All posts by Jared Wyllys

BULLet Points: Bulls blanked by Timberwolves in overtime

It had been a very tight game all evening, so the fact that the Bulls and Timberwolves went into overtime on Saturday was not an especially big surprise. The Bulls somehow managed to spoil every scoring opportunity in overtime and did not score a single point for the first time in team history, leaving the game for Minnesota to win, 102-93. I have a feeling that as the season progresses, this Bulls team is going to be frustrating to watch. While Thursday’s win against the Thunder showed how good they can be at times, the horrible performance at the end of this game showed how bad it can get.

  • Only one of the Chicago starting five had a positive plus minus. Nikola Mirotic managed a +5, but he only scored four points and pulled down three rebounds, so it wasn’t as if he was contributing greatly in any capacity. He was in foul trouble early and his shot looked off all night; an airball three point attempt in overtime was the icing on a bad cake.
  • Jimmy Butler felt like a non-factor in this game. He led the team in minutes but scored just 11 points and had five turnovers. He was also a brutal 0/7 in three point attempts. Butler did not score his first points of the game until the 2:44 mark of the second quarter.
  • There were several times on offense when the Bulls were so spread out that they did not have anyone at the post or near the paint at all. They were fanned out around the three point arc, and then tried to rely on Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler to drive into the lane and score, which caused a lack of offensive rebounding opportunities. Given that the Bulls shot just 35.5%, they badly needed those chances at second shots. Four times they took the ball down to their side of the court and set up a drive into the lane, only to miss that first shot and leave the ball for the Timberwolves to take. Minnesota won the rebound battle 58-50 overall.
  • Defensively, the Bulls looked flat-footed and lackadaisical at times. There were plenty of possessions when the Bulls were all positioned soundly, but the Timberwolves beat them in transitions frequently and this seemed to prevent the Bulls from being able to properly set up on defense. The Bulls need to improve their transition defense.
  • I am still not sure what you do with Joakim Noah. He has never been much of a scorer, but right now he is averaging just over two points per game, and given that as recently as the 2013-14 season he was averaging a career high of 12.6, the dropoff in offense in him has been pretty dramatic. At least he can still rebound pretty well–he had 11 total and half of the team’s offensive rebounds.
  • Minnesota is a fun team to watch. They are loaded with young talent like Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Ricky Rubio, but they also have a few old-timers, like Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett.
  • Wiggins was about as dynamic on offense as you can be, and even though he missed an opportunity to win the game for Minnesota at the very end of the fourth quarter, his stretch of three pointers in the first half was a catalyst for the Timberwolves. He ended up shooting four for five from beyond the arc, compared to three of 11 for the rest of the team.
  • If not for some early foul trouble, Karl-Anthony Towns – last spring’s first overall pick – would probably have been able to contribute even further. Even with limited time in the first half, he managed a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. He also added four impressive blocks.
  • From here, the Bulls will look to improve to 5-3 in Philadelphia on Monday night against the winless 76ers.

BULLet Points: Vintage Rose performance leads to win over Thunder

After getting wrecked by Charlotte on Tuesday night, the Bulls returned to the United Center to host the Oklahoma City Thunder, with both teams entering the night at 3-2.  Given the way Chicago’s defense looked against a paltry Hornets offense on Tuesday, stopping the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook looked to be a difficult task. Surprisingly, Oklahoma City’s offense couldn’t produce enough to overcome an early deficit.

