When Chicago lost at home to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, I noted that as Derrick Rose goes, so go the Bulls. Rose didn’t play particularly well against the Clips (7-for-20, 4 turnovers), and the Bulls lost. And while that’s something of an oversimplification, his performance is a pretty good measure of how the team performs as a whole.
Well, Rose had a fantastic game last night against the Sixers: 30 points (10-for-22 from the field, 9-for-10 from the line), 4 rebounds, 9 assists. His scoring and assist totals were both game highs. He scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. And yet the Bulls lost their second consecutive game to a sub-.500 team…which in fact dropped them back below .500 in the process. So what happened?
Defense. Or rather the lack thereof.
Again, I don’t mean to oversimplify things here. However, Philly typically connects on about 45 percent of their field goals (20th in the league), and their average Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) is 48.6 (23rd in the league). Meanwhile, the Bulls usually hold their opponents to 43.6 percent shooting (3rd in the league) and an eFG% of 48.0 (6th in the league). So, all things being equal, Chicago should have shut the the Sixers down. With authoritah.
But they did not.
Philadelphia connected on 52.3 percent of their shots and finished with an eFG% of 55.2. Not only did those numbers exceed what the Sixers normally do and far surpass how Bulls opponents perform on average, they’re also significantly above what the league’s best team do on a nightly basis. The Utah Jazz currently lead the league in FGP (49.2) and the Phoenix Suns are tops in eFG% (54.1).
It was a classic defensive fail.
And mind you, the Sixers missed 11 of their 16 three-point attempts (31 percent) and hit only 11 of thier 19 fouls shots (58 percent). But the Bulls — who usually hold their foes to 55.8 percent shooting around the basket (2nd in the league) — allowed Philly to connect on 15 of their 20 shots at the rim (75 percent). For comparison’s sake, the Cleveland Cavaliers lead the league in at-the-rim FGP at 66.8.
Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah rank 1st and 2nd on the Bulls in both Defensive Rating and Blocked Shot Percentage. And yet Noah (6 points, 8 rebounds) logged only 27 minutes while Thomas (12 points, 6 boards, 1 steal) played a mere 15. And mind you, this game included an overtime session. Neither player blocked a single shot. In fact, as a team, the Bulls finished with zero swats. Since neither man was in foul trouble — Joakim finished with 2 personals while Tyrus had only 1 — we have to assume Noah was limited by his plantar fasciitis and that Thomas remains outside of coach Vinny Del Negro’s circle of trust.
Meanwhile, Brad Miller played 33 minutes and contributed 8 points and 1 lonely rebound. I have no idea how a seven-footer could log that many minutes and yet finish with a single board.
I should also point out that Taj Gibson — who is 3rd on the Bulls in Defensive Rating but is also struggling with his own case of plantar fasciitis — played horribly (0-for-4, zero points, 1 rebound) and appeared for only 16 minutes.
At any rate, the Bulls lost this game on the defensive end, which isn’t terribly surprising considering their three best defensive players (by the numbers) spent most of the game on their butts or passing out Gatorade in the team huddles. It also at least partially explains why Chicago was so badly exploited by former Bull Elton Brand (26 points, 12-for-22, 9 rebounds, 3 blocked shots), Andre Iguodala (25 points, 11-for-19, 8 boards, 8 assists) and Samuel Dalembert (10 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks).
And did I mention the Bulls aren’t all that great on the second night of back-to-back games? It wasn’t just the limited PT for the big men. Everybody appeared to be a step slow. Let’s hope they get some rest — and that Joakim and Taj are feeling better — before Friday night’s game in Atlanta.
Based on By The Horns reader Tony C.’s assessment that the Bulls typially fail after a timeout, I decided to start tracking the actual results on a game-by-game basis. Last night, Vinny called a total of nine timouts.
1st timeout: Thomas scored a layup (Rose assist)
2nd timeout: Luol Deng hit a 15-footer
3rd timeout: Deng nailed a three-pointer (Rose assist)
4th timeout: Brad Miller knocked down a jumper (Rose assist)
5th timeout: Rose missed a 5-footer
6th timeout: Rose missed a tough 18-footer at the end of regulation
7th timeout: Bulls commit a shot clock violation
8th timeout: John Salmons scored a layup (Miller assist)
9th timeout: Kirk Hinrich turned the ball over
So five of the timeouts resulted in a score, two were Rose misses (the second of which was a bit of a wash) and the other two resulted in costly turnovers in OT.