“We don’t know what’s going on. I think it’s defense. Defense usually gets us going, gets us fastbreak points, and it just hasn’t been there.”
That’s what Derrick Rose said about the ongoing mystery of why the Bulls haven’t yet transformed the Pacers into a smoldering pile of playoff ashes.
It’s not that I don’t respect Derrick’s opinion, but let’s look at some numbers:
Chicago Bulls — Regular Season:
Defensive Rating: 100.3 (NBA Rank #1)
Opponents eFG%: 46.3 (NBA Rank #1)
Chicago Bulls — Game 2:
Defensive Rating: 95.7
Pacers eFG%: 45.5
So, by the numbers, the Bulls actually exceeded their regular season average for defensive output in Game 2. Admittedly, they gave up 29 points in the second quarter, but they held Indy to only 43 points in the second half. Meanwhile, they slammed the breaks on Tyler Hansbrough (2-for-12), Paul George (2-for-7), Roy Hibbert (3-for-7), Darren Collison (2-for-5), A.J. Price (3-for-8) and Josh McRoberts (3-for-9).
Admittedly, Jeff Foster (4-for-5) and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (3-for-5) knocked down a handful of stunners, but holding any team to 95.7 points per 100 possessions is pretty good defense, right?
Meanwhile, against Indiana’s aggressive (and exceedingly physical) defense, the Bulls managed a pathetic eFG% of only 41.6 percent, and their Offensive Rating (102.0) was well below their regular season average (108.3).
My belief is that the Bulls are struggling because they can’t score. Rose is the only player capable of creating his own shot on the perimeter. He’s also the only player who can consistently make it to the basket against one-on-one defense. Carlos Boozer can score in the post, but he hasn’t gotten consistent opportunities. I”m not sure whether that’s from a lack of effort on his part or because coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t committing to the inside-outside game he talked about so often early in the season.
Look, we all know the defense is going to be there. The Bulls need to get their offensive act together. Boozer scored 17 points and earned nine free throw attempts despite not getting many touches in the second half. There’s no way Indy’s front line should be able to stop him. Chicago needs to force the issue and pound that ball down low. Heck, I’d like to see more post-ups from Joakim Noah while we’re at it. Luol Deng, too. Why not? Danny Granger’s not on the All-Defensive Team.
And, gak, the Bulls’ performance at the rim was awful in Game 2: 15-for-36. That’s right: 21 missed shots at the rim. Take away Rose’s at-the-rim numbers (6-for-11), and the rest of the Bulls were 9-for-25, with the Boozer/Deng/Noah triumvirate combining to go 5-for-19. Excuse me, but when did the Pacers sign Bill Russell?
Give the Pacers credit: They are using extremely physical play to protect the basket. The Bulls need to either figure out a way to finish or draw fouls. Shooting 41.7 percent on 36 attempts at the rim isn’t going to get the job done against anybody. Well, they got by in Game 2, but it’s hard to see that working on the road in Game 3.