Well the Jekyll and Hyde Bulls are back at it with a dominating 112-80 win over the Magic (3-4) at the United Center, improving to 4-3 on the young season. What looked to be a shootout early only materialized for one side as the Magic scored 22 points in the first 6 minutes of the contest, only to score 58 in the final 42 minutes of the game. When McBuckets plays more than 60% of the starting lineup, you know it was a good game for the home squad. This Bulls team has flashed some brilliant play over the first seven games, but need to do it on a more consistent basis to be taken seriously as a contender this year.
- I would give my meaningless MVP of the game to Taj Gibson. Jimmy Butler may have had better numbers, which I’ll get into later, but Taj brought the much-needed energy from the tip to ensure the losing streak stopped at three. Gibson ended the night with 16 points on 7/13 shooting including 11 boards and three assists. Gibson also didn’t commit a single turnover on the night which is big because he can sometimes be a blackhole on offense in the post and just put his head down with no regard for his surroundings. But not on this night as Gibson played well on both ends of the floor clogging up the paint and finishing the night with a resounding +/- of +25.
- Jimmy can not be forgotten in this recap. There may be three alpha’s on this team, but Butler was the head honcho tonight, as the Marquette product finished the night with a stat-stuffing line of 20 points, seven assists, five boards, and four steals. Butler did a great job of getting to the rim early and forcing the issue when the offense was stagnant at times. Butler didn’t even shoot the ball well (5/13) but was still able to find a way to make an impact on the offensive side of things which will be important to continue going forward.
- A big shoutout goes to the Bulls second unit as well. This group played significant minutes in the third and fourth quarters Despite the outcome already being decided, this group hustled and grinded every minute they were out there to swell the lead even more-so. Special recognition goes to Isaiah Canaan (10 points, four rebounds), Doug McDermott (11 points, four rebounds), and Bobby Portis (nine points, six rebounds) who carried the bulk of the load for the bench. This trio also combined to shoot 11/18 (61 percent) from the field on the night finding open shots and put back opportunities all game long.
- The one question I have from this game is “why?” Why can’t the Bulls always play like this? In the first quarter it seemed like Deja Vu with the lackluster defensive effort and piss-poor transition D as Orlando raced out to 22 points in the first half of a quarter. But after that, the Bulls buckled down and closed down on shooters better while the Magic finally started missing some shots. Overall, it seems to come down to effort, as the skill is there when the time calls for it. Here’s to hoping they can string that type of effort together for weeks at a time as opposed to quarters at a time.
- The takeaways for the Magic in this game are mostly negative apart from one, Aaron Gordon. The dude is a stud and could easily be a breakout star this year. He has vastly improved his shot since being in The Association, and his athletic freak rating is still at an all-time high. He just needs to study the game a bit more and figure out some spacing issues and when is best to post up as opposed to hanging around the perimeter and this guy will be a perennial double-double machine.
- Up Next: The Bulls travel to Atlanta to take on Dwight Howard and the Hawks on Wednesday night.
The Bulls (25-19), sticking to their season-long trend, followed up an impressive double-digit win over the Cavs on Saturday night with a disheartening, ugly loss to the formerly-skidding Heat (24-21). The Heat snapped a four-game losing streak, while the Bulls dropped their seventh game in their last 10. Let’s take a look at how things went down at the UC Monday night.
- Derrick Rose is the story of this game. Rose looked good early on, attacking the paint and getting to the rim at will. His finishing wasn’t there but Bulls fans saw that aggression that made him an MVP oh so long ago. Unfortunately, his night came to an early end after Rose injured his lower back and the same right hamstring that has plagued him of late. The injury seemingly occurred on one of his drives midway through the 2nd quarter. Rose would leave the game and not return. He ended up with only four points in 13 minutes of play, and his hamstring issue going forward adds injury to insult with this loss.
- Given that E’Twaun Moore and Kirk Hinrich were already sidelined before the Rose injury, that left inconsistent reserve point guard Aaron Brooks to log an uneasy 33 minutes in this contest. Brooks started off well, shooting 4/5 from the field through the first three quarters while tallying four assists. He was patient and selective when it came to his shooting, something the trigger-happy guard has been known to struggle with. Unfortunately, the 4th was a completely different story for Brooks and the Bulls. The diminutive point guard shot just 1/8 from the field, mostly contested threes, while the Bulls as a team totaled just 16 points for the quarter. Brooks rarely set up the offense in the final frame, often choosing to be a bit to aggressive and playing hero ball after going over his minutes per game average in the first three quarters alone.
