Is defense really the problem?

“We don’t know what’s going on. I think it’s defense. Defense usually gets us going, gets us fastbreak points, and it just hasn’t been there.”

That’s what Derrick Rose said about the ongoing mystery of why the Bulls haven’t yet transformed the Pacers into a smoldering pile of playoff ashes.

It’s not that I don’t respect Derrick’s opinion, but let’s look at some numbers:

Chicago Bulls — Regular Season:
Defensive Rating: 100.3 (NBA Rank #1)
Opponents eFG%: 46.3 (NBA Rank #1)

Chicago Bulls — Game 2:
Defensive Rating: 95.7
Pacers eFG%: 45.5

So, by the numbers, the Bulls actually exceeded their regular season average for defensive output in Game 2. Admittedly, they gave up 29 points in the second quarter, but they held Indy to only 43 points in the second half. Meanwhile, they slammed the breaks on Tyler Hansbrough (2-for-12), Paul George (2-for-7), Roy Hibbert (3-for-7), Darren Collison (2-for-5), A.J. Price (3-for-8) and Josh McRoberts (3-for-9).

Admittedly, Jeff Foster (4-for-5) and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (3-for-5) knocked down a handful of stunners, but holding any team to 95.7 points per 100 possessions is pretty good defense, right?

Meanwhile, against Indiana’s aggressive (and exceedingly physical) defense, the Bulls managed a pathetic eFG% of only 41.6 percent, and their Offensive Rating (102.0) was well below their regular season average (108.3).

My belief is that the Bulls are struggling because they can’t score. Rose is the only player capable of creating his own shot on the perimeter. He’s also the only player who can consistently make it to the basket against one-on-one defense. Carlos Boozer can score in the post, but he hasn’t gotten consistent opportunities. I”m not sure whether that’s from a lack of effort on his part or because coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t committing to the inside-outside game he talked about so often early in the season.

Look, we all know the defense is going to be there. The Bulls need to get their offensive act together. Boozer scored 17 points and earned nine free throw attempts despite not getting many touches in the second half. There’s no way Indy’s front line should be able to stop him. Chicago needs to force the issue and pound that ball down low. Heck, I’d like to see more post-ups from Joakim Noah while we’re at it. Luol Deng, too. Why not? Danny Granger’s not on the All-Defensive Team.

And, gak, the Bulls’ performance at the rim was awful in Game 2: 15-for-36. That’s right: 21 missed shots at the rim. Take away Rose’s at-the-rim numbers (6-for-11), and the rest of the Bulls were 9-for-25, with the Boozer/Deng/Noah triumvirate combining to go 5-for-19. Excuse me, but when did the Pacers sign Bill Russell?

Give the Pacers credit: They are using extremely physical play to protect the basket. The Bulls need to either figure out a way to finish or draw fouls. Shooting 41.7 percent on 36 attempts at the rim isn’t going to get the job done against anybody. Well, they got by in Game 2, but it’s hard to see that working on the road in Game 3.


17 Responses to Is defense really the problem?

    cj April 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    They are struggling or should I say they struggled in game two simply because they could not take care of the ball. How many turnovers did they have in that came what 20+ well over their average, but if you take half of them away and say they score on them they win by 16+ points.

    Savage April 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    I agree, the Bulls problem seems to be scoring. It looks like everyone besides Rose has is playing tight on offense and really struggling under the pressure. Deng, Boozer, and backup Watson need to step up their game on the offensive end. Also, Noah looks lost to me on the offensive end he is no longer shooting the free throw line jumper and loses the ball almost every time he tries to drive the lane. Boozer was a bit more aggressive in game 2 but needs to produce more to make up for his lack of effort on the defensive end. He got simply abused by Psycho T in game one.

    Adrian April 20, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    Like the bulls, The pacers don’t have a shooting guard to speak of so why not start Kyle Korver and spread the with some more fire power. Korver would probably not have a horrible time defending paul george who doesn’t have much of an outside game but he is much faster that korver, Korver could slack off and help on D which is what he is better suited for.

  4. Tae April 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    The Bulls need CJ Watson and Rose on the floor at the same time. The double-team works extremely well against the Bulls because no other starter can create their own shot.

    Defensively, Rose is big enough to guard shooting guards now (And Paul George isn’t exactly an offensive power house).

    BFD April 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I think they were too aggressive with the ball. I don’t know how many turnovers we had when after getting one ourselves, Derrick would dribble into a pack of 4 guys or somebody would throw the ball half way down the court only to get picked off. This team is sprinting back every possession, we need to walk it up and get something going in the half court more than trying to force transition points every possession.

  6. TBF April 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    The problem isn’t that the Bulls don’t have any scorers. We have Deng, Boozer, Korver, hell, even Noah. The problem is that we were too sloppy with the ball. 20+ turnovers is going to result in you not playing very well. When you can’t get in rhythm it’s hard to get good shots.

    To me, it looked like the Bulls were trying to play way too fast. They would constantly sprint down into 2 on 3’s and when they did run the half-court sets it looked like they thought the shot clock was constantly running down. I mean, passes with no touch, wild drives to the hoop out of control, no one playing with any sense of composure. Now, I’m not sure how much of it is playoff nerve or what, but they need to slow down, run their offense, post up Boozer, take care of the ball…just do the fundamentals.

