Let me be frank: When your opponent shoots over 54 percent and (according to the game recap) sets a new franchise high for points scored, chances are you didn’t win the ballgame. And the Bulls did not, dropping a 134-129 overtime decision to the Raptors in Toronto.
It’s called “a hand in the face,” guys. Try it.
Somewhat ironically, Neil Funk and Stacey King began today’s broadcast by noting that defense was the foundation of Chicago’s recently improved play. I couldn’t help but think, “Isn’t this the same team that let Pacers rookie Brandon Rush light them up for a career-high 29 points yesterday?” But hey, they’re the ones who get paid to call the games. I just blog about them.
Nonetheless, I guess it was just Chicago’s weekend to surrender career-highs, as Toronto’s Jose Calderon established a personal best by dishing out 19 assists, which matched Damon Stoudamire’s franchise-high. Maybe the Bulls were worn down by a hectic schedule — they’ve played six games in the last nine days — or maybe they didn’t expect the second-worst team in their conference to shoot lights out, but the Raptors hit a better percentage on jumpers (31-for-56) than layups (12-for-25). So kudos on your inside D, guys. But as for the perimeter defense…well, like I said, it’s called “a hand in the face” for a reason.
Even when the Bulls rallied back in the fourth quarter after falling behind 103-86 with 8:05 left to play, the Raptors still put up 29 points in the period. So the comeback was fueled more by offense (hence the 42-point outburst) than defense. And that’s what doomed the Bulls in overtime.
Derrick Rose had just put Chicago up by a point (127-126) with 29 ticks left in the extra session. After Toronto called timeout, Vinny Del Negro subbed in a cold Joakim Noah to check Chris Bosh (31 points, 15 boards). Noah must have forgotten that Bosh is a lefty, because he gave Chris the left-handed drive. Bosh got to the basket with frightening ease, and even though he bonked the the layup, he had beaten Joakim so badly that he easily grabbed the offensive rebound and put it in. Even worse, Rose fouled him on the attempt. Bosh hit the free throw to complete the three-point play, putting the Raptors up 129-127 with 14 seconds left.
Now it’s worth noting at this point that John Salmons didn’t get any daylight down the stretch or in overtime. According to Vinny, it was because John was suffering the effects of a ”tight groin.” But the Bulls missed him in the clutch. Not so much because he was shooting all that well — he finished 3-for-7 from the field — but because he’s a scoring threat from outside and on the drive. Without Salmons in the game, Toronto’s D had a tactical advantage. They were able to double and collapse and harass Rose and Gordon into giving up the ball. Sometimes to the wrong team.
And so it was that, after Bosh’s three-point play, Rose drove into the paint and drew three defenders, leaving Tyrus Thomas alone underneath the basket (and Brad Miller unguarded from 15 feet out, for that matter). Derrick tried to slip the ball through the triple-team, but it got snatched away. Chicago was forced to foul Andrea Bargnani (28 points, 10-for-20), who nailed both foul shots, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Said Rose: “I thought I had an opening to pass the ball to Tyrus [Thomas] and one of their guys tipped the ball and I lost it. It’s disappointing and that’s why I’ll put this game on me tonight.”
In all fairness to Derrick, the game wasn’t lost on that play. It was lost on the defensive end. Let’s face it, when a team hits 55 percent of its shots…offense is not the problem. Which means it’s either time to commit to both ends of the court or invest in an inflatable defender.
The net result: The Bulls went from seventh to eighth — just like that! — and are now one game behind the Pistons for seventh and two games ahead of the Bobcats.
Player notes: Gordon was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring a game-high 37 points on 15-for-26 shooting, not to mention the clutch 22-footer at the fourth-quarter buzzer that forced overtime. Strangely, BG ended up with a plus-minus score of -6. Huh. Rose had 23 points (9-for-13) and a team-high 9 assists. Noah put up 16 on near-perfect shooting (8-for-10), which can happen when all of your shots come within five feet. Speaking of which, Tyrus was back to his old tricks, going 2-for-8 from the outside (and, sadly, only 1-for-3 on layups). Ty did have a game-high 4 blocks, though. Miller provided some nice off-the-bench productivity with 14 points (6-for-10), 10 boards, 5 assists and the highest plus-minus score on the team (+7).