Reality check: Sixers 97, Bulls 85

Assumptions can be dangerous things.

Never assume a team can’t stumble.

Never assume a team is unbeatable at home.

Never assume that superstars can’t have an off night that will prove disastrous.

Never assume a team is ready to contend for a title before the regular season has even ended.

Speaking of which…the regular season hasn’t even ended.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for forgetting. Lately, all the talk has been about MVP (Will Derrick Rose win it? Should he?!) and Chicago’s place among the league’s best teams (Will they win the East? Are they they best team in the NBA?! Can they win a title?!?).

Reality check: Have we actually been, you know, listening?

After almost every game, the Bulls coaching staff and players remind us. They remind us that they have work to do. That they need to get better. That they need to become a 48-minute team. That they haven’t accomplished anything of true hoteworthiness yet. That they haven’t actually met their goals.

And some old problems haven’t been solved.

To wit: The Bulls have been plagued by slow starts throughout the season. This has been politely (some would say conveniently) covered up by the fact that they tend to start revving up in the second quarter and then turn on the defensive afterburners in the third and fourth quarters. Many times, that has been enough.

Sometimes it hasn’t. It wasn’t last night.

Not when the Sixers jumped out to a 27-13 lead after 12 minutes. Not when they pushed that lead to 48-25 with 4:47 left in the first half. Not when the Bulls missed 13 free throws and Derrick Rose committed 10 turnovers.

Complacency can be a basketball team’s greatest enemy. Players develop this nebulous sense that they can “turn it on” when necessary and win without playing their best. And by “their best” I don’t mean hitting their shots and rebounding well. By “their best” I mean working hard and playing with intensity from tipoff to the final buzzer.

The Bulls didn’t do that against the Grizzlies or Bucks. Those teams came out hungrier and outworked the Bulls for about 3.5 quarters. Defense and clutch play by Rose covered for that. So, really, we should have seen this coming, but winning can alter perception so subtly that fans forget the bad stuff.

Players, too.

Until they get a reality check.

Said Carlos Boozer: “We’ve got to start the games better. I think the game was won and lost in that first quarter. Give them credit, they took it to us. 27-13 in the first quarter, that’s tough to come back from even though we did, we fought back. We used a lot of energy to get back in the game. We can’t get down by that much. Give them credit, they did a good job. We’ve got to step up to that challenge and have a better first quarter.”

Frankly, that could have been a stock quote from earlier in the season, because (as I said above) slow starts have been a recurring issue. Lately, they’ve been covered up by success. Last night’s game pulled off the Band-Aid and forced us all to stare at the ugly, seeping wound.

Rare is the NBA team that can win on reputation alone.

Said Joakim Noah: “There’s really no excuses. It’s a wake-up call. We don’t have anything figured out. We don’t have anything figured out. People are always telling [us], ‘Oh, it’s OK. You guys are going to win this game. It’s easy.’ Nothing’s easy in this league, it just shows us. We didn’t start the game with the right mindset and it bit us in the [butt] tonight. You’ve got to come out with the right edge. When you start thinking that you have it all figured out, that’s when you lose. Losing always sucks, but we’ve got to learn from this. And there’s definitely a lot of areas to improve in.”

Maybe we should thank the Sixers.

No, really.

Thank you, Philadelphia 76ers. Thanks, Doug Collins, for coaching one heckuva game. Thank you, Andre Iguodala (19 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block), for an all-around brilliant game. Thanks, Thaddeus Young, for scoring a team-high 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting off the bench. Thank you, Spencer Hawks, for those back-to-back-to-back long jumpers that killed what was shaping up to be another fourth quarter rally for the Bulls.

Thanks for the reality check.

Sometimes teams’ need one. And you know what? These Bulls respond pretty well to losing. They’ve haven’t lost more than two games in a row all season, that that’s happened only four times. I have a feeling they’re going to come out with blood in their eyes on Wednesday night.

I almost feel sorry for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

As for Stan Van Gundy’s undisputed MVP winner, Rose had an otherwise brilliant night (31 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and a blocked shot) canceled out by those 10 turnovers. And he knows it.

Said Rose: “We came out sluggish. This one is definitely on me. Just me taking care of the ball and missing shots that I normally hit. … Just careless, some of them was me driving and kicking the ball off my foot. It gets ever tougher now where teams are fighting for a spot. And when you come out like we did tonight, like I did tonight, you are going to lose games.”

Oh, yeah. The Bulls are going to bounce back, and so will Rose. Big time, I’m betting.

Did I mention feeling sorry for the Timberwolves?

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

13 Responses to Reality check: Sixers 97, Bulls 85

  1. Inception March 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    at least BOS lost, but at this rate, they’ll fall to the #3 seed….time to start worrying about MIA catching us.