    Jeremy April 20, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    korver should probably be starting, but thibs won’t do that unless he absolutely feels it’s necessary (aka we lose a game?) bottom line is the team is winning and whether it’s by 1 or by 20 the result is the same and we’re that much closer to being where we want to be. The rest is just fat for media alike to chew until that happens.

    Let’s all just try to relax and enjoy the ride

  8. Inception April 21, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    honestly, i think Rose is saying defense is the problem because he doesn’t want to throw the offense (mainly Boozer and Deng) under the bus, since we all know Rose is the offense…defense is something Rose can point to, since it’s truly a collective team effort…i could be wrong, but that’s just the way i view Rose’s take on it.

    joe April 21, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    Pacers are tall and mobile. They have good interior defense.

  10. Kelly April 21, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    Game one was offense and bad defense. Game two was good defense with no offense.

    There are two things that are impressive to me. The Bulls are 38-6 now (regular season + post season)when Rose has assists that lead to 8 or more points from 16 feet or further out, regardless of FG%.

    The other thing is that the Bulls are 40-3 when Bogans and Brewer combine for just TWO 3 point shots. I don’t know about you but I think 40-3 is a pretty ridiculous number.

    It seems to me that the problem is that Bogans is afraid to take shots. He only took five shots on Monday and three in game one.

    The Bulls are 19-4 when he takes five FGA and they are 11-1 when he takes six. We need Bogans to shoot, it doesn’t really matter THAT much if he misses. If the threat is there then they have to pay attention to him, but if he doesn’t even shoot, they don’t worry about him.

    He’s been giving the ball right back to Rose without even looking at the rim. If you noticed in the third quarter they got their offense in a little bit of rhythm and got a run. Bogans took his shots then, and made one.

    When Bogans shoot it creates spacing and spacing creates opportunities for Rose. Bogans needs to at least look at the rim if nothing else just to make defenses think he MIGHT shoot.

    chitown4life April 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    New starting line up might help here is a suggestion.
    Pg D Rose/C.J Watson
    Sg DoAll Deng/D Rose
    Sf K korver/Rasual B
    Pf Carlos BoozerT Gibson
    C J Noah/kurt Thomas

    this will give the bulls much needed scoring plus keep solid D on the court also will spread the floor so the lanes are there for Rose and Deng to cut plus Boozer will get less double teams in the paint. This can be a win win line up. Just a thought Peace

    BULL4EVER April 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Chicago’s defense has not at all been the problem, especially since this Bulls team has always been totally defensive-oriented–and has not even given up 100 points in these first two postseason games–and what’s up with all this anti-BULL bias regarding the fact that our fanbase has always been the most loyal fanbase in basketball–and we have always gotten the most sellout crowds–and yet our postseason game will be shown on NBA T.V tonight, man this straight up totally retarded BS.

    Brad S. April 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm #


    Nice post and nice stats. (however, some of those are pretty randomly specific. I wonder if they may just be coincidences instead of actual trends.) But in general, I think you’re correct. Bogans CAN score, Bogans used to score, he just doesn’t try to anymore. I think the same is becoming true with Noah. And while I admire the maturity of knowing and focusing on your role, the end result is that defenses can begin to simply crowd Rose, Deng & Boozer.

    That was always the problem with the old Ben Wallace era Pistons. On defense they were great, but on offense they had to play 4 vs 5. The Bulls offense is in danger of playing 3 on 5!!! Bottom line is that these guys are in the NBA. Every one of them CAN make open 15 footers. Even if they miss, the threat needs to be there.

    Brad S. April 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    …OK, I just re-read my post. I don’t want it taken wrong. I am not actually pushing for more long 2 pt shots. But when I see Noah, holding the ball, just past the free-throw line and there is no-one within 6 feet of him. C’mon! Keep the Pacers honest. Their defensive strategy to this point has been to put George on Rose and have the other four guys just to clog the paint.

  15. Kelly April 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm #


    Absolutely. That’s actually what I went to research the stats to see. It seems that their offense is working better when they are at least taking SOME perimeter shots. When you’re forcing EVERYTHING inside and they stack the lane inside, it’s just not going to work. When you’re grabbing 21 ORB per game then you don’t need to be overly concerned with missing. They’re so concerned with blocking out the lane they can’t box out on the rebounds. Take what they’re giving us. Even if we miss the initial shots the putbacks will count.

    One thought I had was if Bogans isn’t hitting his shot, they could think way outside the box and putt in Butler!

    Jay K. April 21, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    Ok everybody makes valid points but the bulls are playing to the level of there competition. Which they have done all year,this to them is a warm up round and they’re are playing like it they know as long as got D.Rose they can turn it on at anytime look they came from 10 down with 3 mins.left when their backs are against the wall they are the clutches team in the league! my conclusion is boredom example : a team shoots the best they can against you and plays above average D on you and still lose, that when you get loose wit the ball “its just a turnover they can’t beat us anyway ” boredom and over confidence watch game 3! Bulls gonna take care of business

    BFD April 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    I don’t think Noah is as wide open as you make out Brad S, but I agree that he should be more aggressive with it at times.

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