Here are the top 10 things I hated about this loss:
10. The Revenge of Tyrus Thomas:
Heading into last night’s game, Thomas’ highest averages for PPG (14.3) and RPG (8.3) against any team were against the Bulls. Seriously. Check his career splits. If Ty had given the kind of consistent effort when he was with the Bulls that he now gives against the Bulls, he’d probably still be on the team.
Tyrus didn’t have big numbers last night — 8 points, 3-for-8, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist and a block — but he had a game-high plus-minus score of +11. Thomas was a spark for the Bobcats. Better late than never I guess.
Before this game, I had planned to mention how well the Bulls had been taking care of the ball lately. The team had been averaging only 12.1 in January, including a season-low seven turnovers last week against the Pacers.
Then they got careless, committing 14 turnovers, which turned into 25 points going the other way. I’m sure you’ll agree that 23 points are a lot to give away in a one-point loss. It also represents 30 percent of the points the Bobcats scored.
8. Stupid “and 1” fouls:
The Bulls committed ticky-tac fouls four times as a Charlotte player was attempting a layup. The most damaging of these was when Ronnie Brewer fouled Gerald Wallace in the act of shooting with 1:13 left in the game. Wallace converted both the shot and the free throw to transform a 78-76 Bulls lead into a 79-78 deficit. It was a killer play.
7. Time mismanagement:
Rose hit a five-footer to pull the Bulls to within a point (83-82) with 25 seconds left…then proceeded to let 15 seconds run off the clock without fouling.
Mind you, the Bulls did execute a trap that forced the Bobcats to call timeout with 10 seconds left, and they were awarded the ball (thanks to video review) with eight seconds left after poking the ball away but off of D.J. Augustine. But still. They let a lot of valuable time slip away.
6. Poor interior defense:
The Bobcats didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard. To wit: They converted only 40.2 percent of their 87 field goal attempts. But they did shoot 15-for-23 (65 percent) around the rim and scored 46 of their 83 points in the painted area.
Here’s some added perspective on Charlotte’s at-the-rim shooting percentage. On the season, the Bulls rank 8th in at-the-rim defense (60.8) and the Bobcats rank 25th in at-the-rim conversion (59.8). I’m just sayin’.
5. No inside game:
The Bulls really suffered from Carlos Boozer’s absence last night. They finished with only 28 points in the paint and simply couldn’t get anything going inside.
According to Hoopdata, only 19 of their 77 shot attempts were at the rim, and they converted only 10 of those attempts. Meanwhile, they went 8-for-31 (25 percent) from 16-23 feet. That’s the worst shot in basketball, by the way. Without Boozer, and to a lesser extent without Noah, the Bulls reverting back into a jump shooting team. Which might work if they had more shooters…
4. Terrible shooting:
Outside of D-Rose (14-for-28) and Ronnie Brewer (6-for-11), the Bulls couldn’t have lobbed a beach ball into the ocean.
They shot 39 percent as a team. Luol Deng went 2-for-11. Taj Gibson was 2-for-7. Kurt Thomas shot 2-for-6. Keith Bogans had his usual 1-for-3 performance. Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Omer Asik were a combined 3-for-11.
The Bulls went flat broke from the field. In all fairness, they were playing the second night of back-to-backs — and their fourth game in five nights — minus their second and third-best players…but it was ugly to watch. Very ugly.
Okay, so, like I was saying, the Bulls were playing their fourth game in five nights. And last week, they concluded a stretch of five games in seven nights. Rose, Deng and Gibson all logged at least 40 minutes the previous night in Memphis, and poor Luol is averaging 40 MPG in January (and 39.2 MPG on the season).
I know this is a “no excuses” league. But the guys looked and played tired.
2. The “clutch” offense:
With 36 seconds left, Stephen Jackson hit a turnaround jumper over Kyle Korver. I saw that coming the whole way. I don’t know if anybody else has noticed this, but when an offensive player draws Korver as a defender, they almost always shoot the ball.
The worst part was that Kurt Thomas knew it was coming and made a passive lunge toward the play…and a quick double might have prevented or disrupted the shot. All I could think was, “If Joakim had been there, Jackson might have been eating that ball.”
So anyway, now it was Charlotte by a point (81-80).
The Bulls called timeout. Coach Thibodeau subbed in Brewer for Korver, which is kind of funny when you think about it: Keeping Kyle in for the defensive possession and then switching him out for Brewer for the offensive possession. But whatever. I’m not the coach. Rose drew a double-team and found Brewer under the hoop.
Now, personally, I thought Ronnie should have gone up with the ball. Yes, I realize that the Bobcats D was rotating. But Brewer is an athletic finisher and, who knows, maybe he could have drawn a foul. Instead, he passes to Luol Deng — who was 2-for-10 at the time — for a three-pointer. Granted, the shot was as wide open as they get, but you don’t want a fatigued player who’s having a bad shooting night firing from 26 feet with the game on the line.
At least, I don’t want that.
Then, on Chicago’s final offensive sequence, Kurt Thomas fired a pass to Korver under the hoop. Would I have minded Brewer taking that shot? No. Did I want Kyle taking that shot? Hell no. Sure enough, Tyrus swatted the ball out of bounds with three seconds left. The ball was inbounded to Rose, who, to his credit, got a semi-clean look from 19 feet out. But it wasn’t really the kind of shot teams win games with.
1. A wasted opportunity:
The Bulls (28-14) have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, behind the Celtics (31-9) and Heat (30-13). However, they’re barely a step ahead of Atlanta (28-15) and Orlando (26-15). The race is tight…and homecourt advantage could mean everything come playoff time.
At the end of the season, losses like this — not to mention losses to the Clippers, Nets and Sixers — could come back to haunt the Bulls.
I didn’t include this in my top 10 list only because, for the most part, I try to avoid bringing officiating into the discussion. But what a way to end the first half. Augustine gets away with a very obvious traveling violation on a breakaway layup (with an official five feet from him) and then Rose gets called for a phantom offensive foul. As Charles Barkley would say: Turrible.