There are losses. And then there are losses.
Friday night’s home loss to the Mavericks was disappointing but also kind of uplifting. The offense was clicking early (38 points in the first quarter). Key guys played well, including Derrick Rose (23 points, 4 assists), Joakim Noah (13 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocked shots) and Luol Deng (23 points, 5-for-7 from downtown). And the team forced OT against a strong Western Conference team that was motivated to win.
Of course, there were problems. Such as bad shooting (39 percent), especially by the reserves (9-for-36). Even more critically, there were the turnovers (21) and the massive number of points Dallas scored off those turnovers (29). The only things the Bulls forgot were giftwrap and some ribbon, because they literally gave the game away.
The turnover issue has been an ongoing problem in the preseason. In their first four games, the Bulls committed 15, 13, 24 and 17 turnovers. I suppose we can partially overlook all the miscues due to the new offensive system (which emphasizes ball movement) and all the new personnel. Still, it’s worrisome.
Of course, turnovers weren’t the problem against the Magic. The problem was everything. The offense was dreadful (Chicago scored only 23 points in the first half and shot only 31 percent for the game) and the defense was even worse (Orlando hit 62 percent of their field goals). Minus Carlos Boozer (broken hand) and Taj Gibson (sore right heel), the Bulls’ frontcourt got manhandled: the Magic enjoyed lopsided margins on the boards (43-28) and in points in the paint (44-20).
The loss was somewhat predictable — the Bulls were down two key players and coming off a tough overtime defeat the night before, while the Magic were at home and seemed to be playing full tilt — but losing by 38 is always a kick in the face no matter the circumstances.
“Tired” fans can understand. “Too tired to try” is a little harder to swallow.
Said Rose: “It is a learning experience, but I told guys that this can’t happen again. Some people will get cursed out or whatever. We just showed no fight.”
Added Noah: “Definitely embarrassing.”
I try not to get too worked up over preseason games. The injuries to Boozer and Gibson, not to mention back-to-back games against strong opponents, qualify as extenuating circumstances. Plus, against the Magic, coach Tim Thibodeau was trying to limit the starters’ minutes. However, there have been lingering problems — namely bad shooting and shoddy ball control — plaguing the team. And the fact that their two wins were at home against bad teams (Washington at Toronto) makes me want to squeeze the heck out of a stress ball.
It’s starting to look like the immediate future without Carlos Boozer is going to be really rough.