ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher may not agree on whether Joakim Noah’s ongoing absence due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot is the costliest injury in the NBA, but the Bulls have now give up 100 or more points in 10 straight games. They’ve lost eight of those games, including the last seven in a row.
Chicago can’t stop anybody. Take last night, for example. Miami center Jermaine O’Neal scored a season-high 25 points by going 8-for-13 from the field and 9-for-11 from the line. Of his eight field goals, three were layups and two were dunks. And obviously he was pretty successful getting to the line.
The Bulls couldn’t stop him. They couldn’t even hope to contain him.
Welcome to the Bulls’ hell. Chicago is still one of the worst offensive teams in the league (27th in Offensive Efficiency), and now they’ve fallen out of the top 10 in Defensive Efficiency. Actually, they’re free falling in pretty much every category…the season standings, the playoff race, etc.
Can you feel the frustration?
The Chicago players sure can. The Bulls — who were playing without their medium-sized three of Noah, Derrick Rose (sprained left wrist) and Luol Deng (strained right calf muscle) — put up a surprisingly good fight all things considered. In fact, they were down only 10 points (87-77) with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Then things got whacky.
Brad Miller fouled Dywane Wade on a drive. For some bizarre reason, the officials decided it was a flagrant even though — somewhat ironically, somewhat painfully — it wasn’t even as bad as the foul that injured Rose in Friday night’s loss to the Magic. It really wasn’t. But Wade, as often happen, went down. And the officials took exception.
After that, Wade got lippy and Kirk Hinrich got a technical foul for arguing the call. Then Brad Miller got T’d up for trying to figure out what made his foul a flagrant. Then Hinrich went after an official like the dude had just kicked a kitten, which meant tech number two for Captain Kirk…and an automatic ejection.
The Heat hit all six foul shots and then — because they flagrant foul meant they retained possession of the ball — Wade knocked in a shot from the baseline. So in a span of about 20 seconds, the Bulls went from being down 87-77 to falling behind 95-77.
Regarding his flagrant foul, Miller said: “I was just standing there with my damn arm up and he comes like he always does and I just don’t fall down. You get a flagrant for taking a hit, and that’s the joy of certain people against certain people. … They were trying to be tough guys, and we get to see them again.”
Replied Wade: “Honestly, I don’t want to talk about anybody’s frustrations [or] their season. We’ve had our ups and downs as well. I’m not going to talk about me getting calls or not getting calls. We’ve had that here so Brad can stop crying.”
Saucer of milk, table two, please.
To make matters worse — yes, believe it or not, they could get worse — replays sure made it look like Hinrich bumped referee Tom Washington on the arm while he was flapping his gums at referee Bennie Adams after the second technical. That could mean a one-game suspension
Said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro: ”I’ll have to look at the film to make a better assessment of it. You can’t always worry about the referees, but sometimes you have to make your point. Bottom line is you have to do it on the court. You have to play and keep battling.”
Emotionally, it was hard watching the Bulls lose their seventh straight game and fall further out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Really hard. But if I’m being intellectually honest, I have to admit it was impressive that Chicago was able to keep things close without their top three players. Minus an awful third quarter — during which they were outscored 29-18 — and that crazy sequence in the fourth, the Bulls hung tough.
It was also nice seeing James Johnson get some minutes and produce. The rookie scored a career-high 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and an assist. If Noah is going to miss time and the Bulls are going to struggle, Vinny really might as well develop JJ. That could be a key player investment…even if it doesn’t benefit the team until next season.
Meanwhile, I’m sure the Bulls will circle their March 25 game against the Heat on the calendar. But hopefully they’ll save a little focus for Tuesday’s game at Memphis.