The Pistons were pretty much doomed to smacked down in this one.
Let’s face it: The Bulls were not a happy group after Saturday night’s loss to the Hawks. They were flat out embarrassed in Atlanta. Good teams tend to bounce back from debacles like that.
Particularly at home.
And especially against bad teams.
Credit the Pistons for having a little fight. I thought they’d get blown out in the first 12 minutes. They did fall behind 21-12 with 3:01 left in the first quarter, but they closed out the quarter on a 9-0 run to tie the game. And despite a 13-point second quarter, Detroit actually managed to stay in striking distance until the fourth…
…when the Bulls ended things with an 18-3 run and outscored the Pistons 24-9.
Said Derrick Rose: “It’s just defense. If every night can be like this where we played defense and get out and run, it would be easy. But it’s been hard. We tried to come back from the last game, where it was embarrassing to play in a game like that, and just try to keep playing. That’s what we did tonight.”
Added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “I liked the way we started the game on both ends. Our ball movement was good. It got us into a rhythm. Carlos played a terrific game and our bench came in and gave us a lift.”
Wait, Carlos Booz…oh, yeah, that guy. Chicago’s consolation prize when Chris Bosh and LeBron James decided to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. The guy whose $80 million contract and preseason hand injury made him a lightning rod for abuse from Bulls fans. So much so that, at times, it was hard to determine whom the fans blamed more for the team’s shortcomings: Boozer or Keith Bogans.
There haven’t been many Boozer-related complaints this season (well, maybe one, but I’ll get to that in a minute). His stats aren’t quite what they were in his Utah days — 14.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.0 APG — but he’s shooting 52 percent from the field, has a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.62, and has been a reasonably sound second scoring option when needed.
Like last night against the Pistons, when he had 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot.
The one troubling difference in Boozer’s game this season is where his shots are coming from. According to Hoopdata, from 2007 to 2011, Carlos averaged between 7.4 and 6.0 shot attempts at the rim. This season, that number is down to 3.1. Meanwhile, his attempts from 16-23 feet have jumped from 3.0 last season to 5.2 this season.
Sure enough, last night he got two attempts at the rim while taking nine from 16-23 feet. So, in essence, he is transforming into a 260-pound jump shooter.
This troubles me. Boozer is playing well, sure, but he’s also supposed to be Chicago’s primary (read that: only) inside scoring presence. Only he’s scoring from outside more so than the inside.
The situation bears watching, because the Bulls aren’t going to overcome the Heat with Boozer launching long two-pointers.
Sorry. I’m not trying to be a kill joy. There was plenty to like in this game, like Chicago’s 18 fast break points and the 19 turnovers they forced. But Boozer’s reliance on the jumper and Joakim Noah’s continued blah play (4 points, 8 rebounds, zero shot attempts for the first time since 2009) are putting me on edge. Those two guys are going to be absolutely crucial for the Bulls to reach the NBA Finals. Boozer needs to attack the rim more. Noah needs to do pretty much everything.
And he knows it.
Said Noah: “I need to play better.”
Thibs doesn’t seem overly concerned: “When Jo is playing great defense and is active, that’s when he plays well offensively. Running the floor, there’s not a better athlete at the center than Jo. He’ll be fine. He has to keep working.
“With Jo, the more he goes, the more he gets. He has to keep making that effort and not be so concerned with offense. He’s at his best when he’s going after every shot.
“Much like shooting, there’s a rhythm to rebounding. Oftentimes, you see he makes great effort four or five times and he doesn’t get one. Usually if he keeps going, he’ll find a rhythm and get four or five in a row.”
Everybody is going to defend Jo because Jo’s Jo, and also because this team is tight. But zero shot attempts…even Brian Scalabrine and Jimmy Butler took (and made) shots last night.
Noah needs to find his offense. I hope it happens sooner than later.