Key pre-road trip victory: Bulls 94, 76ers 88

It was an offensive explosion last night in Chicago, as the Bulls scored a season-high 94 points on a season-best 45 percent shooting! Okay, okay, enough with the sarcasm. It was good to get the win — especially since the team begins a six-game road trip on Tuesday — but there were still plenty of reasons for concern.

For instance, the Bulls once again suffered through a brutal start, falling behind 20-6 about midway through the first quarter. They were terribly careless with the ball, giving up 23 points off 21 turnovers. They missed seven free throws, including five in the fourth quarter when they were trying to clinch the victory. And their three-point shooting (3-for-8) was almost non-existent, especially if you take away Kirk Hinrich’s 2-for-3 long-range performance.

And, of course, that lack of three-point shooting allowed the Sixers — like the rest of Chicago’s opponents this season — to clog the paint and disrupt the Bulls’ attempts at the rim…which goes a long way in explaining why Philly had 7 blocked shots and forced the Bulls into missing 14 of their 25 layup attempts. (Of course, there was a decent amount of uncalled contact, especially against Brad Miller and Joakim Noah, who combined to miss seven of their 12 bunnies).

Another gripe I had was that, when John Salmons knocked down an 8-footer to build a 84-70 lead with 4:43, the Bulls started playing like the game was over, which allowed the Sixers to mount a mini-comeback. Closing a team out is critical. Going soft at the end of a game is the kind of behavior that tends to come back and haunt a team. Let’s hope it doesn’t haunt the Bulls.

And yet the Bulls defense — which has been solid all season — held the Sixers to 42 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers for 14 points going the other way. And their foul line defense was pretty good too, as Philly went only 13-for-21 from the charity stripe. So even though the offense is still an ugly work in progress, the team defense has been one of the few pleasant surprises of the early season. In fact, the Bulls currently rank 7th in Defensive Efficiency and are giving up only 96.9 Points Per 100 Possessions.

Four Factors:
Effective Field Goal Percentage (46.7 to 46.2) was a wash. The Bulls obviously had a higher Turnover Percentage (20.4 to 16.3) and they were -9 in points off turnovers. Chicago also won Offensive Rebounding Percentage (26.8 to 22.7) and Free Throw Rate (35.8 to 25.9), the latter of which helped them finish +8 on points off foul shots.

Bench play:
Chicago’s bench outscored Philly’s reserves 33-9. Of course, I have to use the term “bench” rather loosely, since Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller accounted for 59 of the team’s 63 bench minutes. James Johnson (0-for-3, 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 2 fouls) played the other four minutes. Jannero Pargo earned a DNP-CD and all Lindsey Hunter contributed to the team was a brilliant rendition of the robot dance in the pregame team huddle.

Player of the Game:
Captain Kirk beamed in a brilliant off-the-bench performance, scoring a co-team-high 19 points (6-for-10) and dishing out a game-high 7 assists. He provided a spark and hit some big buckets to help the Bulls build a lead in the third and then pull away a little bit in the fourth.

There was actually a great comedic moment when Kirk Hinrich was lighting up Jason Kapono in fourth quarter. Bulls broadcaster Stacey King exclaimed, “[Kapono] couldn’t guard [Hinrich] with a loaded shotgun.” I’ll give King this: he’s entertaining. Not always intentionally, but still.

Here we “Jo” again:
Noah had another routine double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds). By the way, he know leads the league in Rebounds Per Game (12.2) and ranks second in total rebounds (110) and Rebounds Per 48 Minutes (18.0). And yet he’s not on the 2010 NBA All-Star ballot. Brad Miller and former Bull Tyson Chandler are, though. So, yeah, that’s fair.

Comeback watch:
Deng had another good night, tallying a co-team-high 19 points (7-for-16) to go along with 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. His 17.6 PPG is the second-best average scoring output of his career and his 9.2 RPG is easily a career-high. Oh, and his PER (17.1) is within a stone’s throw of his career-best (18.7) set in his now mythical 2006-07 season. Now if he can just pull his Field Goal Percentage up a wee bit…

Team leadership:
Rose scored 14 points by hitting 4-for-5 on layups and 3-for-7 on jumpers. So that part of his offensive game was good. But his playmaking was, er, not so good. He finished with 7 turnovers and only 3 assists in 37 minutes. And the Sixers scored after four of Derrick’s TOs. Scoring is great, but Rose needs to concentrate on his floor game. Part of the problem, of course, is that Rose likes to drive and pass. Only the Bulls have been shooting so poorly, he’s running into a crowd on almost every drive. A lot of times he either gets in too deep or jumps into the air before the pass, which leads to him throwing the ball into traffic and getting it picked off.

Former Bull factor:
Early on, it looked like Elton Brand was going to drop a 20-10 on his old team. He was really torching the rookie, Taj Gibson, who responded with his worst game of the season (0-for-5, zero points, 6 rebounds). Vinny Del Negro yanked the kid and Brand ended up with only 11 points (5-for-11) and 6 boards in 31 minutes. For the record, Brand is a really bad fit for the Philly offense. A definite square peg being jammed into a round hole.

Pack your bags:
The officials called 11 traveling violations last night: seven on Philly and four on the Bulls. I have never seen anything like it. It must have been an NBA record or something.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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6 Responses to Key pre-road trip victory: Bulls 94, 76ers 88

    Jake November 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    Much better use of the Four factors :)

    I do think this is the best write-up of what the Bulls were doing in the game. Thanks for your work.

    Is there a chance (or some other way) to write in Noah on the All-star ballot.

  2. Mike November 16, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    It felt like there were a lot of travels called during the Nuggets-Bulls game too. Maybe the refs are actually trying to call traveling now.

  3. Mahmoud November 16, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    Yeah, there’s always a write in option, but it’s still strange that the best rebounder in the game right now has to have a write in. It’s made even weirder by the fact that Miller made the ballot and Joakim didn’t. Brad Miller is great and all, but his average’s don’t even touch Joakim’s.

    When was the last time a Bull made the all star game, out of curiosity? It’s gotta be some sort of record.


    Matt McHale November 16, 2009 at 3:29 am #

    Jake — I’m new to using the Four Factors…so thanks for keeping me honest. And yes, you can write in Jo on the ballot. But, really, you shouldn’t have to.

    Mike — It sure seems like it, right?

    Mahmoud — The last time a Bulls player made it was 1998. Some guy named Mike.

    felipe garcia November 16, 2009 at 4:19 am #

    go bulls!!!

    jose 24 November 16, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    Did anyone else notice that when the Bulls went on their 16-0 run in the first quarter, it began precisely the same time that D-Rose was pulled out of the game for Hinrich? I’m not a Rose hater, not by a longshot, but is this a coincidence? I’m not so sure..

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