Game 34 Recap: Nets 96, Bulls 94

I guess we should have seen this coming.

Sure, the Bulls had been winning — five in a row and 14 of their last 16 games — but there have been reasons for concern ever since Joakim Noah went down with a thumb injury. There was that loss to the Clippers in Noah’s first game on the shelf. Then there were narrow wins against sub-.500 teams (Washington, Detroit, New Jersey and Cleveland) in which the Bulls played poorly but still managed to eke out the victory.

Yes, it’s nice to win an ugly game here or there, but the Bulls were playing with fire. And when a team continues to give inferior opposition chances, that team is going to get burned.

That’s what happened last night. It’s tempting to shrug off this loss as a case of Sasha Vujacic being at the right place at the right time. But it’s not fair to say the Bulls lost on a fluke play in the final seconds.

No. The Bulls played poorly and deserved to lose. There are numbers to back this up. As I mentioned in my game preview, the Nets are one of the worst offensive teams in the league. They came into the game ranked 27th in Offensive Rating (101.2) and 28th in Effective Field Goal Percentage (46.7). Against the Bulls — who began the night ranked second in Defensive Rating — New Jersey compiled an O-Rating of 108.7 and an eFG% of 52.6.

What’s more, Chicago gave up 50 points in the paint and got outscored 21-5 on the fast break. And I’ve already discussed how important fast break points are to the team’s success.

It also didn’t help that the Bulls missed 10 of their 30 free throw attempts. Worst of all were the two freebies that Luol Deng bricked with 33.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game. Again, we should have seen this coming. After all, a dirty little secret about the Bulls is that they rank 28th in the league in Free Throw Percentage (70.8). And Deng’s FT% is at a career-low 68.8.

Said Deng: “I expect myself to make those free throws. I’ve been struggling with my free throw shooting this year. But it’s something, I got to get on it. I can’t be in that position and miss those free throws.”

And while we’re discussing Chicago’s inadequacies against the Nets, we might as well bring up the fact that New Jersey played with more intensity and urgency. Take Kris Humphries. Here’s a guy who averages 8.1 PPG but burned the Bulls for 20 points on 10-for-15 shooting of the Nets bench. He also finished with a game-high 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards. Humpries was 3-for-3 on layups and 3-for-3 on dunks.

Watching Humphries fight and scrap around the rim made me really miss Noah. After all, Joakim is Chicago’s energy guy. The Bulls could have used his spark last night. Not to mention his interior defense, considering the Nets converted nearly 80 percent of their shots around the rim.

Bad defense. No fast break points. Poor free throw shooting. Lack of intensity. That’s a pretty solid formula for a loss to one of the league’s worst teams. And I haven’t even mentioned how Carlos Boozer was benched for the entire fourth quarter. What was up with that?

Said Boozer: “You got to talk to Thibs about that. That was a coaching decision.”

Replied coach Tom Thibodeau: “The big thing was we were behind big and they were zoning. And so the group that went in, playing Luol [Deng] at the 4, gave us another perimeter player. So it was more effective for us against the zone. So that’s why we did it. And when that group cut the lead down and now we were in position, they tied the game up so we just were going to finish with the group that was going well.”

Far be it from me to question Thibs. Still…can you imagine the uproar if Vinny Del Negro had benched Boozer in a loss to the Nets? Or played Deng 40 minutes on consecutive nights, especially when the first of those two nights was a blowout in Chicago’s favor.

Oh well. I guess Thibodeau has earned a little benefit of the doubt.

Still, if Thibs doesn’t addess the ongoing problems, and if the Bulls don’t stop playing down to the level of their opponents, all the good vibes that have been building up this season could go south in a hurry.

