…I certainly didn’t expect that.
I didn’t expect the Bulls – led by Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and reigning MVP Derrick Rose — to come out flatter than a glass of Pepsi somebody left sitting out all night.
During the 2010-11 campaign, the Bulls were sometimes outplayed, but they were rarely outworked.
The one potential chink in the armor of this year’s squad was whether they could maintain the same all-out-every-night focus and intensity of last year’s 62-win team.
That worry manifested into an ugly reality last night.
One night removed from a stirring come-from-behind win against the Lakers in L.A., the Bulls played one of their ugliest games since Vinny Del Negro was patrolling the sidelines. Chicago gave up 22 points off 20 turnovers while letting Golden State rack up 16 steals and 20 fast break points. The Warriors shot 47 percent, outscored the Bulls 42-32 in the paint, and got to the free throw line 31 times.
Luol Deng (22 points, 10-f0r-15, 10 rebounds) played well…and that’s about it. Derrick Rose (13 points, 4-for-17, 1-for-8 on threes) played more like the Least Valuable Player while Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton spent the entire fourth quarter swabbing the bench with their shorts.
Stephen Curry (21 points, 10 assists, 6 steals) clearly got the better of Rose, Monta Ellis (26 points, 10-for-17) got whatever he wanted, and David Lee (22 points, 8-for-16, 7 rebounds) looked like an All-Star big man. And Kwame “The Bust” Brown — who, at one point, picked C.J. Watson clean — had a seemingly meager stat line (6 rebounds, 5 points, 4 steals) but finished with the best plus-minus score of the night (+21).
It was that kind of night.
The Bulls were outplayed. Outworked. Outeverythinged.
Said Thibs: “When you’re on the road, you have to understand how difficult it is to win on the road. You prepare yourself by being ready at the start of the game and you have to play defense. And you can’t make it easy on them. You’ve got to take care of the ball. You’ve got to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself first. And then you have to establish your defensive game first, you’ve got to know who you are. Defend, rebound, inside-out, share the ball, low turnovers.”
That game plan was the reverse of what the Bulls actually did.
Added Joakim Noah: “We’re not going to get to where we want to get to playing defense like that. It’s frustrating … because we have to improve. There’s a lot of areas we have to improve, even though we won against the Lakers [on Sunday].”
The bright side, I guess, is that the Bulls can do better in almost every category.
I know. That’s a pretty sad bright side isn’t it?
Still, on a night when the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks were blown out for the second game in a row, it’s worth remembering that the lockout and abbreviated training camp/preseason were likely to produce some ugly early efforts in this shortened season.
And — not to give excuses — the Bulls were playing back-to-back road games. The first of which was on Christmas day. So the lackluster effort can be put into perspective a little bit.
That said, the Bulls won’t get a mulligan because they have a challenging schedule. Every team in the league has a challenging schedule this season.
Simply put, the Bulls have to play better than they did last night in Oakland.
Said Rose: “[Coach Thibodeau] is mad. We can’t be any more mad than him, I’ll say that. He’s a coach. He knows what we’re capable of. He sees how hard we practice. And we disappointed him tonight, so all we can do is go out there the next game, go into practice, practice hard for him and go into the game and show him that we’re capable of doing the things that he knows we can do.”