Led by Carlos Boozer (22 points, 8-for-15, 11 rebounds), Chicago had another strong night on the inside, outscoring the Milwaukee 56-34 in the paint.
The Bulls were definitely aggressive in attacking the basket. They converted more field goals at the rim (24) than the Bucks attempted (20).
The Bulls missed 18 shots at the rim. Take that in. They missed 18 shots at the rim. That’s a lot of shanks at point blank range. The reason? Some were plain old misses, but the Bucks had also threw a block party. Milwaukee stuffed an astounding 15 shots. Larry Sanders with 7 blocks, which was five more than the Bulls had as a team.
So the Bulls converted only 57 percent of their point blank shots…and it only got worse from there. Much worse. According to Hoopdata, Chicago was 3-for-11 from 3-9 feet (27.3 percent), 4-for-12 from 10-15 feet (33.4 percent) and 4-for-18 from 16-23 feet (22.3 percent).
The Bulls were 4-for-10 from three-point range. And sure, 40 percent isn’t bad, but they 3-for-4 in the first quarter and only 1-for-6 over the final three quarters….during which they were outscored 81-63.
Actually, Chicago’s shooting plummeted after the first quarter, during which they shot 14-for-24 (58.3 percent) and went ahead 33-23. The Bulls then went on to shoot 11-for-24 in the second quarter (45.8 percent), 8-for-22 in the third (36.4 percent) and 6-for-25 in the fourth (24 percent).
Chicago’s D took the night off. Seriously.
I understand the Bucks are enjoying a dead coach bounce, but come on. According to Basketball-Reference, Milwaukee ranks 27th in Offensive Rating at 102.3 points per 100 possessions. So it stands to reason a top-tier defensive team like the Bulls should be able to hold them below their pitiful average, right?
The Bucks scored at a rate of 106.6 points per 100 possessions. They ran out for 19 fast break points. Brandon Jennings — spurred on by some ill-times trash talk by Nate Robinson — erupted for a season-high 35 points on 12-for-24 shooting (including 5-for-10 on three-pointers). Mike Dunleavy Jr. scorched the Bulls for 16 points off the bench while knocking down four of his five three-point attempts…including two in a row after the Bulls had pulled to within 92-91 with just over four minutes left in the game.
The Bulls didn’t get back in transition and their closeouts on the three-point shooters — particularly Dunleavy Jr. and Jennings — left a lot to be desired.
On top of that, Chicago was outrebounded 48-45 by a team that is 28th in the league in defensive rebounding and strictly middle of the pack in total rebounds. The Bulls also gave up 19 points off 15 turnovers.
Missing Captain Kirk:
This was one of those instances where you can see how a player’s worth may go well beyond his stats. Kirk Hinrich — who missed the game with a right elbow injury — anchors Chicago’s backcourt defense. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Jennings’ 35-point outburst was the highest single-game total for a Bulls opponent this season. It’s probably no coincidence this happened with Hinrich out.
What’s more, Robinson directed some choice words at Jennings after scoring 13 points in the first quarter. It got Jennings’ attention in a bad way for the Bulls.
Said Jennings: “A little trash talking before the second half. I guess he felt like he had it going, he was getting the best of me. I really don’t take trash talking too kindly because I don’t really do a lot of trash talking. I warned him, so, hey, it happens.”
But it shouldn’t have.
Look, I love Robinson’s energy and enthusiasm. I really do. But, generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to give your opponents extra motivation. And it bit Robinson and the Bulls in the butt last night.
Player of the Game:
Carlos Boozer. He once again led the team in scoring, shot efficiently and had his sixth straight double-double.
Goat of the Game:
I’m tempted to give this to Rip Hamilton, who scored only 4 points on 2-for-11 shooting, but Robinson “wins” this one. He had a good statistical game: 19 points, 3-for-5 on threes, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals. But he lit a fire under Jennings and then could only helplessly watch while Jennings lit him up.
The lesson: Never give your opponents incentive to kick your you-know-what.
Best off the Bench:
Taj Gibson put in a strong 20 minutes, scoring 8 points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots. He also had the best plus-minus on the team. It was only +2, but still.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “You usually get what you deserve. We got what we deserved. I give them credit. They played very well and very hard. We did not play the way we should have played. We did not do the things we should have done to win. Things change quickly in this league. If you don’t play with great intensity, especially with people out, you are not going to give yourself a chance to win. If you want to make it a ‘you shoot, I shoot’ type of game, you’re not going to go anywhere on that.”
Quote of the Night:
Joakim Noah: They beat us in transition. They played harder than us. It’s disappointing because it’s the second time that’s happened against this team. We didn’t play smart basketball. They have great shot blocking and I feel like we didn’t make the extra pass like we should have. And our defense was terrible.
“This is the NBA, man,” Noah said. “Everybody’s good. Everybody’s very good. I know you’ve never played against a guy like Larry Sanders. He might not be a big-name player, but he’s a helluva player. He dominated the game with his defense. And [Ersan] Ilyasova, he’s maybe not a big name but he’s somebody who can really play the game well. So you got to give credit when credit is due.”
After the first quarter, the Bulls got outworked on the boards and outhustled all over the court. They showed little of the focus they had in their wins over the Magic, Heat and Cavaliers. By the end, Milwaukee’s shot blockers had them hearing footsteps and Dunleavy Jr. and Jennings were killing them from deep. Like Thibs said, the Bulls got what they deserved: an inexusable home loss.