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

33 Responses to Game 34 Recap: Nets 96, Bulls 94

    Lito January 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Look, yes Bulls played bad pretty much ALL NITE, but we could have had that game won if Rose AND Boozer were in the 4th quarter much earlier, Boozer at all. Reserves were making a run for it, then once we got withing 5 or so, PUT YOUR STARTERS BACK hellooo. Did he not care about losing this game? wtf I heard Boozer wasnt in 4th quarter because of this Boozer sniped at Coach Thib in the 3rd quarter after Thib made a comment to him after a 3-second call, then Thib took Boozer out and never put him back in. But he isn’t man enough to admit why he really kept Boozer out. Thats probably true but Thib wont say that to the press. This is at least the 3rd game he’s cost us. Knick game at home, down by 8 with 5 mins left, starters never came back in. Denver game, puts Josh lucas in and has to shoot freethrows. now this game with no Boozer in 4th, sorry but Bogans crap has been beaten to death.. This game number one’s story is NO BOOZER IN 4TH QUARTER, Fire Thib for 1 week. Suspend him SOMETHING

    Tae January 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    This is more proof that while Thibs is good with schemes, ultimately his time management with players is terrible and is at best an assistant coach.

    luislandry January 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I’m not sure what you saw Tae, but Booz went out after the third quarter and the Bulls came back on the Nets…if anything the lineup seemed to be working in their favor.

  4. Inception January 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    1 assist for Rose on the night….that says it all right there…that must be a career low for DRose??

    lito January 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Whoa whoa, why was My comment erased? Because I told the truth? wow seriously cmon now.. This is the freakin internet.

    lito January 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Just because I posted that most likely the reason Thibs kept boozer benched was becasue late in 3rd quarter Boozer got called for 3 second violation and thibs got mad and boozer got mad back at him and therefore left him benched. Is that why my comment was erased. Geez Ya need to grow up seriously. Or was it that I said Thibs should be fired for a week? So he can get his head straight. And Luis, sure Bulls came back, but you dont keep ur subs in at crunch time, you put your starters in. You put the guy you gave $80m contract to, your 2nd biggest scorer and best rebounder right now*(noah being out)and you freakin play him. If my comment gets erased again, i’m going to have to ban this site from my internet even though I love coming here.

    lito January 6, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    hmm weird, sorry guys, I thought my comment was erased, I refreshed and saw 2 and 3 and not mine. Blah now I cant erase my other ones, my bad.

  8. Brian January 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    boozer did play like donkey dick last night

    J January 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Still though, have your star player on the bench? I dunno about that one.

    Though, it’s true as the writer said, it doesn’t help that the bulls can’t make any free throws to literally save their life.

    inkybreath January 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    I really don’t care about him benching Boozer, as they had every chance to win this game without him. I don’t blame that one on Thibs outright.

    This and the Clippers game can go in the toilet.

    Plus, I like Thibs benching Boozer purely on principle. He is establishing himself and I’ll give him that one. I don’t think VDN had the cojones to do such a thing.

    chitwon4life January 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    8.Wow what was that last night our coach sucked plain nd simple, like mentioned the nets have one of the worst offensive stats in the league but still, our coach the D man he is suppose to be well let me say this again, was VDN really all that bad and is our new coach really an upgrade , no way if you saw last night you would be yelling bring VDN back cause this coach not only sat out our two biggest players he sat out one for the whole fourth quarter wtf is that. T Tibbs definatly was horrible last night lets not let him off now, if you are gonna be real then be real all the time not when it fits you then he brought Rose back in with like 3 mins to play whats with that after almost sitting him the whole fourth quarter . Boozer and rose both did not want to comment about not being in the game in crunch time but i am sure both of them were like our coach is like off his meds he must have missed the sign that said fourth quarter you see him in the interview after that, I for one am not sure nor have I been the bulls got the right coach maybe the cheapest but not the right head coah. It takes alot to be a head coach and that is something T Tibb has never been before now well i want to hear all his teu supports explain or respond now to the job he did last night …. We lost to the nets The Nets gimmie a break they scored over and over and over and aover our coach suckedd simple to the point……….

