The Portland Trail Blazers scored 109 points on 51.5 percent shooting.
They accumulated an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 52.9 percent and an Offensive Rating of 125.4.
They outscored the Bulls 18-4 on the fast break.
They shot 40 free throws to 68 field goal attempts, giving them a mind-boggling Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt percentage of 54.4.
And, of course, LaMarcus Aldridge scored a career-high 42 points on 15-for-23 from the field and 12-for-14 from the charity stripe.
Said Aldridge: “It was fun.”
I have no doubt the Blazers had fun. The Bulls? Not so much.
Aldridge wasn’t the only player to haunt the Bulls. Andre Miller had a mega-game, with 27 points (7-for-11, 13-for-13 from the line), 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and a blocked shot. Then Rudy Fernandez came off the bench to score 18 points on only nine shots.
Said coach Tom Thibodeau: “Every aspect of the defense was missing. Again, this is two games in a row we put ourselves in a bad position because we’re not guarding. [Andre] Miller got whatever he wanted. Aldridge got basically got whatever he wanted. [Rudy] Fernandez came in … we weren’t able to take anything away from him, so it was an easy game for them offensively. Then you’re playing with fire and you’re trying to outscore them and that’s not our game. We can’t win like that. We can’t win on the road like that.”
Added Derrick Rose: “I think our offense is there, but defensively we’re terrible right now.”
Rose should know. He was one of the primary culprits on that end. Just ask Nicolas Batum: “He’s a great offensive player, but he can’t play defense.”
You can hardly fault Batum for drawing that conclusion after this debacle. In fact, Portland fans might get a hearty chuckle if reminded that the Bulls lead the league in Defensive Rating at 100.0. Last night, Chicago looked like the league leader in gambles, reach-ins, blown assignments and missed covers. It was like Thibs asked Mike D’Antoni to stand in for him for the night.
So…what’s the fix?
Said Thibodeau: “We have to get back to playing defense and there’s not one aspect of our defense we’re doing well right now. From defensive transition, to post defense, to pick-and-roll defense, to catch-and-shoot defense. Once we correct that, then we’ll give ourselves a chance to win, but we’re not going to win trying to outscore people, I know that.”
Added Deng: “It happens. We know what the problem is. We got to fix it and we’ve got guys that are going to play hard. It definitely hurts when you lose, especially [because] we didn’t play our best, but we’re going to bounce right back. It’s still a long season. It’s two games. But we just got to end it as soon as possible.”
On that subject, when does Joakim Noah come back, again?
I’m not saying Noah would have been thesolution. But games like this serve as a reminder that Joakim was the foundation of the team’s defense. The big man in the middle who helped clean up everybody else’s mistakes. It was also a reminder that Kurt Thomas, who really has been an excellent stand-in, is a 38-year-old man who probably wouldn’t be starting for any other team under very many circumstances. Big Sexy finished with only 2 points (1-for-4) in 22 minutes of relative inaction.
Of course, that was 2 more points than Keith Bogans scored in his 21 minutes. But I’m not going there right now.
Gaping holes in a team’s lineup are easier to cover up in home games. The Bulls spent most of January in the welcoming confines of the United Center. Only two games in and this road trip has exposed how much the Bulls need not only Noah’s defensive prowess but his energy and will to win…the intangibles being nearly as important, if not more so, than the tangibles.
This is grind time. Historically, players tend to lose focus a little bit before the All-Star game, especially on the road. A little less energy. A tad less urgency. Which isn’t to say the team didn’t play hard. Not at all. But last night’s Bulls team was not the same squad that held opponents to 87.9 PPG last month. Not remotely.
Defense is more about desire than sheer talent. When the Bulls want it, they can shut people down. It looked like they were trying to live off their reputation and win-loss record last night.