger by Mike Bibby with 2:10 left (Hawks 86, Bulls 78).
Those were three critical possessions. Man, the Bulls sure could have used Joakim Noah. They also could have used Rose’s jump shot, which was MIA most of the night. Derrick finished 6-for-9 at the rim and 3-for-12 away from it. His shot looked flat all night.
Even without Noah, the Bulls did a pretty good job of shutting down Atlanta’s fast break (12 points) and protecting the rim (where the Hawks were only 16-for-28). But Chicago’s defensive rotations weren’t as crisp as they could have been, and Atlanta burned the Bulls from long range (8-for-18 from downtown). Although, in all fairness, the Hawks hit some tough shots, especially when they ripped off an 8-0 run to start the final period.
And Josh Smith (18 points, 14 boards, 10 assists) played out of his mind.
Meanwhile, with Miller starting at center, the Bulls got almost nothing out of their bench (8 points, 4-for-14). Big Brad played 40 minutes but finished with only 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers. And Miller didn’t score in the second half. Meanwhile, Tyrus Thomas earned only 16 minutes and had 4 points, 4 boards, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. I really thought that, with Noah out, Thomas would play 20+ minutes.
Another factor in Chicago’s offensive woes is that they throw bad passes. The Bulls aren’t selfish, and the players genuinely try to hit open teammates, but there are way to many passes that end up at someone’s feet, at their waist, up by their shoulder, a foot to their left, a foot to their right, so on and so forth.
A good pass has to lead into a player’s natural shooting motion. When a player has to collect the ball and then redirect it into their shooting motion, they not only lose a critical split second during which the defense can react, they usually won’t be able to fire it up in rhythm. The Bulls are a bad shooting team this season despite having guys (like Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons) who have hit a pretty decent percentage of their field goal attempts in the past. And Devin Brown — who went 0-for-3 from the field in seven minutes off the bench — had to reach down to his knees for one pass. And yes, that pass led to a missed jumper.
It just seems like the Bulls would benefit from some work on their passing. Because when players are already struggling to find their shots, bad passes only makes things worse.
Let’s hope we see some better passes tonight against the Heat.
This continues my effort to track the Bulls’ performance coming out of a timeout.
1st timeout: Rose missed a 21-foot jumper
2nd timeout: Miller hit a short jumper
3rd timeout: Deng missed a 20-footer
4th timeout: Miller commited a turnover
5th timeout: Gibson missed a 20-foot jump shot
6th timeout: Deng drilled a 17-footer (Rose with the assist)
7th timeout: Rose missed a long three-pointer
Summary: Out of seven timeouts, the Bulls went 2-for-6 and committed a turnover. Five of their six shot attempts were from deep. It’s worth noting that Derrick’s three-point attempt happened with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter when the Bulls were making a desperate comeback attempt. However, even discounting that shot, the Bulls ended up with several empty possessions after their timeouts.