    Comment by chitwon4life — January 6, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    chitwon4life January 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Yes I said it and even if boozer was not having a career night you still do not take out one of your best players when it matters most, this is why great players elevate there game they become even better when it matters most they rise above there bad shooting wo’s , anyways Tibbs has not impressed me this goes back to putting lucas in the game in a crucial time and he had not even practiced with the team , put the kid in a bad spot there totally a bad coaching move also if this team is gonna win then our coach needs to have free throw practice for long hours they sked at the line when it mattered most thank god for watson, and all the tibb supporters don’t hide now our team got scored on big time against one of worst offenses in the NBA no excuses for 9our coach his d thing was out of wack totally last night….. We lost to the Nets heck no so not good made us look like we were the nets last night Tibbs needs to be talked to hope Gar or pax unerstand there jobs might be riding with him too, we missed Noah big time also once again althought our benched played well we don’t pay the bench the big money for crunch time hint why you sit rose for almost the whole 4th and boozer the whole 4th no way that is unexcusable totally ………

  13. dengsucks January 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm #


    Thibs is clearly better at Vinny at drawing plays out of timeouts and not wasting timeouts needlessly (although having a timeout available for that last play would have helped), but he is making decisions that is costing this team games.

    Aside from starting Bogans and not playing James Johnson, probably the most athletic person on the team besides Rose, he keeps playing Deng more than he should. Why is Deng playing entire halves? Not to mention benching Boozer and keep Rose out for long stretches in the 4th quarter of not only this game but countless others.

  14. cliniclysick January 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    @chitown4life: Chill out. 48 games left. Reminder: they’re gonna lose sometimes.

  15. sam z January 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    the worst thing thibs did was not benching boozer. the bulls had a nice rhythm going with that 2nd unit playing small and there was no need for him. if they wouldve brought him in for asik it wouldve been a disaster with him trying to guard brook lopez. where i thought thibs lost the game for the bulls was midway through the 3rd quarter. the nets went to a zone to neutralize rose and the bulls couldnt do a single thing against it. against a zone, you need good shooters in and it was the perfect time to sub korver into the game. instead, thibs is content on using the exact same substitution patterns each game and decided to put ronnie brewer. thibs needs to stop being so stubborn with his set substitutions and shake things up a little. when he finally did by going small in the 4th and sitting most of the starters it actually worked

    Matt McHale January 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    “This is more proof that while Thibs is good with schemes, ultimately his time management with players is terrible and is at best an assistant coach.”

    I wouldn’t go that far. The Bulls are much better this season under Thibs, and that was true even before Boozer started playing. I do think Thibs is making some mistakes…but I also think this is the first time he’s ever been a head coach. I know, I know, all those years as an assistant, blah, blah, blah, but you never know what a job is like until you’re doing it yourself.

    Also, even great coaches like Phil Jackson or George Karl goof up. They just get less guff for it because they’re proven commodities.

    “I’m not sure what you saw Tae, but Booz went out after the third quarter and the Bulls came back on the Nets…if anything the lineup seemed to be working in their favor.”

    I definitely agree that the reserves got the comeback going. But still, in crunch time, you gotta go with your big guns.

    “1 assist for Rose on the night….that says it all right there…that must be a career low for DRose??”

    Out of curiosity, I checked. During his rookie season, he had a game with zero assists and three games of one assist. Last season, he had a game with zero assists, but he got injured less than three minutes in and missed the rest of the game.

    “Whoa whoa, why was My comment erased?”

    Just a head’s up for everybody. Comments are moderated. It doesn’t happen immediately. Usually, you’ll be able to see your comments anyway. Sometimes they appear to have been erased. But it’s really just ’cause they haven’t been approved yet.

    “Plus, I like Thibs benching Boozer purely on principle. He is establishing himself and I’ll give him that one. I don’t think VDN had the cojones to do such a thing.”

    Actually, Vinny was repeatedly benching Rose in crunch time during Derrick’s rookie season and John Paxson had to literally order him to stop.

