04 January 2012
No revenge for Jannero Pargo. At least not tonight. The Bulls continue to find ways to win.
Look, I know it's exciting. But for a season that started a week and a half ago, I've had more excitement than I could handle. This 66 game schedule shit is not for the weak-hearted.
More importantly, this team is an enigma. Yes, they are good. No, they are VERY good. But they do some bad things. No, they do some VERY bad things. They are a team that is 5-1, but they are team that could easily be 3-3, and maybe even should be. But that doesn't matter now, does it? Check out this box score via espn.com:
|Carlos Boozer, PF||27||5-13||0-0||1-2||2||7||9||0||2||1||3||2||-15||11|
|Luol Deng, SF||44||7-15||1-4||6-8||0||8||8||2||2||1||2||2||+4||21|
|Joakim Noah, C||16||0-4||0-0||2-2||1||3||4||1||1||0||1||4||-8||2|
|Ronnie Brewer, SG||23||2-8||0-1||0-0||1||3||4||1||0||1||0||1||-18||4|
|Derrick Rose, PG||44||8-22||3-8||11-13||0||1||1||7||0||1||2||1||+2||30|
|Brian Scalabrine, PF||0||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||N/A||0|
|Kyle Korver, SF||29||1-4||0-3||0-1||2||6||8||1||1||1||2||4||+18||2|
|John Lucas, PG||4||0-1||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Taj Gibson, F||24||2-7||0-0||0-0||3||1||4||1||0||0||1||4||+17||4|
|Omer Asik, C||28||1-3||0-0||0-0||2||7||9||2||1||3||3||3||+10||2|
|Jimmy Butler, G||1||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Fast break points: 18
Points in the paint: 32
Team TO ( points off ): 15 (0)
First thing that jumps out, 44 minutes a piece for Rose and Deng. Luol Deng is being worn into the ground at a torrid pace. I can't imagine how he'll even survive until the all-star break at this rate. As for Derrick Rose, so goes an MVP's minutes when his main backup is in a sling. Also, Thibs must have seen that the Bulls were not going to get back into this game with Derrick resting, in spite of John Lucas's previous performance and his 60 point game at the Rucker over the summer.
Other things of note? Well, how about the Bulls scoring 26 points at half time. An 15 point first quarter, and an 11 point second quarter. How do you score 11 points in a quarter? When did an allegedly championship caliber team do that last? 2 for 22 in the 2nd quarter. 2 for freakin' 22. I believe they were shooting 25% from the field at half time. It was an incredibly pathetic display.
Immediately, one would assume that in the third quarter, this team that's supposed to be really good would make an adjustment and come out focused. Ha. They came out flatter than an Al Horford free-throw. 42 points total by the end of the third quarter. I don't think I had ever seen that low of a total amount of points scored goingvinto the fourth. Ever. At least I don't remember it if I have. And they were down by 14.
Compare all this with Monday night's effort against the Grizzlies. It was a different Bulls team. They won by freaking 40 points. It would've been 60 if it weren't for garbage time. Watching these two games in a row was like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Bulls scored 84 by the end of the third quarter against the Grizzlies. That's DOUBLE the amount through three quarters in tonight's game. How often does a team produce half as many points, or even close, through three quarters in subsequent games. Ever? Not just that, but this is all against a team that is on a second-leg of a back to back and just expended every ounce of energy the previous night in defeating the supposed best team in the league, the Miami Heat. The Bulls had the night off last night. They should've been much, much fresher. Too bad it looked like the exact opposite, and that is the greatest understatement of all time. They were down by by 19 at one point in the third quarter. It looked, simply put, over. Never.
Then, out comes Dr. Jekyll. That's right, the Dr. is in. How many times have we learned not to count a Derrick Rose led Bulls squad out of any game. Any game at all, ever. Derrick single-handedly had 17 points in the fourth quarter tonight. As many on Twitter noted, that's more than the Bulls totaled in each of the previous three quarters. That's also exactly half of the Bulls 34 fourth quarter points. It's amazing that a team can average 14 points a quarter through three quarters, and then more than double that in the fourth quarter. You just never know with this Bulls team.
What did we learn?
-Ronnie Brewer crashed and burned down to Earth. An awful shooting night for Ronnie, going 2-8 from the field. He really could not buy a bucket. What we saw tonight was how problematic it is to have absolutely zero production from your shooting guard position. That's exactly what would have happened every few nights or so if the Bulls didn't sign Rip and simply settled for Ronnie. He's a solid player and plays hard, but he's just not consistent on offense. In fact, he's just not ver good. Yes, he does certain things well, and it could've just been a bad night, but the shot just doesn't look pretty. Four points from the 2 is just not gonna cut it, so we need Rip back now.
-Omer Asik is a great defender. Before, it kind of seemed like a mirage. Now, it kind of seems true. He had 3 blocks tonight. Should have been more like 6 if it weren't for some ridiculous fouls called by the atroscious refs tonight. One thing he can't defend though? The lob. Horford owned him all night with the back door, and he never saw Josh Smith running the baseline for lobs, so he never was there for help. Someone has to get it through his skull that the lob has to be defended. He doesn't seem to realize that unlike him, opposing big-men don't just run into the paint and clog up the middle on offense. They actually try to do things. Nonetheless, for a big white oaf, he has been a revelation the past 2 seasons.
