Before the game, Bulls broadcaster Stacey King listed his keys for the game.
One was that Chicago needed to control Philly’s guards. Didn’t happen. Jodie Meeks (24 points, 8-for-11, 4-for-7 from downtown) and Jrue Holiday (19 points, 8-for-14, 6 assists) got whatever they wanted, and Lou Williams burned the Bulls for 20 points off the bench.
Another of Stacey’s keys was that the Bulls needed to avoid bad quarters, like when they were outscored 32-18 in the third quarter of their loss in New Jersey on Wednesday night. Didn’t happen. The Sixers also outscored Chicago 32-18 in the third quarter to take an 86-74 lead heading into the fourth. Philly scored those 32 points on 14-for-18 shooting. For those who enjoy simple math, that’s a 78 percent rate of accuracy.
Going back to that whole “control their guards” thing, Meeks and Holiday combined for 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the third quarter while the Bull were committing six of their 15 turnovers.
But forget guards and bad quarters. The real problem — just like against the Nets — was defense. As in: Where was it?
The Bulls currently rank second in the league in Defensive Rating, but you wouldn’t know that based on how they played in Philadelphia. The Sixers rank 20th in both PPG (96.6) and Field Goal Percentage (45.2). Last night, they finished with 105 points on 56 percent shooting.
As I mentioned in my preview post, the Sixers entered the game ranked 20th in Offensive Rating (104.9) and 24th in Effective Field Goal Percentage (48.1). Last night, Philly had an O-Rating of 115.8 and an eFG% of 60.6. Those numbers would lead the league.
Breaking it down by shot location (thanks to Hoopdata), the Sixers went 7-for-10 at the rim (70 percent), 9-for-15 inside 10 feet (60 percent), 11-for-14 from 10-15 feet (78.6 percent) and 7-for-16 from 16-23 feet (43 percent). On the season, their shooting averages from these areas are 64.8 percent, 44.5 percent, 36 percent and 36.5 percent, respectively.
Philadelphia was shooting lights out — especially for them — from pretty much everwhere. Against the league’s supposedly second-best D.
As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out, it was a complete defensive breakdown.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “Our catch-and-shoot defense wasn’t very good. Containing dribble penetration. And then challenging shots, you got to challenge shots. Sometimes we’re right there and if we don’t challenge shots they’re going to make [them]. They got in rhythm early on us and when a team gets confidence, it’s much harder to slow them down. They got their confidence going and we had a hard time all night.”
Added Derrick Rose: “We weren’t playing any defense. I think they hit 10 or 11 shots in a row. We couldn’t stop nobody. But we can’t panic. We just lost two in a row. We got a game [Saturday].”
So what’s the problem?
“I really don’t know right now,” Rose said. “I’m confused. We just got to find a way where everybody’s on the same page … We’re not playing like ourselves right now. Where we’re not stopping people, they’re scoring at will right now and we just got to get back to ourselves.”
You probably already know what I think the problem is: No Joakim Noah. Despite being out with injury, Noah ranks fourth in the NBA in Defensive Rating (96.9) and acts as the anchor or Chicago’s defense. Last night, when guys were getting beaten off the dribble, Noah wasn’t there to switch out or intercept them. Additionally, the Bulls’ perimeter players were running into picks and screens all over the place. Noah usually jumps out and smothers plays like that. Without him, the Sixers — particularly their guards — got open shot after open shot.
And those defensive shortcomings wasted what was a pretty good offensive game by the Bulls on the road against a solid defensive team. Chicago shot better than 50 percent from the field and finished an Offensive Rating (109.2) and eFG% (52.7) that were well above their season averages.
The Bulls face the Celtics in Chicago tonight. Boston ranks first in Defensive Rating (99.7) and crushed the Raptors 122-102 last night. If the Bulls don’t get their defensive act together, they might get crushed too.