  • In the first half, Chicago capitalized on a poor stretch of shooting from the Thunder to recover from being down 28-25 when the first quarter ended. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls to a 57-50 lead with 21 points at the half. He hit four of his five threes in the game, and he’s drained a scorching 57% of his triples this season.
  • Despite being outscored 23-19 in the third quarter, the Bulls maintained a fairly firm lead even as the game progressed well into the fourth quarter. The Thunder made a late run, but that’s when Derrick Rose finally provided some of the explosiveness he was once known for. It’s been a while since he’s looked as good as he did in the final stretch as he did in this game; Rose made 11/16 shots after missing eight of his first nine. He took charge in a way that he just had not been able to at all so far this season.
  • Rumors that Derrick might be on the way out of Chicago have begun to surface again. Brian Windhorst of ESPN speculated on SportsCenter that the Bulls/Rose breakup has already begun. Whatever you might think, the fact that he’s signed for over $40 million through 2017 will make it a major challenge to move on from him before then.
  • Rose did spend extra time working on his jump shot with Fred Hoiberg prior to Thursday’s game, and his 29 points (12 of which came in the fourth quarter) were critical as he closed out the Thunder. He ended up shooting 12 for 25, so the extra work may have been just what he needed.
  • Thursday’s game provided a glimpse of what the Bulls might be capable of when both Rose and Jimmy Butler are scoring. Butler had 26 points to Rose’s 29. Pau Gasol added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
  • It was encouraging to see Joakim Noah play as much as he did (a season-high 26 minutes) and contribute seven rebounds and four assists. He stepped up his game for the big stage, and the Bulls were far more successful in his minutes compared to Pau Gasol’s. His role on the team has been in flux so far this year, but in the absence of a strong performance from Nikola Mirotic (just two points and four rebounds), Noah filled in very nicely.
  • Kevin Durant poured in 33 points, but Jimmy Butler made him work for them. Even so, Durant has one of the most effortless-looking jumpers in the NBA. Russell Westbrook struggled late but still put up a 20 point, ten assist, eight rebound line. He wasn’t as active as usual, but the Thunder were playing their fourth game in five nights.
  • After making his debut on Tuesday, Bobby Portis didn’t see any time in Thursday’s game. Granted, it was a close one from start to finish, but I would like to see him get at least a few more minutes on a regular basis. His defense is shaky, but after six games, he has appeared in just one of them. He needs time on the floor.
  • From here, the Bulls will remain at home to face the 2-1 Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

BULLet Points: Bulls drop first game in OT loss to Pistons

  • From the start, last night’s game against Detroit felt like one that would come down to the wire, and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately, the Bulls never seemed to make shots when it mattered, even though they ultimately shot better from the field (40.5%) than the Pistons (37.5%). However, Detroit had 20 offensive rebounds, leading to 20 more shot attempts than the Bulls.
  • First quarter: Both teams entered the night 2-0, and though the Bulls scored first on a Pau Gasol basket, the Pistons responded with a three pointer almost immediately from Marcus Morris. This proved to be a microcosm of how the rest of the game would turn out, as Detroit never really shrunk from any sort of lead the Bulls put up. Tony Snell got into early foul trouble, drawing two within the first three minutes and E’Twuan Moore had to come in earlier than normal. From there, the Pistons capitalized on some poor Chicago shooting in the first quarter and took a 23-19 lead.
  • Second quarter: This time it was the Pistons’ opportunity to look a little sloppy, and after the Bulls went on a 7-0 run, Stan Van Gundy called a timeout that ended up stalling the scoring on both ends for several minutes. The second quarter was the lowest scoring overall, with the two teams combining for just 32 points. Eventually, baskets from Aron Baynes and Anthony Tolliver ignited the action again. With 2:50 left in the half, Jimmy Butler tied it at 35, and shortly after Chicago had a chance to take the lead. Shortly after, Butler stole the ball just after Detroit brought the ball past half court, and a Tony Snell tap-in from Butler’s missed shot gave the Bulls the edge. They added another basket before the half, going up 39-35.
  • Third quarter: The Pistons fought back and tied the game at 41 with 9:26 remaining in the quarter. Just a minute later, Reggie Jackson put them up by a basket. By the 6:37 mark, they were up by 8 points, and Fred Hoiberg had to call a time out to try and right the ship. This seemed to do the trick, because a Pau Gasol pass to Nikola Mirotic for a bucket brought the Bulls within three. A few minutes later, a pair of free throws from Butler put the Bulls up by one. But, once again, Detroit would not be stymied. They responded with an immediate basket and took back the lead. This was the catalyst for several lead changes that would continue for the remainder of the quarter until a beautiful dunk by Taj Gibson left the score tied at 64 to end the quarter.
  • Fourth quarter: Though Doug McDermott provided a rallying three pointer a minute into the last quarter, the Pistons surged ahead by five points. The Bulls kept responding themselves, though, and a classic Derrick Rose drive to the basket set up a basket by Taj Gibson. This preceded a Mirotic three pointer that tied the game at 72. Andre Drummond and Butler exchanged free throws near the end of the quarter to swap the lead back and forth, but regulation ended with a tie at 83.
  • Overtime: The overtime was just hard to watch. The Bulls came out looking sloppy and never really got it together. Detroit went on a 7-0 run and things just never really changed from there. Hoiberg called a timeout after that, but even that didn’t do it. The Bulls shot really poorly at the worst possible time, and that left the game in Detroit’s hands. They won it, 98-94. The Bulls shot three for ten in overtime compared to five of eight for Detroit.
  • Though the Bulls outshot the Pistons last night, they couldn’t quite hit the ones they needed to prevail. From here, the Pistons take a break until Tuesday when they will host the Pacers. The Bulls return to the United Center to host Orlando on Sunday night before hitting the road next Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets.

