Thoughts on Bulls/Nuggets: 11/22/13

Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson, front, runs into Chicago Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy, rear, and is called for a charge in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
(Photo Credit: Chris Schneider)
The Bulls five game winning streak has come to an end to begin the Circus Road trip.  I previously projected the Bulls to go 4-2 on this trip, but admitted that they had a chance of losing in Denver to drop to 3-3 (other losses projected: Portland and the Clippers).  Last night’s loss wasn’t completely discouraging.  There were a few rays of hope and a few areas that need improvement.  Here are my thoughts on last night’s game:

Derrick Rose was Derrick Rose….in the first half: I mean did you see him? Oh my.  He was on a roll. 17 first half points.  Why?  I can give you a simple explanation and it’s something I’ve complained of all season.  He came out late in the first, but came back into the game with 10 minutes to go in the 2nd.  Once he got into a rhythm, he didn’t sit long enough for it to completely fade away.  He was able to keep that rhythm.  He’s been attacking the basket all season and last night was really no different.  He only shot two three-pointers last night and a handful of mid-range shots.  Mostly everything was at the rim.  More importantly, he was always under control and had controlled bursts of speed.  Here are a few examples.  The first one is in the first quarter and he just blows by Ty Lawson (one of the fastest PGs in the league) and Kenneth Faried for an easy layup

Here’s another where Rose uses the Noah screen and takes contact from Kenneth Faried (no call) and makes a little floater off the glass:
The last one is Rose going baseline and hitting his sweet, patented floater over two guys:
So, if there’s anything positive to take away from last night’s game it’s that Derrick Rose was Derrick Rose for an entire half of basketball.  That’s probably more than we’ve seen from him all year.

  • Jimmy Butler was definitely missed: Not just for his defense or his shooting, but simply because he’s another serviceable body out there.  With Jimmy out, the rotation seemed odd. I liked Dunleavy starting, but there was a point in the early 2nd quarter and late 3rd/early 4th quarters that the Bulls had an entire bench unit out there.  Denver made a 13-0 run to start the 4th behind Nate (I’ll get to him in a second).  It’s ironic that the Bulls and the former “Bench Mob” were so potent that they could literally take over games with how cohesive they were.  Now, the Bulls bench can barely survive a 4 minute stretch to open a quarter.  Defensively they are fine, but without Dunleavy participating in that second unit, there’s just no scoring.  Taj and Kirk can both score, but not as primary options.  The Bulls on the season average 25.6 ppg from their bench (23rd in the NBA per hoopstats.com).  You take away Dunleavy’s production and replace it with Teague and that number is probably going to put them around 28th, which is ironically the Indiana Pacers and their improved bench at 15.9 ppg.  This team has to stay healthy or they have to find a capable contributor that can play.  I’m hoping Snell gets this opportunity.  I think he can contribute if given the chance, but Teague…man. I just don’t think he can contribute.
  • Nate Robinson doesn’t play for the Bulls anymore: Naturally, my Twitter feed was flooded with emoticons and sobbing messages of tears for Nate Robinson’s departure. Bulls Nation, I’m begging you: Stop with the Nate love!  For his career, he averages 11 points per game and he’s played for six different teams. Let it go! If he was worth that, he would’ve been extended.  Yes, he’s an explosive scorer.  Yes, I understand people’s infatuation with him.  I personally have never been able to stand Nate Robinson even back to his days as a Knick.  He drove me crazy last year and I hated what he brought to the table, but he did some good things for Chicago.  But it’s over.  Let it go. By the way, the picture below is ironic to me.  I’d venture to say Bulls fans would defend Nate for gestures like this last year and probably defend him today saying, “That’s just Nate” but Paul George gets a bad rap from me and others in Bulls Nation (cough – Bulls Zone – cough) for his arrogance when Nate was no different.  Anyways, let it go Bulls fans! Move on!
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  • The defense doesn’t look right: I know the stats: The Bulls are 3rd in opponents PPG, they are 2nd behind Indiana in opponents FG%, they are 2nd in opponent’s field goal percentage inside the restricted area, 1st in opponent’s field goal percentage in the paint, they are second in rebounds per game, they are 1st in opponent’s points off turnovers, and they’re 1st in opponent’s points in the paint.  The defense looks good, they’re doing a pretty good job, but something doesn’t look right.  The Bulls are 12th in opponent’s second chance points.  That just doesn’t seem possible if they’re one of the league leaders in rebounds and basically control the paint, but it’s true.  Why can’t they stop teams from scoring second chance points?  Something doesn’t look right.   One thing that doesn’t look quite right is Joakim Noah at times.  I think it’s because he missed the preseason, but his timing just isn’t all the way there.  Even though he’s averaging solid numbers, his energy just doesn’t seem to be there.  Here’s a possession from last night where JJ Hickson beats Carlos Boozer on his way to the rim.  Watch as Joakim Noah is way late on the rotation and basically has to duck out of the way to let JJ Hickson throw down a dunk:
Joakim is usually one of the best defensive centers in the league, but here he’s a step slow.  Very unusual for him.  As far as his energy, I think energy is contagious to the entire team.  There are times during games where the Bulls just seem to be jogging back on defense or going through the motions and not really playing with passion.  Here’s a particular fast break off a putrid Derrick Rose miss. Watch the Bulls sauntering back on defense and not really paying attention to Randy Foye who gets an easy three-pointer:
Here’s a post from Derrick Rose’s Facebook page that refers to their bad transition defense:
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The Bulls need to tighten the screws on some of these little mistakes if they want to keep having success.  Right now, they are 5-0 at home and 1-4 on the road.  At home, you can win on the emotion of the crowd, but on the road you have to execute.  They did for one half last night and were only down two heading into halftime.  The second half they didn’t and it almost became a blowout.  Hopefully they’ll make the necessary adjustments and come out with passion tonight in Portland.