    “…if you saw last night you would be yelling bring VDN back…”

    I definitely wouldn’t go that far. Don’t forget that the Bulls have one of the best records in the league despite the fact that Jo and Booz have barely played together. Nor should we forget that the Bulls had their first winning circus trip since the Jordan era before Boozington ever even played a game for Chicago. Thibs is absolutely better than VDN. He’s a good coach who kinda crapped the bed last night.

    Tae January 6, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    His time management with Deng is baffling, though. Why is Deng playing so many minutes? His average is 2-3 more than last year, and that was when Vinny was playing for his job.

    Also, Thibs will always be on my wrong side until he stops giving Bogans starter minutes. Start Scalabrine, I don’t care. Bogans was horrible as a Spurs, and self-destructing the Bulls.

  18. Anonymous January 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    Boozer should have entered the game at the 4:00 minute mark with Rose. Thibs screwed up no doubt, and I hope the reaction from DRose and the fans will wise up the little Napoleon.

    But Bogans has got to get on the bench next to Scalabrine and stay there. I was all for the Bogans signing because I thought he was going to be a deep reserve.

    JJ needs playing time no matter what are intentions are with him. He will either improve or at the least show signs of potential that will make him desireable in a trade. Benching him in blowouts makes him look like a bad seed and I believe he is anything but.

  19. dengsucks January 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    hey matt,

    Not that it makes much of a difference, but I could have sworn Rose had 2 assists last night. Even Sam Smith stated he had two assists. He had 1 assist in the box score before that fast break play to Brewer for the layup, yet they didnt give him an assist. What gives?

  20. TBF January 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    Did anyone notice on the last play that no one came to screen for Rose at all? Everyone just stood around looking at the basket, hoping he’d make it with a hand in his face. That was dumb, come up, screen his man and help him get a good look.

    Also, Rose has to know, unless the dude tackles him he’s not going to go to the line to decide the game. Just hoist the shot, no need to pump fake into a leaner.

    Badly played last night…but there’s still a long way to go.

  21. Inception January 7, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    some ppl need to look at the bright side and realize this loss was flukey…you couldn’t have said that last year…a loss to a sub-par team last year showed how CHI still hadn’t learned how to put the lid on those kinda teams….that’s not the case this year….relax, this team is not last year’s team…i have the utmost confidence that CHI will rebound nicely in philly tomorrow….wouldn’t have thought that last year.

    West Aussie Bulls Fan January 7, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    So we lose a game (albeit to the Nyets) and “we should get VDN back”? Seriously? Last time I checked VDN was leading the Clippers to a horrible record out west despite having ROY Blake Griffin and emerging star Eric Gordon. Thibs has been the perfect coach for this team to date. He inspires confidence from the players with his hard work and actual basketball knowledge (which I’m still unsure if VDN has). Thibs has put this team in an awesome position considering Boozington and JoNo missing significant time. I suggest everyone get their finger off the trigger everytime Thibs doesn’t make the perceived right decision and jump on board. This is an exciting time to be a Bulls fan!

  23. Josh January 7, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    VDN was horrible, the Clippers can have him. He’s screwing up their rotations, too. I watch NBA Gametime daily and I have heard countless times how much better the Clippers should be, and it’s true. Thibs is pushing D-Rose on the defensive end and VDN never did. We started off the season with a worse team than we had most of last year, and our record was amazing. Thibs is great, he just had a bad game.

    Bogans doesn’t play starter’s minutes, he starts, there is a difference. Starters play around 30 minutes a game and Bogans is around 16-20. Korver and Brewer play more.

    Joakim was the energy guy, without him, we can only play grind it out basketball. It’s partly on the bench guys to get excited. Look at last year’s Jazz team without Okur, that’s what we are right now.

  24. cliniclysick January 7, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    And this team is nowhere near its full potential. Just wait till they start hitting their free throws at a decent clip, whoa baby!