- The only bright spots from this game were the individual performances of the much maligned Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol. Mirotic ended with a stat-line of 15 points and eight boards on 6/11 shooting. The forward was active on the defensive side of the ball but what impressed me most was his willingness to drive to the basket instead of settling for his normal three point shot. Mirotic shot just two treys while hitting one of them, but his aggressiveness has led to two straight impressive performances for him after going for 17 points and six rebounds in the Bulls last game against the Cavs.
- As for Gasol, all he did was put up a double-double…in the FIRST quarter (13 points, 10 rebounds). It was the first time all year that feat has been accomplished, and Gasol ended the game with 19 points and 17 rebounds. The only knock on his night was his inability to keep that pace up the rest of the game. Gasol shot just 3/11 from the field after the first, playing a role in the Bulls fourth quarter collapse.
- Jimmy Butler had a quiet game, turning in 13 points, six rebounds and four assists on just 5/15 shooting. Impressive Heat rookie Justise Winslow did a fantastic job defensively on Jimmy. If Winslow can eventually develop some game on offense, he has the makings of a future star on the wings.
- As for the Heat, it turns out their Chicago-native can still play some basketball. Dwyane Wade tied his second-highest point total of the season with 28, and also added seven boards and five assists for good measure. He created havoc for the Bulls D all night with his playmaking both off the dribble and using some great passes to stretch the Bulls D out past its comfort zone. Wade hit the clinching shot over an outstretched Gasol to bury the Bulls.
- Coming up: The Bulls embark on a 7-game road trip with the first of two stops at the Staples Center to take on the anemic Lakers this upcoming Thursday.
Losing a game by 30 points on your home floor is typically cause for hysteria. But with the Warriors in town Wednesday night, the default settings on the panic meter need to be adjusted.
- It wasn’t all bad here in game 40. The starting back court combined to score 52 points on 50% shooting from the field. Rose was straight up cooking in the first half, scoring 21 points on 10/15 shooting.
- Rose displayed great touch on his floaters and mid range jumpers. When Derrick hits his spots on the glass, he becomes very difficult to guard. Rose, who was 0/2 from beyond the arc, doesn’t necessarily need to become a three point marksman to open up driving lanes. If defenders have to honor jump shots of any distance, Rose will continue to fine clear paths to the basket.
- My one complaint from this Rose performance, which ended with him scoring 29 points on 12/22 shooting, was his inability to spin his success off into success for his teammates. Rose tallied just two assists in his 30 minutes of action. While assist totals aren’t always the best indication of playmaking ability, Rose’s performance didn’t pass the eye test. Too often it seemed Rose decided he was taking the shot and didn’t look to set up his teammates for easy buckets. It’s hard to critique a player’s shot selection when he makes over 50% of his field goals, but it’s on night’s like this, when Rose has the defense’s full attention, that he should be looking for his teammates.
- Jimmy Butler finished this game with 23 points, but almost all of his activity came in the 24 minutes of garbage time commonly referred to as the “second half of Warriors games.” Butler shot 1/7 from the field on mostly lazy contested jump shots in the first two quarters and drew just one shooting foul. He finished the game with an impressive 12 attempts from the line, but it would have been nice to see some more aggression before the game got out of hand.
- It’s sort of discouraging that Rose and Butler’s strong individual stretches did not overlap at all.
- The rest of the Bulls starting five combined to shoot 3/22 from the field for a combined seven points. Pau Gasol was completely erased by Draymond Green. Green is an expert defending screeners and did not let Pau get into any sort of rhythm in the pick and pop. Tony Snell was 0/4 from three and was unable to do anything positive even in an extended garbage time run. Taj at least had a cool dunk.
- Snell has underwhelmed in his return to the starting lineup, but none of his competition for small forward minutes have done much to distinguish themselves. Mirotic was 0/5 from the field on mostly ugly clankers. McDermott was 1/6 and a team worst -28 in 32 minutes of play.
- It was another classic low energy first quarter for the Bulls who gave up several easy buckets to the best transition offense in the NBA. The Warriors beat the Bulls down the court over and over again, including after a couple of made shots. The MO of the Bulls the last two years has been malaise against the league’s lower tiers and high intensity against the elite. The attention to detail on defense in this game put a big dent in that perception.
- The Bulls entered the fourth quarter facing a 24 point deficit and Fred Hoiberg used the final 12 minutes to experiment. Before Cam Bairstow entered the game with three minutes left, the Bulls only big man on the court was Bobby Portis. The five out offense was fun to see, and Portis had himself a nice outing after struggling in his last few games. But the Bulls surrendered 38 points in the quarter to Golden State’s scrubs, many of which came on uncontested dunks and layups. Portis has a great motor and a pretty well rounded offensive skillset, but his ability to play NBA defense is a definite work in progress. Noah’s absence will create more learning opportunities for the rookie, but for now Portis is not capable of anchoring a defense.
- Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Bairstow are not the frontcourt of the future.
- Aaron Brooks was abused by Shaun Livingston. Brooks struggles to slow down most NBA point guards, but in a matchup where he was at a 10 inch disadvantage, AB never had a chance. I wish Hoiberg would have pulled the plug earlier on Brooks and given E’Twaun Moore more minutes. Moore finished with 13 points and did his best to slow down the world’s most terrifying offensive force.
- The Warriors are amazing. They’re a machine running at full capacity from tip to final buzzer. They overwhelm teams with their passing, patience and shooting. Several times the Bulls played 20 seconds of good defense on a possession, but Golden State will make you pay for any slippage in the final four seconds.
- The Steph Curry-Derrick Rose matchup was apparently the first between point guards who have won NBA MVP.
- Coming up: the Bulls head to Boston for a Friday night matchup.
The Bulls are entering one of the toughest stretches of games that they will see all year, so Monday’s matinee win over the Detroit Pistons was vital to preserving their spot near the top of the Eastern Conference as the season nears its halfway point. The Bulls move to 24-16 on this victory, and maintain their spot just a game behind Toronto for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. Monday’s 111-101 win raised some questions about the Bulls and their need for Joakim Noah following his season ending injury on Friday night, but much of this is too early to tell. Here’s a look at how the Bulls held off a very strong Detroit team on Monday.
- Bench play. The Bulls bench players scored a combined 33 points on Monday to just 18 from the Pistons. Aaron Brooks and Doug McDermott combined for 17 of those points, and Nikola Mirotic, though he didn’t get the start tonight even in Noah’s absence, added 10 points of his own. Otherwise, E’Twuan Moore added six to round out the bench scoring. With the exception of Bobby Portis, the bench had a +/- that averaged over +11 collectively. Brooks had a ridiculous 10 assists as well.
- Pau Gasol. I can’t get too far into this without mentioning Gasol and the work that he did against Detroit. He played nearly the most minutes of the afternoon, second only to Jimmy Butler and his 13/18 from the field was instrumental for a team that was down by six points when the first quarter ended. Gasol also led the team with 31 points on offense to go with 12 rebounds, 10 of which came on defense.
- Detroit’s collapse. The Pistons shot an insane 68% in the first quarter to take a six point lead as the quarter ended, but they folded as the game progressed. The third quarter was their roughest patch, as they were called for three technical fouls, two of which were against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was ejected. Detroit had led by as much as 13 at one point in the third quarter, and coming off of their 18 point victory over the seemingly untouchable Golden State Warriors on Saturday, this was a matchup that I was a little concerned about, especially since it was a road game for the Bulls.
- Better off without Jo? This is a question that I hate to even ask on the heels of his very devastating injury on Friday night that has effectively ended his season, and it is obviously one that cannot be answered after just one game without him, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Fred Hoiberg and Derrick Rose had a few things to say about the question today:
“I don’t think you could find one guy in that locker room that would say we’re a better team,” Hoiberg said. “He does so many things.”
“I’m not going to say that we’re over him or we don’t need him. We need him for sure,” Rose said. “But we’re professionals. We know that once someone goes out, somebody has to step in and do that job, and we believe in everybody on this team.”
- I don’t want to read too much into this, but I would probably have said that the Bulls were better off, if even slightly, before he was injured. Noah turns 31 in February, so he has been in the league for a considerable amount of time, so his decline as a player is inevitable. Noah has posted a 14.3 PER so far this year, which is lower than even his rookie year nine seasons ago.
- Where’s Bobby Portis? On Monday, Portis played for just over three minutes and did not score at all. He has not hit double digits in minutes in about a week, and Portis has not shown the flashes of brilliance that drew us to him a couple of weeks ago, and consequentially he has been seeing a diminished role off of the bench since then. Monday would have been a good opportunity to capitalize on the minutes that he was getting, but he did not score and he had just two rebounds.
- Jimmy Butler, All Star? The voting ended on Monday night, and Butler stands a chance to be voted in as a starter. He has certainly earned a spot and probably deserves to start, but it’s more likely he is selected as a reserve behind Dwyane Wade and Kyle Lowry, likely vote winners.
- Coming up, the Bulls will test their mettle at the United Center on Wednesday night against the 38-4 Golden State Warriors.