The AP game notes pretty much said it all: Utah’s 132 points, 34 assists and 3-point percentage (.600) were season-highs for a Bulls opponent. Except for one dunk — more on that below — the Jazz didn’t do anything spectacular. They simply fought, hustled and executed the Bulls to death.
And just like that, Chicago has fallen out of the top 10 in Defensive Efficiency. They also tied a rather ominous season high with their fifth straight loss, falling a game below .500 in the process (31-32).
One of the most disappointing aspects of this particular loss is how well the Bulls executed on offense. Mind you, the Jazz are currently ranked 9th in Defensive Efficiency, yet the Bulls shot 54 percent from the field, better than 53 percent in threes (8-for-15), and racked up 20 fast break points. And then they lost by 24. At home.
The Bulls really might as well have put a welcome mat in the paint. That’s how easy a time the Jazz had in there. Utah got 21 layups and two dunks, including one in which Deron Williams posterized Derrick Rose. What’s more, the Jazz dominated the glass (42-32). That total included a 14-6 edge in offensive rebounds. And did I mention Utah earned 39 free throw attempts? Oh, and they scored 24 points off 16 Chicago turnovers.
So, basically, the Jazz either hit the shot, earned a second chance, got fouled, or got the ball right back. There quite literally was no stopping them last night. And let me tell you, several of those free throw were the result of fouls right at the bucket. There was no keeping the Jazz away from the rim…and collapsing on them was just as bad, considering they went 12-for-20 from beyond the arc, including 6-for-7 by C.J. Miles and 2-for-2 from Wesley Matthews.
The absence of Joakim Noah is killing the Bulls.
Brad Miller is a fantastic offensive center. (Most of the time, anyway.) Last night, he scored 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-3 from downtown. Miller even added 3 assists for good measure. But he had only 4 rebounds in 33 minutes. Utah’s Paul Millsap logged 32 minutes and finished with 9 boards, including 6 on the offensive end. His impact was huge.
The Bulls needed somebody like that. A physical player who could bring some much-needed energy and grit off the bench. A lot of people were hoping Chris Richard could be that guy. Unfortunately, Richard was pretty ineffective, finishing with 2 rebounds and 5 fouls in 17 minutes. Nice guy. Hard worker. But I guess he spent much of this season in the NBA Developmental League for a reason.
Maybe that guy could have been James Johnson. After all, JJ chipped in 7 points (3-for-5) and 4 rebounds in only 11 minutes of PT. Plus, the Bulls had exactly 1 blocked shot on the night…and Johnson was responsible for it. Yeah, he bricked a couple free throws, but why not give Johnson a shot? Vinny Del Negro needs to unleash this kid. Tell him to go out, get rough, and just bang bodies in the paint. What do we have to lose at this point?
Let’s not forget, Deron Williams was awesome. Williams had game highs in points (28) and assists (17) while shooting 11-for-15 from the field and 3-for-5 in threes. Derrick Rose couldn’t stop him. Kirk Hinrich couldn’t stop him. Williams dominated the game. Controlled it. Owned it. Forget the stats. Williams put on a virtuoso performance. Maybe it was his Booms Beard Lite. But it says something about him that he could so vastly outplay a fellow All-Star like Rose, who had a pretty good game himself (25 points, 13 assists, 4 rebounds).
Said Rose: “He’s always someone I looked up to and I thought he played real well tonight.”
Yeah. You could say that.
Carlos Boozer — the soon-to-be-a-free-agent big man who might be on Chicago’s offseason radar — had a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) plus 5 assists, but he got caught up in the Deron and Derrick Show.
Said Boozer: “That was a helluva matchup. Did you have fun watching that? Because I did. You got to incredible point guards pushing the ball,” Boozer said. “That was one helluva matchup we just watched out there. A great game to watch. I’m going to get that tape and review myself. Those two guys, man … they kept pushing the ball, so everybody kept running. It was a great game.”
Not for the Bulls. No loss is great, and this one carried more weight than most. As you can see from the season standings, Chicago now ranks ninth in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs started today, the Bulls would be on the outside looking in. Man, a few weeks ago it looked like Chicago had a realistic chance at the fifth or sixth seed. Now it looks like they have a realistic shot at the NBA Draft Lottery.
As if things aren’t bad enough — remember, the Bulls have lost a season-high five games, including the last four at home — next up is a four-game road swing through Orlando, Miami, Memphis and Dallas. Then the Bulls get to come home for a game against the Cavaliers.
I’m really dreading the next week and a half.