Weekend recap: Bulls return from the almost-dead

The Bulls swept the weekend? Brad Miller was a hero? Yes and yes.

The Bulls swept the weekend? Brad Miller was a hero? Yes and yes.

After opening their seven-game Western Conference road trip with agonizing losses first to the Golden State Warriors and then to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Bulls seemed almost destined for a season-crippling losing streak. Going into Friday’s game against the Suns, an 0-7 trip appeared to be a very real possibility…and 0-4 at the very least. I mean, back-to-back road games versus good teams following consecutive road losses to bad teams?

And yet the Bulls finished the weekend 2-0.

I’m still a little blown away. When discussing strategies for the Suns game, I firmly stated that Chicago absolutely could not afford to be lured into shooting jumpers all night long. However, that’s exactly what happened…and it worked. It actually worked. The Bulls attempted only 16 of their 85 field goals at the rim, but ended up shooting about 51 percent on jump shots (35-for-69), including 78 percent from 10-15 feet (7-for-9) and 50 percent from 16-23 feet (17-for-34).

“Chicago did the unexpected,” Amare Stoudemire said. “They hit shots.”

The hot shooting was due in large part to Derrick Rose, who went 3-for-3 inside five feet, 4-for-6 from six-to-eight feet and 8-for-12 outside of 15 feet. Rose was hitting from everywhere. When the kid beat the third-quarter buzzer with a leaning three-pointer, you just knew it was his night. Fittingly, he also nailed an off-balance jumper from 20 feet to seal the 115-104 victory with a little over a minute to go.

Rose finished with a game-high 32 points to go along with 5 assists and 3 steals. And while I don’t want to demean what he accomplished, I also don’t want to overlook the contributions of Luol Deng (23 points, 10-for-17, 6 rebounds), Joakim Noah (19  points, 9-for-10 from the line, 8 boards, 2 blocks) and John Salmons (14 points, 6-for-9 from the field, 2-for-4 from downtown).

It’s also very important to highlight the defensive job Kirk Hinrich did on Steve Nash. Captain Kirk hounded Captain Canada all night long, holding the two-time MVP to only 8 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Moreover, Nash barely finished with more assists (7) than turnovers (5). During the game, ESPN showed an interview with Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry in which Gentry said no player in the NBA — including Kobe Bryand and LeBron James — does more for his team than Nash does. I can’t really argue with Gentry’s analysis, and Hinrich’s lockdown defensive performance on Nash might have been even more important than Chicago’s offensive explosion.

Getting back to Rose for a second, I think it’s fair to say that any lingering concerns about his ability to develop a jump shot have been put to rest once and for all. When the Bulls played the Golden State Warriors in Chicago before Christmas, I got to watch Rose practice jumpers for almost a full hour. He was like a machine. It wasn’t so much that his form was always perfect (it wasn’t) or that he nailed every shot (he didn’t). What impressed me was his focus and quiet determination to master this very important aspect of his game.

You just wait. I’d be willing to bet good money he develops a three-point shot next summer.

All that said, I was mildly disappointed he earned only three free throw attempts (two of which he missed). And I was more than “mildly disappointed” that he hoisted a few jumpers while teammates were standing alone under the basket. In fact, he twice missed a wide-open Tyrus Thomas, whose defender left him to help defend against Derrick’s jumper. Ty had a rough night, going 1-for-7 from the field, including 0-for-4 at the rim. When a player is struggling, it’s vital for his point guard to create easy opportunities to get him going. In that respect, Rose failed Tyrus. I’m not trying to poke holes in what really was a great game for Rose, but I feel like these are important things for the Bulls to think about as the season proceeds.

TrueHoop Network:
Tyler Lockman of Valley of the Suns: “What was most baffling was the interior stats at the end of the game. The Suns outrebounded Chicago 49-42, outscored them in the paint 46-34 and scored 20 second-chance points to the Bulls six. What’s confusing about that is that, from watching the game, you’d think Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson (who grabbed eight rebounds apiece) had dominated the boards. The key for the Bulls, despite lesser stats, was the way they used their rebounds. Essentially, the Suns got a taste of their own medicine as the Bulls used huge boards and outlet passes to spark fast breaks. The Bulls outscored the Suns in transition, 16-10. That might not seem like a lot, but the simple efficiency with which Chicago used their possessions after rebounds was what doomed the Suns.”

