The Bulls have so rarely lost consecutive games under coach Tom Thibodeau that their recent three-game skid — the longest losing streak of the Thibodeau era — felt like it lasted forever.
Here are some key aspects of last night’s much-needed win.
Back to the Basics:
The primary keys to this team’s success the last two seasons — besides Derrick Rose — has been defense and rebounding. Offensive rebounding in particular. Those are the foundation blocks on which these Bulls have been built.
Last night, they held the Bucks to 43.2 percent shooting — including 3-for-17 on three-pointers — and limited them to only 10 free throw attempts. After giving up 30 first quarter points, the Bulls allowed only 56 points the rest of the way, including a mere 34 points in the second half.
In addition to digging in on defense, the Bulls owned the glass, owning a 54-40 edge in total rebounds and a 20-8 advantage on offensive boards. If you enjoy advanced metrics, that works out to a Defensive Rebounding Percentage of 77.3 percent and an Offensive Rebounding Percentage of 40 percent.
That’s rebounding domination.
The Bulls also made the most of their bonus shots, outscoring the Bucks 25-5 in second-chance points.
Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer:
Hamilton and Boozer have been personas non grata during the fourth quarter of recent games.
Not against the Bucks.
Rip and Booz earned their fourth quarter burn in the simplest of ways: By playing really well.
Boozer had the kind of game he is being paid big money to have: a co-team-high 22 points and a game-high 19 rebounds. What’s more, he shot extremely well (10-for-15) and ripped down 8 of the team’s 20 offensive rebounds. And much to the delight of Bulls fans, Boozer did most of his damage in the paint, going 8-for-8 at the rim.
As for Hamilton, he scored 18 of his season-high 22 points in the first half and personally outscored Milwaukee at the free throw line 10-7. Rip didn’t shoot particularly well (6-for-18) and had a little trouble holding onto the ball (6 turnovers), but he was 10-for-10 from the line and and created mismatches in the post against Brandon Jennings (6’1″) and Monta Ellis (6’3″).
They also played well down the stretch. Boozer had 6 points and 6 rebounds (5 offensive) in the fourth, and Hamilton went 2-for-2 at the line with 22 seconds left when the Bucks were forced to foul.
Kirk Hinrich’s Shooting Nightmare Continues:
Kirk’s rough season continued with a 3-for-10 outing. He is now shooting 30 percent from the field, 25 percent on threes, and only 52 percent from the line. His Player Efficiency Rating is a dreadful “one toe in the D-League” 7.8. On the bright side, he had 4 assists and a plus-minus score of +7.
Bad Shooting…Worse Shooting:
The Bulls weren’t the only team playing defense last night. Milwaukee’s D held the Bulls to 39 percent shooting. Subtract Carlos Boozer’s 10-for-15 performance and Chicago shot 32 percent.
Chicago was particularly woeful from anywhere and everywhere outside of the area immediately around the basket. According to Hoopdata, the Bulls were 17-for-24 at the rim (70.9 percent). That’s good. However, they were 1-for-9 from 3-9 feet (11.2 percent), 1-for-7 from 10-15 feet (14.3 percent), 9-for-25 from 16-23 feet (36 percent) and a typically woeful 4-for-16 from three-point range (25 percent).
Not surprisingly, the Bulls finished with 17 assists to 16 turnovers, which is unusual for a team averaging 22.8 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.47.
Limited Bench Production:
Chicago’s reserves were outscored 30-16 by their counterparts on the Milwaukee bench. Jimmy Butler provided some solid effort (6 points and 7 rebounds in 19 minutes) and Taj Gibson was okay (4 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes). But Nate Robinson was ineffective during his 17-minute stint (4 points on 2-for-7 shooting and 1 assist), Marco Belinelli played had a plus-minus score of -5 in only four minutes, and Nazr Mohammed earned a DNP-CD.
I know it’s early and a lot of things can happen. But the formerly 10-deep Bulls are now effectively eight-deep. And it’s not as strong an eight as it should be. Butler is giving the Bulls most of what they got from Ronnie Brewer — even if he is a shade less effective on defense — but Taj Gibson has regressed, Belinelli isn’t a shadow of Kyle Korver, and Mohammed may slide right out of the rotation.
It’s going to be a long season, and the longer Rose is out, the more of a problem this is going to become. Unless things turn around…which could happen. But I’m not holding my breath.
The Bulls return to the United Center on Monday to face the Bucks for control of the Central Division.