On Wednesday night, Derrick Rose hit a walk-off buzzer beater that covered up the fact that the Bulls played awful defense against the Bucks.
That shoddy defensive effort extended through the first quarter of last night’s game against the Magic. During that initial 12 minutes, Orlando shot 15-for-20 (75 percent), including 6-for-8 from three-point range.
The Bulls trailed by as many as 17 points in that opening period and were playing catch up the rest of the night. No small feat for a team slogging through its fourth game in five nights…three of which were versus other Eastern Conference playoff teams (Sixers, Pacers, Magic).
I will say this: The Bulls picked up their defense. The Magic shot only 30 percent (20-for-66) after the first quarter. But the damage was done.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: ”When you get that far in the hole, you can’t win like that. That comes back on me. I have to get them ready to play. That hole should not have been there.”
But it was. The Bulls did manage to claw their way back into the game, even taking brief leads in the third and fourth quarters, but it was not to be.
There were no fourth quarter heroics from Rose last night. During those final 12 minutes, Derrick scored only 5 points while missing four out of five field goal attempts. He also clanged the second of two free throws that would have cut Orlando’s lead to only three points with 38 seconds left.
Rose was flat broke all night (6-for-22), making him an awful 14-for-44 over his past two games.
He wasn’t the only Chicago player shooting blanks last night. The only consistent offense for the Bulls came from the power forward position, as Carlos Boozer (26 points, 12-for-20) and Taj Gibson (14 points, 6-for-7) had their way with the Magic defense.
But everybody else?
Luol Deng, Chicago’s second All-Star, went 1-for-9, including 1-for-5 on threes. Joakim Noah was 3-for-7. Ronnie Brewer, again starting in place of the injured Rip Hamilton, missed two of his three shot attempts. If you’re keeping track at home, that means the starters not named “Carlos Boozer” combined to shoot 11-for-41 (27 percent).
Then there was Kyle Korver.
The sharpest of Chicago’s long-range sharp shooters went 1-for-7 on threes and 3-for-10 overall. And during the fourth quarter, Kyle bricked five wide-open threes in a row. On one of those attempts, his defender (Jason Richardson) fell down, giving Korver all the time in the world to lock onto his target.
Said Korver: ”A couple of them felt good. A couple of them maybe not quite as good, but I thought at least three of them were at the bottom of the bucket. You’ve got one play where everyone falls down and you’re left wide open for a corner 3 and it goes in and out. I need to come through in those [situations].”
One or two of those shots might have won the game. You can’t blame Korver though. They were all good shots. They just didn’t go in.
Said Thibs: ”Kyle had some wide-open shots, his shot. I can live with that all day. He’s a great shooter and had it on line. It doesn’t go in. I can live with that.”
Added Noah: ”It’s part of the game. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. Kyle taking those shots, we live with that all day. Kyle getting an open look, there’s no better offense than that in the whole NBA. I don’t care what anybody says.”
Maybe it’s a good that Korver misfired on those shots. Maybe a wake-up call was needed. The Bulls need to play better than they did against the Bucks and Magic. Chicago leads the league in rebounding differential, but Orlando won the battle of the boards 49-40. The Magic ripped down 17 offensive rebounds and finished with an Offensive Rebounding Rate of 40.5.
Simply put, you cannot let a team rebound four out of every 10 missed shots.
But like I said, the Bulls were playing their fourth game in five nights against mostly top-notch competition, and the Magic were resting in their hotel rooms while the Bulls were fighting their way out of Milwaukee. You could tell the team had no legs last night. You could see it in their shooting. You could see it in their rebounding.
That’s just life in the NBA.
All the Bulls can do now is get some rest, watch some tape, and be ready for the Jazz on Saturday night.