BULLet Points: Bulls win Hoiberg’s debut with Obama courtside

  • The beginning of the Fred Hoiberg era started pretty nicely, with a close win over the Cavaliers, who I had feared would be a particularly tough draw for the first game of the season. Though the Bulls ultimately kept them at bay, I think we saw the kind of battle that the Bulls and Cavs are likely to have all year, and potentially into the playoffs when the time comes. After years of watching the Tom Thibodeau Bulls, this felt like a largely different team.
  • Notably, Hoiberg showed a greater willingness to use his whole roster, giving Doug McDermott the opportunity he lacked last season. Not to draw any sort of long term conclusions, but McDermott spent 16 minutes on the floor against Cleveland, and he had averaged just 8.9 per game last year. In that time, he scored 8 points and had 4 rebounds, and by comparison, last year he averaged 3 points and 1.2 rebounds.
  • I liked the way Derrick Rose played and how much he played. He clocked 32 minutes, second only to Jimmy Butler at 36. I had pretty low expectations for Rose after the almost complete lack of a preseason that he had because of his eye injury, but he looked pretty good. If you can look past the eight for 22 that he shot from the floor, he found a way to put up 18 points and had the second most to Nikola Mirotic, who had 19. Rose also only attempted two three-pointers.
  • I’m having a hard time making sense of the night that Joakim Noah had. He played 17 minutes and did not take a single shot. Though I never expect him to score a lot of points, it was a bit of a surprise not to see him shoot the ball at all. He did manage to contribute in some way, grabbing 9 rebounds, a steal, and dishing out 4 assists. With Mirotic starting and playing like he did (19 points and nine rebounds on only 25 minutes), Noah’s role may be increasingly diminished as the season progresses. (Editor’s note: the Bulls later announced that Noah was held out of the fourth quarter with a right knee contusion).
  • Jimmy Butler is the leader of this team. He played excellently against Cleveland, and while he did not score the most points (he had 17), he performed in a balanced array of ways, going five of five from the free throw line and six for 14 from the floor. He added five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Of course, his perimeter defense on LeBron James was superb.
  • Balanced attack. The Bulls had five players with double digit points, including E’Twaun Moore with 11 off of the bench. Tony Snell, Rose, Mirotic, and Butler all scored at least 10 points. A multitude of threats offensively will serve the Bulls well if it can continue as the season progresses.
  • Even in a close game, I would liked to have seen rookie Bobby Portis make his debut, but he did not get any time against the Cavs. Perhaps because the game was too close, or perhaps because Hoiberg didn’t see the right opportunity for him to go out there.
  • Up next: The Bulls hit the road immediately, with a game in Brooklyn on Wednesday night. This I expect will be a very tough challenge, as playing on back to back nights with the second game on the road nearly always presents a very difficult situation. The Bulls won’t see Cleveland again until January 23 in Cleveland.