Bulls-Suns Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

Chicago’s win over the Rockets was even more impressive than their victory over the Suns. The Bulls have been a bad road team all season (6-15), and they’ve been even worse on the second night of back-to-backs (2-7 heading into the game). To make matters even more grim, Noah opted to sit out minutes before tipoff due to a left foot injury.

Enter Brad Miller.

Big Brad stepped up big time. Miller scored a season-high 25 points in only 26 minutes. He went 9-for-14 from the field — including 2-for-2 from downtown — and 5-for-5 from the line. But Miller’s biggest play wasn’t a layup or a jump shot. It was the offensive rebound he grabbed with 48 seconds left and the Bulls leading by only two points (99-97). That board gave Chicago another possession at a critical time, and 18 seconds later Rose drilled an 11-footer that pretty much clinched the game.

The Bulls also got significant add-ins from Rose (20 points, 4 assists, and that deal-sealing jumper), Taj Gibson (16 points, 14 rebounds), Kirk Hinrich (12 points, 7 assists) and (12 points off the bench). But it really was a team effort, as Chicago shot 53 percent from the field (including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc) while holding the Rockets to 40 percent shooting. On the road. On the second night of back-to-backs. Without Noah.

“That’s the NBA,” Miller said. “You’re going to be tested at some point, and you can use it as an excuse. We just went out and competed tonight.”

They sure did.

TrueHoop Network:
Rahat Huq of Red94: “Prior to tip-off, the NBAtv crew remarked that the Rockets struggled against teams with low post options and that they were probably feeling fortunate to face the Bulls who didn’t have one.  Actually it is probably the other way around.  The teams that have played the Rockets the best this year are those with no inside presence. The Rockets win through their quickness advantage and Chuck Hayes can neutralize any post-guy in the league.  But if you challenge the Rockets at their own game, and have the personnel to do it, they are very beatable.”

Bulls-Rockets Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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18 Responses to Weekend recap: Bulls return from the almost-dead

  1. Jeremy da pig fucker January 25, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    The Bulls seem like they have a better chance of beating good teams than bad teams. Should make them a scary lower seed in the playoffs, if the make the playoffs.

  2. mikemayer3@hotmail.com'
    thirdsaint January 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    I was looking for these updates through the week checking back often after the victories over the Suns and Rockets, hah. I agree, I was more than a little shocked that the Bulls were shooting so well. They did exactly what we feared they’d do and still won on the road. I’m not going to complain though.

    Another thought I had after watching these two games, Hinrich may be more vital to this team than most give him credit for. He does a great job defensively and when he’s shooting well he can hit a big shot. We see his name come up in a thousand trade offers but I have to think that if we trade him we are going to be in serious trouble in the little things that don’t get talked about as much.

  3. dabulls January 25, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Just a question, but why you criticizing Rose for taking shots when he was 15/21, and yet not finding Thomas under the rim, when Thomas was 0/4 at the rim?

  4. Ryan January 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    Big Wins. I think Kirk has always been a bit of a catch 22 – When he does good, trade rumors start swirling and Bulls fans want to keep him. When he is slumping, we want to trade him immediately. Essentially he is an asset for this team as we seen in his defense over the weekend, and he has been consistently hitting his 3 pointers with exception to a couple of games in the past month. The thing is, I think we should obtain Kirk and unload contracts like Salmons, Miller, Tyrus. The hard part is finding a team that would want these players – most teams would require Kirk for the player we are looking for. Please correct me if I am wrong? IS there a way to keep Kirk and still get the player we need?

  5. tyrehm@gmail.com'
    DidUMissIt?? January 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    I’m amazed there is no mention of that dunk Derrick Rose had in the 4th against the Suns on top of Goran Dragic. That was unreal.