-Joakim Noah continues to struggle. Part of his struggles have to do with big-men in the league getting better and most are now much tougher to defend. When Jo is matched up against someone athletic, he has serious problem. I still think he's a better option that Omer. He's more skilled offensively and he's a significantly better rebounder. Tonight, Omer had 9 boards and Joakim had 3, but that's because Thibodeau rode Omer during huge stretches while Noah played during awful stretches and played significantly less. Omer is tall and long, but he doesn't know how to squeeze the ball and effectively bring it down without having someone easily flail at the ball and knock it lose. Joakim secures the ball effectively. He's a force. He's tougher. Yet still, Omer is definitely a better defender. They are two good players to have. Thibs has the luxury of riding whoever is playing better that game. Just never thought Omer would actually be putting up a fight for playing time against Jo.
-Derrick Rose may win another MVP award. Amazing to consider, but look at how he's played through the first week and a half. The Lakers game-winner. The Clippers career performance against Paul. Tonight? Except for the Warriors game, he's willed this team to every victory. Grizzlies blowout doesn't count. Every player 10 deep was just on point in that game. But when they're not, Derrick has been there to save the day like clock-work. That fourth quarter performance tonight was spectacular. The way he started just draining threes in the fourth was cold-blooded. I mean he missed his first 6. For real. He was 0-6. Yet he kept shooting. Most players, you go 0-6 through three quarters from three, you stop shooting them. It only makes sense. The kid clearly has no consciense. He made three straight, then hit two free throws, then found Luol Deng for open three, in what was the defining 14 point run of the game, and it brought them all the way back. It was like watching the 2005 Illini come back against Arizona in the Elite 8. It was unbelievable. To top it off, he then had two go-ahead layups with under a minute left. He had to drain a second one after Josh Smith closed his eyes and rainbowed in an 18 footer:
And you know it's not going to stop. Rose will continue to play like this. Because he can. And because he probably will have to. If this team gets back to the Eastern Conference Finals, or makes it to the finals, how do you not give him the MVP again?
But I digress. The second go ahead layup still wasn't enough. Of course the refs had to have their say. In what was one of the worst foul calls I have ever seen, Luol Deng had a foul called on him with 7 seconds to go where literally all he was doing was running after his defender, and as he's about to go under neath a horford screen, Horford purposely turns into him and forces a collision, and then falls to the ground. Of course the ref without even thinking called the foul. Unbelievable that a ref would be willing to decide the game and make such an obviously questionable call with under 7 seconds to go and put the team that's down by 1 at the free throw line. Horford, luckily, only made one of two.
Guess it was Thibodeau's time to go to work. Because he drew up this beauty:
Using Derrick as a decoy, and Joakim Noah as the setup man, Luol Deng found an easy path to the basket for the game-winning layup. All of us, every single person...Stacey, Neil, Kendall, Schanowski, Swirsky, Wennington, Chad Michael Murray, Me, you...we all thought the same thing. Derrick is the ball. We were looking at Joakim and thinking, "why won't you just give the ball to Derrick? Come on Jo, the clock is ticking...COME ON!" Then it hit Stacey like a ton of bricks. It hit us all. No wonder Joakim Noah was in the game. Omer couldn't have made that pass. Omer couldn't have sold that decoy play the way Jo did. The pass was perfect. The play was perfect. The Hawks were stunned. I mean we all were. But it was over. Even though there were 9 seconds still left, it was over. My buddy Weiss texted me immediately after the decoy play and said, "too much time." It didn't matter. The Hawks were not gonna come back from that. Sure enough, Joe Johnson bricked the game-winning three, He airballed it. They didn't even go for overtime, because they knew that they wouldn't stand a shot. Fine by me.
Once again, Lu was a hero. 21 points, 8 boards, 2 steals, a block, and the eventual game-winner. The man is playing and continues to play at an elite level, and no one probably appreciates it more than Derrick Rose.
This game was ugly. Terrible. A polar opposite of the Memphis game, where Boozer was dominant on the inside and on the glass. He did manage nine rebounds tonight in limited playing time before he was pulled in favor of Taj Gibson, who played just okay. But Thibs rode that group to victory. But you know what they say, good teams find a way to win bad games. This was the worst game. The bright side...the Bulls have now held two straight opponents to 35% shooting or less. The defense remains stifling, and with the offense as inconsistent as it has been so far, that looks like it's going to be the key. But with D-Rose and D-Fence, this team will be hard to beat on any given night. Not only that, but the Bulls sent a clear message to the rest of the league, and to the Hawks, that they are not the Heat, and THEY very well may be the team to go through in the East.
Watching continues to be incredibly frustrating yet exhilirating. Don't know if that's a good thing.
p.s. I loved T-Mac's follow-up performance to his heroics from last night against the Heat. Two points. So much for him being the missing piece. Back to reality.
p.p.s. Seeing Hinrich suffering on the Hawks bench made me realize that it's only a matter of months before he's free to re-sign with the Bulls. Can't waity for Kirky to come home.