    Scottie Pimpin January 7, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    time to trade boozer and bring back vinny. just kidding. thibs knows what hes doing, he prepares the team, adapts to games, draws up plays , he does his part. its no secret bulls are playing uninspired defense, and he sending a message to his players that if your not doing your part on , you will get benched , simple as that.

    i hope booz desnt take it to heart becuase i like booz, and i like thibs too, both have great basketball minds. also this sorry excuse about noah being out is nonsense, the bulls have more than enough to hold the fort down. BULLS BABY BULLS !

    BoppinBob January 7, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    The Bulls took a team for granted and got burned. Hopefully they will learn somethinhg from that experience. I didn’t see the game, but it seems that both DRose and Booz had bad games and they were rested during the blow-out the night before. The “big” three (Rose, Boozer and Deng) missed most of the FT’s that the Bulls missed. When I was in HS if I missed a FT in a game I had to shoot 50 a day for a week after practice. I ended up an 92% FT shooter, I not sayin’, I just sayin’.

    chitwon4life January 7, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    The comments are good all in support of

    Tibbs me myself am not his biggest supporter some can coach some can be a head coach, and Tibbs just gonna wait to see what he does with this greatest team since Mj and scottie , this is by far better team than VDN had to work with my guess is our new coach needs to show progress and if we don’t go at least deep insecond round then he has , in my eyes under achieved his goal to improve our team with his coaching skills should he be fired then probally not but definatly put on notice, the thing with Boozer not sure if it was a good move for him alway whats with putting Rose in with less than 4 mins left that is not gonna cut it coach Rose is our best player and unless he is hurt needed a rest then he should have been back in the game horrible coaching moves yesterday i am not gonna ride boozer since he has come back been nothing under great with his play so if he had an off night oh well , then the coach benched him bad move tibbs bad move don’t make guys who make more money than you too mad it might cost you more than you have to offer or want to pay all i am gonna say hope rose aint mad at you , casue if he is then you best pack cause he is not goning anywhere it will be you before him coach hands down………WE lost to the NETS dammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Savage January 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    @BoppinBob, You make a great point! It does not make sense for this team to be so bad at the line. Deng missed 2 in a row during crunch time not hanging him out to dry but it seems to be a reoccurring event with this team. I am a firm believer that through practice most players can improve at the line. It is a very basic part of the game but especially for this group I think more practice is called for at the free throw line.

    inkybreath January 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Matt – All due respect, but I think there is a big difference between benching a 1st or 2nd year, mild-mannered player than sitting someone like Boozer for a whole quarter – especially in a quarter where they were searching for control (and … with Noah out with injury).

  30. fish January 8, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this because, frankly, I’m too lazy to read all the other comments, but what bothered me more than Thibs benching of Boozer was Thibs horrible use of time outs. Sure I would have liked to have seen the Boozeman in the game down the stretch, but they came back without him and had a chance to win. Why you would ever burn your final time out (and the second last time out, for that matter) with that much time left is beyond me. They weren’t able to produce anything out of either of those time outs, and of course, it came back to bite them in the ass. With 5 seconds left it would have been nice to advance the ball to mid court and potentially get a quality look at the basket. Oh well, at least they didn’t blow a bad one to the Sixers tonight….

    chitown4life January 8, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    @ matt I agree our coach was out of line doing that , there is a reason most bench players do not make more than the starters, the starter start the game and finish it especially if the game is on the line no matter how good the bench was playing , you pay them the big bucks to get it done in crunch time our coach dropped the ball bigtime and then some in this game only he is to blame for our lose him and his ego ,well hope his ego does not cost us many more games in the near future, paxton did you tell him never to bench him again in the fourth like you were trying to coach up VDN hope so, he (Tibbs ) is also a first year coach not matter how many years of being a assistant coach its not the same when you become the head coach…….

    Savage January 10, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    Say what you want about a supposed first year coach 24-12, first place. I’ll take the record and the coach good with the bad.


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