I certainly didn’t see this one coming.
If you’d told me before the season started that this Bulls team — even without Derrick Rose and beset by several other injuries to key personnel — would get blown out by 42 points by a Sacramento Kings team that was 20 games below .500 and playing without DeMarcus Cousins, I’d have said you were cracking up.
Hell, I would have made the very same claim if you’d told me all that yesterday.
This game was over almost faster than I could heat up a few pieces of leftover pizza. The Bulls got outscored 34-20 in the first quarter and then 31-16 in the second.
The offense was bad. The defense was worse. The Bulls had no fight in them. None.
I may as well throw some numbers at you. The Bulls converted a dismal 38 percent of their field goals despite efficient shooting nights by Carlos Boozer (8-for-12), Nate Robinson (7-for-9) and Marquis Teague (3-for-5).
The primary culprits in this brick-a-palooza were Luol Deng (5-for-12), Jimmy Butler (2-for-10), Joakim Noah (3-for-8) and Marco Belinelli (0-for-9), with additional contributions from Daequan Cook (4-for-12), Nazr Mohammed (0-for-3) and Vladimir Radmanovic (0-for-3).
The Bulls were 2-for-21 from three-point range. That’s a conversion rate of 9.5 percent. They also turned the ball over 17 times for 23 points going the other way. According to Basketball-Reference, they scored at a miserable rate of 87.1 points per 100 possessions.
Then there was the defense. If you could call it that. I’m not sure it even qualifies.
The Bulls blocked only three shots. They forced only 5 turnovers.
The Kings shot 54 percent from the field. They had 27 fast break points and 50 points in the paint. Sacramento scored at a rate of 133.4 points per 100 possessions. Tyreke Evans (11-for-13), Isaiah Thomas (8-for-14) and Patrick Patterson (6-for-7) must have felt like they were at a shootaround.
Said Robinson: “We couldn’t stop them. It starts with our defense. We just couldn’t stop them. No matter what they did, no matter what shot they put up, they made. It felt like they didn’t miss the whole game. It felt like that was the first team in NBA history to go 100 percent [from the field], that’s what it felt like.”
Added Boozer: “It was embarrassing, man. It’s hard to put into words.”
Hard, maybe, but not impossible. For me, the words “low point” and “rock bottom” come to mind.
Look, there’s no doubt this team is running on fumes. Don’t forget, the Bulls fought through several injury issues last season and somehow finished with the league’s best record before losing Rose in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
This season has been more of the same but worse. Three seasons of Tom Thibodeau cracking the whip, scads of injuries and long minutes for everybody left standing. On top of that, there’s the daily questions about Rose: How’s he doing? When will he be back? So on and so forth.
From the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like the Bulls have much left in the tank, either emotionally or physically.
Said Thibs: “Our level of intensity was very poor. Our readiness to play: very poor. I’m probably most disappointed in myself. My job is to have them ready. We can’t come out like that. That’s on me. That’s on me. I didn’t like our intensity in the Laker game. I didn’t like it tonight, and I got to drive harder … and I will.”
Here’s the thing: I’m not sure that’s it. I’m not sure driving these guys harder is the answer.
Added Noah: “I think we all got to look at each other in the mirror and just understand that we’re not competing the way we’re supposed to be competing. We got a lot of guys out, and our margin for error is very small. And if we’re not going into games with the right mindset, then we have no chance.”
Look, I say this a lot, but basketball is a game of split seconds. The quality of coaching and level of talent are so high that NBA players have split seconds to make the right pass or take a good shot. There are only split seconds to slide into the proper defensive position or put a hand in a shooter’s face.
When a team is mentally and physically fatigued — especially in a long-term sense like the Bulls — they’re consistently a split second late in doing all those things. No matter how hard the coach drives them. Just ask guys like Doug Collins or Scott Skiles.
This is a professional, hard-working group of guys. They have the proper mindset and they don’t need to be driven any harder. What they need is some good news. They need Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton and/or Taj Gibson to start feeling better. God willing, they need Rose to feel ready to play again. They need some warm bodies. They need some help.
And until they get some or all of those things, they will continue to struggle.