The second night of back-to-backs is always tough…especially when you have to play the Celtics in Boston. Still, despite falling behind by 16 points, the Bulls claws back into the game and forced overtime. But in the end, they finished with another check mark in the Loss Column and dropped to 2-3 on the season.
Here are some discussion points from the game.
Derrick Rose versus Rajon Rondo:
This has become one of the most exciting point guard match-ups in the NBA. They really went at each other, and both Rose (18 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds) and Rondo (11 assists, 10 points, 4 steals) had gaudy stat lines.
But check out the plus-minus scores: Rondo was +14 while Rose was -8. Rose also committed a game-worst 6 turnovers and got to the free throw line only once. Sure, Rondo didn’t earn any freebies, but star players have to attack the rim and get to the line in close games like this.
Anyway, although their lines were comparable, Rondo did a better job of controlling the game than Rose did. I hate to say it, but Rajon won this particular face-off.
Boston’s starting frontcourt of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jermaine O’Nealfinished with 38 points (16-for-37), 17 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Chicago’s starting frontcourt of Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah had 64 points (25-for-46), 25 rebounds and a block.
Particularly impressive was the play of Noah, who had 26 points and 12 boards while going an amazing 10-for-10 from the free throw line and playing a game-high 49 minutes. Unfortunately, he also made a critical mistake in overtime. See Turnovers below.
This the the Bulls’ most unstable position. Keith Bogans started and played a reasonably solid 22 minutes. He was only 1-for-3 from the floor, but he had 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a team-best plus-minus score of +6. Ronnie Brewer was pretty tough off the bench. Kyle Korver didn’t contribute much.
Then there was Boston’s Ray Allen, who scored 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting (3-for-5 from beyond the arc). His production was a punch-in-the-face reminder that the Bulls still don’t know what they’re going to get from the two spot. One notable: Despite his hot shooting and high scoring, Allen finished with a game-worst plus-minus score of -12 and was one of only two Celtics to finish with a negative plus-minus. Huh.
In many ways, this loss can be traced back to the second quarter. The Bulls won quarters one (23-19), three (26-23) and four (32-24). Unfortunately, they were outscored 30-14 in the second. This has been an ongoing trend. In their first five games, Chicago has been outscored 160-113 during the second quarter. Their best showing was a 29-29 tie in their season opener against the Thunder. In their other four games, they’ve been outscored by an average of 11.7 points during the second quarter.
It wasn’t just the second quarter, though. The Bulls were once again doomed by turnovers. And not just by the turnovers themselves, but by the points their opponents scored off those turnovers. Check it — points given up off turnovers are in parentheses:
Loss @ Oklahoma City: 15 (18)
Win vs. Detroit: 16 (13)
Win vs. Portland: 15 (11)
Loss vs. New York: 20 (26)
Loss @ Boston: 20 (31)
The Bulls are averaging 17.2 turnovers per game (which is bad) and giving up 19.8 points per game off those turnovers (which is painfully bad). And as you can see, the two wins were the games in which the managed to limit points off turnovers.
I like the fact that the Bulls have been so unselfish through the first five games. They currently rank 8th in assists per game (23.4). Unfortunately, they rank 5th in most turnovers per game. As a result, they are a mediocre 14th in assists per turnover (1.39).
Anyway, the Bulls had some killer turnovers at crucial times last night. After coming back from a huge deficit to take an 84-83 lead, Luol Deng lost the ball with 4:45 left in regulation. Rajon Rondo scored off that turnover to put the Celtics back up by a point. With 3:57 left and the Bulls trailing 87-86, Deng had a pass attempt stolen by Ray Allen, who went the other way for a layup to give the Celtics a three-point lead.
Admittedly, Deng redeemed himself by drilling two ginormous three-points in the final 2:29 of the fourth quarter to help force overtime. But still. His carelessness on those previous two turnovers killed Chicago’s momentum.
Now let’s talk about a near-turnover that might have cost the Bulls the game. With 23 seconds left in regulation, the score was tied at 96-96 and Chicago had the ball. Bulls fans were then treated to 20 seconds of dribbling by Rose, a forced drive and poke-away by Rondo. The Bulls recovered the ball but not before time expired. That’s right: 23 seconds and the Bulls couldn’t even get a shot off.
It was like the Ghost of Vinny Del Negro wrote up that play.
Turnovers also killed the Bulls in OT. Down 105-103 with 1:43 to go, Rose had a pass stolen by Rondo. This led to a Celtics fast break at the end of which Kyle Korver was forced to foul Glen Davis, who hit one of two from the line to give Boston a three-point lead. Rose then turned it over again by committing an offensive foul. Next thing you know, Allen abused Korver with a slam dunk to give the Celts a five-point advantage with 1:19 left.
All wasn’t lost. The Bulls forced a couple misses between a tip-in by Deng and were down 108-105 with about 20 seconds left when Noah ripped down a rebound and drove it the length of the court…only to have Kevin Garnett tip it away from behind. The Bulls had to foul, the Celtics hit their free throws, and it was game over.
The Celtics got a huge boost from their bench last night: 37 points (12-for-23), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot. In contract, the Chicago reserves contributed 19 points (8-for-17), 5 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and a block. Big Baby Davis 15 points, 7-for-8 from the line, 3 rebounds) almost outperformed the Bulls’ bench by himself. And then there was Marquis Daniels, who came out of his offensive coma (5-for-14 over his last three games) to score 13 big points on 5-for-6 shooting.
If you watched the game, I don’t need to tell you that James Johnson was awful again (0-for-4, zero points, 2 boards, 2 fouls and a team-worst plus-minus score of -11). Omer Asik had more combined fouls and turnovers (5) than points and rebounds (3). Korver went 2-for-5 in 20 minutes of PT. Kurt Thomas contributed a two trillion. Brian Scalabrine escaped a three trillion by blocking a shot and committing a foul.
On the bright side, C.J. Watson was reasonably productive in his brief seven-minute stint (5 points, 2-for-2, 3 assists) and Brewer (7 points, 3-for-4) looked good and played solid defense in his 15 minutes.
Quote of the Night:
Noah: “I had a huge turnover at the end. I can’t lose the ball in that situation. I think we’re not there yet, but we’re pretty close. We’re only going to get better, and when we do, it’s going to get real ugly for everybody who’s talking real crazy. All the trash that people are talking right now is going to come back and haunt them. Because when it counts, we’ll be ready.”
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Noah became only the sixth Bulls center to record at least 25 points and 12 boards in a game, joining the legendary ranks of Eddy Curry, Brad Miller, Tyson Chandler, Dave Corzine and Brad Sellers. Miller did it three times. Curry did it four times.
Mike Salvucci of CelticsHub: “Rondo vs. Rose was all the hype coming into tonight, and they both had solid games (Rondo: 10 points, 11 assists, Rose: 18, 9). Watching Rondo over the years, it’s rare to find him matched up against someone with that same kind of speed. Seeing the affect that Rose’s dribble-drives had on our defense really shows how valuable it is to have that type of point guard. But my favorite part about watching them play against each other was seeing how competitive they got. Each time Rose scored, Rondo immediately got the ball from the inbound and sprinted toward Chicago’s hoop. And Rose did the same when Rondo scored. It’s got to be a good sign when your team’s point guard cares as much as these guys do.”