  6. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale January 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    “Just a question, but why you criticizing Rose for taking shots when he was 15/21, and yet not finding Thomas under the rim, when Thomas was 0/4 at the rim?”

    While you definitely want the guy with the hot hand shooting the basketball, in the big picture, the Bulls need to encourage Tyrus to attack the basket and reward him when — instead of hanging out on the perimeter — he works himself open under the rim. Derrick can get himself free for that pull-up jumper any time he wants, but he’s not always going to shoot 15-for-21 from the field. It would benefit the Bulls if Derrick and Tyrus could develop the kind of connection Chris Paul used to have with Tyson Chandler.

    I mean, if Tyrus was getting 2-3 easy layups/dunks per game, that would make him a better player immediately. Easy buckets build confidence and support the behavior that led to them. With Ben Gordon, I often complained about his defense and occasionally about his shot selection, but I didn’t make a big thing about his inability to create shots for his teammates because that wasn’t his job. Derrick’s job, first and foremost, is to run the offense. Shoot-first PGs aren’t usually the best PGs in the league. If Rose is going to become one of the NBA’s top PGs, he needs to take advantage of situations like hitting Ty for wide-open layups (as opposed to the challenged shots at the rim he missed).

  7. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale January 25, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    “I’m amazed there is no mention of that dunk Derrick Rose had in the 4th against the Suns on top of Goran Dragic. That was unreal.”

    See the top post. That play deserved its own special mention.

    “IS there a way to keep Kirk and still get the player we need?”

    Even if they keep Captain Kirk, the Bulls are in excellent position to pick up a big-name free agent like Chris Bosh this summer (in theory). However, the Bulls are now looking at the possibility of getting TWO big-namers. And to do that, they would almost certainly need to move Hinrich for expiring contracts.

    It’s a dangerous gambit, though. If they ditch Kirk but can’t lure any top free agents, management might have to wait until 2011 to get the extra player(s) they need…which would mean yet another year of waiting.

  8. mears54321@hotmail.com'
    Chad January 25, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Why was Hinrich given so much money, if the Bulls give Tyrus the amount of money they gave Hinrich everyone will think the Bulls are crazy. But Tyrus is better than Hinrich. But now they will never be able to pay Tyrus cause they already spent all their money on Hinrich and will spend the rest of their money on some crappy free agent. Someone like Ben Wallace again. Better off just keeping Tyrus and Salmons, they have a good team with the guys they have. Just need Tyrus to try hard like Dennis Rodman and Rose to find Tyrus for more easy baskets. Wish we had Ty Lawson instead of James Johnson, but hopefully Johnson will get better.

  9. mikemayer3@hotmail.com'
    thirdsaint January 25, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Chad, I don’t think Tyrus is better than Hinrich at all. He’s not a consistent player and Kirk is for the most part. When they gave Hinrich the contract he was our starting PG, captain of the team, and best player (arguably). They gave him a contract that went down in the CAP every year instead of escalating up. They didn’t forsee us bombing a year, getting the #1 draft pick, draft a stud PG in Rose, Hinrich being more of a backup, and be in the running for the 2010 class. At the time I remember the contract wasn’t looked at as a bad thing. The Deng contract on the other hand…

  10. TexasBullsFan January 25, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    With the exception of maybe 2 or 3 games this season, Tyrus has been mediocre at best and stunk up the court at worst. With the advent of Taj Gibson, who essentially does everything Tyrus does only better, Tyrus has become totally superfluous. Time to either trade him or ditch him.

    Also, as regards cap space, no one mentions the 6.6 million dollars we’re paying to a guy who hasn’t even stepped on the court this season? That’s right, Jerome James. There’s 6.6 million in expiring contracts right there.

  11. Ryan January 25, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Hinrich led the Bulls to the second round of the Playoffs a few years back – I really can’t see Tyrus stepping up like that. I am not saying one is better, they play very different positions and roles. Kirk manages games (efficient play calling), Tyrus comes in for a defensive boost (blocks) or big play (some nasty dunks). Very hard to compare “who’s better.”

