The broken break

The Bulls have played eight games since Joakim Noah had thumb surgery.

They are 6-2 during that stretch. So they are winning.

However, they are not running. Not like they were before Noah’s injury.

In their eight Noah-less games, the Bulls have a total of 81 fast break points. That works out to an average of 10.1 per game. And that stat is somewhat padded by the 28 transition points the Bulls scored in that “nobody saw this coming” 45-point win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

More notably, the Bulls had only six fast break points in their home loss to the Clippers. They had three fast break points in their Christmas day loss to the Knicks in New York.

Here’s the eight-game breakdown (from the ESPN.com box scores):

Bulls Fast Break Points without Noah:
6 vs. Clippers
28 vs. Sixers
7 @ Washington
3 @ New York
12 @ Detroit
8 vs. Minnesota
9 vs. Nets
8 vs. Cavaliers

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote about this before the Nets game, noting that “Noah’s last game before surgery ended a string of seven straight games with double-digit fast-break points, a pace [coach Tom] Thibodeau seeks.”

It’s tough to maintain the team’s previous pace when replacing a sprinter like Noah with the relatively fossilized Kurt Thomas. But that’s what the Bulls have to work with until Noah gets back. Thibs will continue imploring his players to get out in transition. The formula is pretty simple: Defend, rebound, outlet pass, run.

The weakness has been noted. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s fixed.

6 Responses to The broken break

  1. jake_vick@hotmail.com'
    Jake in Minnie (and maybe Shoveling TCF for the Bears game) January 3, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Minnesota /= Milwaukee

  2. pjreiman@gmail.com'
    Paul January 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    Matt — would love to see you break down starting Taj vs. the old man in this context. The Bulls don’t play a ton of teams with a big strong center (who might overpower Taj), and from what I see Taj can rebound and get out on the break. Wouldn’t getting more of TG and less of KT loosen things up a bit?

  3. gorditadog@aol.com'
    Gorditadog January 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    It also seems that Rose is going to the defensive boards more, so he is not there for the outlet as much. And we really don’t have anyone else to lead the break. Think about it- Bogans? Brewer? Deng? None of them are really strong open-court dribblers.

  4. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. January 3, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Gorditadog hits on an important point. Other than Rose (and Watson to a lesser degree), the Bulls have a poor group of ball handlers. In fact, ironically, Noah is one of the best of the rest at handling the ball on a break.

    On a related note, it’s good that Thibs has instilled excellent discipline so that less skilled players rarely over-dribble. On the other hand, the offense tends to stagnate when Bogans, Brewer or Korver make little or no effort to drive.

  5. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath January 4, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    This is where we miss James Johnson getting (earning) minutes. If he could earn some good pocket minutes, where he and Rose could run, it would make these games a little easier.

    JJ is a good and willing passer, as well. I know he has not instilled confidence from Thibs, but he will find the open shooter…

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