That was horrible.
Chicago fans didn’t expect the Bulls to give them a lump of coal like this, not at home on Christmas Day against the team that used a contract with a “poison pill” to steal Omer Asik away from them last summer.
The numbers are painful to review. Better bite your lip before reading on.
Houston scored 120 points. That’s a season-high for Bulls opponents.
The Rockets had 31 fast break points and 66 points in the paint. They led by as many as 35 points.
Houston shot 56 percent from the field and 40 percent on threes. They went 20-for-24 at the line (83.3 percent). Their Effective Field Goal Percentage (61.0), True Shooting Percentage (64.8) and Offensive Rating (130.4 points per 100 possessions) were absurd.
As if that weren’t enough, the Rockets outrebounded the Bulls 45-31. That included a 10-7 edge in offensive rebounds. But the offensive rebounding situation was actually worse than the raw numbers indicate given the differences in the teams’ shooting percentages. Houston’s Offensive Rebounding Percentage (29.4) was almost comically better than Chicago’s (16.7).
Essentially, the Bulls were outworked and outclassed in every conceivable way.
Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: “(We were) completely outplayed right from the start. My job is to have them ready and obviously we were not ready so that part’s on me … the thing is we had a bad fourth quarter in New York, we had a bad performance in Atlanta, and we followed it up today. So things can change very quickly in this league. If you’re not right and ready and you don’t have an edge, you’re not going to win without playing with the right amount of intensity.”
Nate Robinson — who at times seemed like the only Bulls player with a pulse last night — begged to differ.
Said Robinson: “It’s on us. It has nothing to do with coach. Coach does a great job of preparing us and getting us ready for the games. It’s all on us so we’re not going to let him take the blame on that and we got to do better (Wednesday) and we will.”
Little Nate was a ball of fire, scorching the Rockets for 27 points in 28 minutes while shooting 9-for-16 from the field, drilling four three-pointers and earning a team-best seven free throw attempts.
Unfortunately, Robinson’s energy wasn’t enough to snap the rest of the team out of their their collective defensive stupor.
Of course, this meltdown didn’t hit the Bulls out of nowhere like a bolt from the blue. It seems to have started last Friday in New York when the Knicks dropped 45 points on them in the fourth quarter. It continued the next night in Atlanta when the Hawks beat the Bulls like a red-headed step child.
Those five quarters of basketball were about as un-Bulls-like as they come. I figured they would come out ready last night. No team wants to get punked at home on Christmas. No way that was going to happen.
But here we are. And — more good news! — Luol Deng has a sprained ankle and is questionable for tonight’s game in Indiana.
Making matters even worse was Asik’s performance: 20 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 1 assist and a game-best plus-minus score of +41 in 35 minutes. Omer so thoroughly outplayed presumed All-Star-to-be Joakim Noah (8 points, 9 rebounds, 5 turnovers, -20) that the Bulls front office probably would have agreed to a mid-game trade if such a thing had been possible.
When the Bulls made a mini-run in the fourth, Asik was there, clogging up the paint and intimidating any Bulls player who dared to make googly eyes at the rim.
Said Houston coach Kevin McHale: “Omer is a big-time player in the middle. Tonight he was blocking shots, getting rebounds and outletting the ball for us. He’s got a big body and sets wide picks for us. This was a very good game for him.”
Asik was 9-for-13 from the field. As you can see, all but one of those shot attempts were right at the rim.
Said Noah: “I think he was great just rolling to the basket, off pick and rolls. They play four out, one in, and he was able to get a lot of easy things around the rim. I think we should have fouled him more around the rim, made him earn it a little bit more around the rim but he played very well.”
Fouling Asik might have helped. But when an opposing team has 31 fast break points and 66 points in the paint, forcing a poor foul shooter to hit a couple free throws probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.
James Harden (26 points, 7-for-13 from the field, 11-for-13 at the line), Jeremy Lin (20 points, 8-for-12, 11 assists) and Chandler Parsons (23 points, 9-for-15 from the field, 4-for-5 on threes) all took turns lighting the Bulls up. The defense wasn’t just bad. It was embarrassing. The effort an intensity just wasn’t there.
Said Thibs: “If you are not right and don’t have an edge, you are not going to win without the right amount of intensity. They completely outplayed us from the start.”
There’s not much more you can say. And there’s not much more you can say about the loss.
Tonight’s game against the Pacers will be a real gut check.