    MV March 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Hmm, i think Miami will not catch us, but LA is coming (tied right now) and we need home court advantage in the finals, especially against LA.

  3. cliniclysick March 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    The chance we lose three more games than the Heatles is almost nonexistent. They are however the only team, in my mind, that can keep us from winning the East and going to the Finals. Boston is done, over and out. They start well, and in the second half they fall apart.
    Great post Matt, I feel exactly the same. A loss like this can only fuel the team to strike back with a vengeance on Wednesday and the other 7 games that are left. This team doesn’t get rattled, they go back to work and try to get better. And maybe, just maybe we’ll be in for one hell of a ride the next two months.

  4. Inception March 29, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    @MV….lol, let’s not look ahead too far.

    advancing beyond the 1st round would be a nice start.

    Bam! March 29, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    I would like to point out an interesting tool on ESPN where it simulates the whole playoff brackets:

    I got some strange results, such as the Pacers winning the championship, the Knicks beating the Grizzlies in the Finals, etc. However, upon further examination, I noticed some cool tidbits:

    In my experiences, the Thunder was the only team that never got upset in the first round.

    The Knicks knocked the Celtics out of the first round 35% of the time.

    Trail Blazers beat the Mavs 75% of the time.

    Hornets beat the Lakers 20% of the time.

    Magic made it out of the first round 90% of the time, and the Bulls made it out 85% of the time.

    Every time the Bulls faced the Hawks in the second round, the Bulls won. 90% of the time the Bulls faced the Magic, the Bulls won.

    Thunder beat the Spurs in the second round 50% of the time.

    Every time the Hornets faced the Trail Blazers, the Hornets won.

    Heat beat the Celtics 65% of the time.

    Every time the Magic faced the Celtics, the Magic won.

    Bulls knocked off the Celtics in 75% of their matchups.

    Magic beat the Heat every time they faced off.

    Mavs lost every time they were in the finals.

    Every time the Pacers upset the Bulls, they also upset the Magic.

    Every Lakers-Heat finals resulted in a Heat championship.

    Every time the Bulls were in the finals, the Bulls won, except when facing the Lakers, which resulted in a Lakers championship 60% of the time.

    lpbball March 30, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    These guys have the Bulls as one of
    the top 4 2011 contenders with the best shot of having homecourt. Of course this was before last night’s debacle…

  7. Inception March 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    the media is slowly turning CHI into MIA (before the season started)….it’s like a setup….everyone wants a MIA/LA finals…the consolation would be CHI/LA.

    chitown4life March 30, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    The hate still goes on against Derrick Rose I cannot stand pat when i see this.this kid D Rose has only said once this year never brag or anything about being the MVP that he has worked hard to improve his game. Why can’t i be the MVP . yet the haters continue to pursue him with a heavy agenda making it there goal to discredit what he and the bulls have done thus far this year. when the haters peak they don’t mention he has had to adjust to 8 new players they don’t mention he also had Boozer and Noah out for like combine 55 games, that and he has carried the Bulls while they were out there is o argument there. This morning on espn there was a guy talking about LBJ being compared to MJ and Kobe. lol how can you compare him to either of them first of all LBj has never won a NBA championship nor in my opion will he LBJ does not have the killer instinct in him like either player , yeah he gets the regular season stats but does not his record reflect his play as does D Rose . All said the heat are so great yet they sit in third overall in the east. The haters all I can say is our MVp DRose lets his play do his talking and he says hit me with your best shot I can take it and he does and rises above it to the challenge and wins. MVP he is because he has made The Bulls #1 in the east second in the NBA and we are now a true title contender unlike when the year started all you heard was boston orlando but mostly heat btw lost to the Cavs last night got beat down.Either way I look at it haters are haters they just want to make our MVP seem less than because LBj takes more shots would love to see his shot to miss average to his made shots my guess that is lopsided and not on the side of made shots I know other players are playing good if not great this year but who has made more of an impact to his team this year than D Rose the leap he has made this being only his third year in the NBA lets face it people this kid is here to stay and his play is only gonna get better scary for those that have to play against him .Peace

    lito March 30, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Hey chitown sorry but I think lebron avgs way better than Rose. miss to shots made ratio better for lebron.. but still GO ROSE Lol

  10. Inception March 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    i need an inhaler after reading chitown’s post.

    chitown4life March 30, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Well get what you need but its clear that the haters are out against Rose and he has done a super job just being himself on and off the court. This kid is the next superstar growing right before your eyes and yet some still don’t think he is worthy imagine that..To the haters find a way to see his play not your opion ..Peace

  12. Inception March 31, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    honestly, the hate/critics comes with being considered among the best….every superstar goes through it.

    inkybreath April 1, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    Inception: So true … just gotta let it happen.

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