    Matt – I like where you are going, but I would prefer to make sure when get one to come our way.

    P.S. Besides age, what do you think of the Bulls picking up Ginobli? One of my favorite players in the world.

  12. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale January 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    “P.S. Besides age, what do you think of the Bulls picking up Ginobli? One of my favorite players in the world.”

    I’ve always liked Ginobili’s game, but he wouldn’t be ideal for the Bulls. He’s 32, has been relatively fragile the last couple seasons, his ability to be an impact players seems to be diminishing, and, most importantly, he’s a perimeter player with low FGP (40 from the field and 36 from downtown).

    The Bulls don’t need another perimeter threat, especially one who’s getting older and may be declining. Plus, I doubt he’ll be cheap. This is likely going to be Manu’s last big NBA payday. I can’t see the Bulls spending big money on him, and I’m not sure I’d want them to…even though I very much appreciate what he brings to the table.

    Right now, we know the Bulls need a frontcourt scorer to compliment Rose — preferably one who can pop midrange jumpes with consistency AND post up/finish strong at the hoop, and they need high-percentage shooters (especially guys with three-point range) to spread the floor.

  13. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. January 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    Matt –

    Your point about Rose needing to pass more often is well-taken. At the same time, however, there is a new and – need I add? – negative aspect of Thomas’ game which has appeared recently. He has resorted to (mostly) shooting layups and short jumpers rather than dunking when he is around the basket. And – surprise, surprise – his shooting stinks even at point-blank range.

    Now, if I were sympathetic to him, I’d say, well, he’s coming off of a broken arm (or wrist), and is being cautious as a result. But I’m not inclined to be sympathetic to TT, and consider this to be just another reason to unload him as soon as possible. As an aside, the notion that he is anywhere near as valuable as Kirk or Taj is laughable on its face.

  14. mikemayer3@hotmail.com'
    thirdsaint January 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Just a though, what do you guys think the team would be like if, this summer, we landed Joe Johnson and Lee from the Knicks? I’d say that might be more reasonable than expecting to land one of the big stars no matter how much we want them.

  15. Mike January 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    Joe Johnson will more than likely be a max contract player or very close, so essentially he is a big star. If we can’t get a big name, I definitely would love to see David Lee and another big guard

  16. jallenforex@yahoo.com'
    Jay January 26, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    For all those who keep mentioning Joe Johnson, I don’t believe he will leave Atlanta. They are going to offer him the max and no team can offer more. Furthermore, Atlanta is an up and coming team that has gotten better in each of the last four years. Our hope really lies in Dwayne Wade. He is a Chicago kid and with a backcourt of Wade and Rose, a frontcourt of Noah/Gibson/Deng/Tyrus (for one more season) and a decent bench (Hinrich/Devin Brown/John Salmons (again for one season) hopefully resign Miller for cheap)we are strong playoff contenders,maybe even can win the East. Trade Hinrich or Tyrus or J. Salmons and get Bosh or Boozer and we are legit world championship contenders.

    The hope start with D.Wade. Barring that a motivated Boozer can help us but it seems when he gets his money, he gets the ouches and sits on his couch at home to count it.

  17. Joey January 26, 2010 at 7:03 am #

    In regards to atlanta offering jj a max contract, they have so much money tied up in big contracts and contracts expiring that it will be hard to sign him without taking a MONSTER luxury tax hit. In a city like Atlanta who has never won a championship, wont win one next year with this team and consistently has no fan base, this is going to be a tough sell for their front office. Would you rather pay al horford 8-10 mil or jj 18 mil in a cash strapped town? Keep in mind you can’t do both, that gives us a shot.

  18. Ryan January 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    I think you are right. I don’t think ATL is in the best position to resign Joe. Plus, I think he would appeciate a change of scenery. The only problem is that ATL, record-wise, is better than the Bulls this year and they are growing to be a fairly elite team in the East. I think Joe fits the exact player we need at SG (great shooter, decent defense, and good size).

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