On Wednesday Night at the United Center we were treated to a game that resembled a a heaping pile of turd with a pretty bow on top. I use this analogy because for the first 47 minutes of the game, we were treated to a snooze fest between a team that was 1-14 on the road coming in (Nets) and a team that had lost six of its last seven and had shown little fight in any of those games. But let’s break down that final minute of the Bulls (16-16) 101-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets (8-23).
- After being deadlocked at 97 for over a minute, Jimmy Butler decided he had enough. He collected a steal on the defensive end before pulling up for a smooth mid range J to put the Bulls up 2. On the following possession, Brook Lopez turned back the clock (and forgot about his 16 foot surgeries apparently) by blowing by twin brother Robin to throw down a thunderous dunk with 12 seconds remaining.
- From there it was Jimmy G Buckets time. Why the Nets offered poor Bojan Bogdanovic absolutely no help D (not so much as a flash) is beyond me. How Kenny Atkinson thought it was a good idea to let the Bulls only reliable scorer with Wade out calmly step up and drain a jumper as time expired against a much slower defender is beyond me, but I’m glad he did. Butler is becoming cold-blooded in crunch time which is nice to see, and watching him drain that buzzer-beater gave me a slight glimmer of hope for the future (even if it was just the Nets).
- Speaking of Jimmy, let’s talk about the boy wonder who can do no wrong and is apparently indestructible. Even after rolling an ankle in the second half, Butler came through with a monster game to will the Bulls to win a game they really couldn’t afford to lose with the season quickly slipping away.
- The Marquette Man finished with a line of 40 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and four steals. If that isn’t a full stat sheet I don’t know what is. Butler was one of just three Bulls in double figures tonight as he scored in every imaginable way as Bogdanovic clearly struggled to slow him down with any regularity. He truly is a joy to watch on a nightly basis, it’s too bad this front office can’t put the players around him to succeed on any given night.
- The only other positive I can come up with for this game for the Bulls is the charity stripe. The Bulls managed to get to the line 29 times on the night, knocking down a remarkable 28 of them for a staggering 97% clip on the night. Attacking the basket is when this Bulls team is at its best which has a strong correlation to trips to the free throw line. This trend will be key for the Bulls going forward in order to be successful.
- Moving on from the few and far between bright spots of this game, it’s time to focus on the ever exciting topic of turnovers. The Nets aren’t exactly the most stout defense, giving up approximately 176 points per game on the road (sadly only a small exaggeration), but the Bulls still managed to turn the ball over a whopping 18 times. These were of course mostly self-inflicted wounds as the Nets didn’t suddenly turn into the Bad Boy Pistons overnight. Against good teams, every possession is valuable, and the Bulls sure don’t treat it that way as it took a late collapse from the Nets in this one to escape with a victory. It’s hard to tell if it’s the coaching, the players, or the general lack of focus that have lead to these turnover woes recently but the Bulls will be doomed as a .500 team if this continues.
- As for the battle of the Lopez twins, Brook won again outscoring his brother for the 15th time in as many head-to-head match-ups. Brook ended the night with an impressive 33 points on 12/20 shooting including a surprising 5/6 from deep. Robin managed a respectable 12 points on the night on 5/8 shooting and got the last laugh after his team pulled out a W late.
- Up Next: The Bulls travel to the Indy City to take on Paul George and the Pacers Friday night.
Well that was a laugher. The Bulls clobbered the Nets 118-88 to improve to 3-0 on the young season. Lucky for you, my loyal readers, I put more effort in these blog posts than some of the Nets put into playing basketball–otherwise this game recap would end right here and I would’ve turned this game off at halftime. That’s because the Bulls jumped on the Nets early and cruised to an easy W in Brooklyn. As it stands, let’s take a look back at how the Bulls got off to their best start since 1996-97 (don’t make any more comparisons between the two just yet).
- As I said, this one was pretty much over after the first 12 minutes. The Bulls jumped out to a 38-20 lead and never looked back. This was one never really in jeopardy as every time it looked like the Nets might make a game of it, they got in their own way to let Chicago walk to a victory. The fact that no starter played more than 29 minutes (Wade) tells you all you need to know about this one. But the Bulls did what good teams do against lesser teams, stomped on them early and didn’t let them up for air. This performance will do nothing to quiet the cautiously optimistic fan base after the first few games.
- It’s hard to pick out an MVP of this game as SEVEN players ended up in double digits, but I’m going to go with Isaiah Canaan who ended up with 15 points on an efficient 5/7 shooting, including 3/4 from deep. He also added 6 dimes and 3 boards with zero turnovers to boot. If Michael Carter-Williams is going to be out any significant amount of time, the Bulls will need Canaan to be a quality backup, which he showed he can be tonight.
- The transition offense was a thing of beauty again in the first quarter of this one. One play in particular, the one you’ve been watching on Vine (R.I.P.) for the last hour, highlights this perfectly.
- Taj gathered an innocent miss, but instead of pulling it down, he looked to run. He zipped the ball cross court to a sprinting Rondo, who, without even thinking, fired the ball back across court to a cutting Wade. While Wade could have gone up and possibly gotten and And-1, he decided to one-time a perfect touch-pass to the soaring Butler who threw it down for two points. That made the score only 22-11 at the time, but you could pretty much tell this one was over after that.
- The All-Lopez matchup didn’t exactly register in this one-sided affair, as neither twin played more than 22 minutes (Brook). Robin registered only 4 points and 5 boards on 1/5 shooting, while brother Brook went for 13 points and 2 boards on 5/11 shooting. Of course it was Robin who got the last laugh seeing his team go to 3-0 while Brook is saddled with a 1-3 squad who are going nowhere fast this year.
- A big shoutout in this game goes to the Bulls defense. They started the game flying around on the defensive side of the floor, getting into passing lanes, cutting off dribble drives, and boxing out well to put this one to bed early. There’s something to be said for forcing early turnovers, and Rondo’s aggressiveness in particular stands out as the lightning rod for this team on D. He was able to harass ball handlers all game long and never gave up on any play.
- We’re nitpicking here, but there are a couple areas the Bulls could improve upon. The first is taking care of the basketball. The Bulls turned it over 20 times to a terrible defensive team (league average is around 14). I realize most of these came when the score was out of hand, but against better teams they’ll take advantage of silly turnovers and unforced errors. Another slight problem was the defensive rebounding of the Bulls second unit. With Felicio as the lone quality rebounder on the second unit, this team will find it hard at times to recover errant opponents shots. We’ll see if Hoiberg decides to leave Taj or Lopez in with this unit against bigger lineups but it was definitely a noticeable problem against the Nets on Monday night.
- For the Nets, there were very few positives coming out of this night. Lin seemed to be the only player with any energy on the court while the team shot an abysmal 34% on the night including 16% from downtown. I’m no mathematician, but that’s not going to win you a lot of ballgames. One nice surprise is the emergence of Bojan Bogdanovic who has averaged 17 points over the first four games of the season. It’s not much, but the Nets don’t have a whole lot going for them now or the foreseeable future as they swap picks with Boston in the 2017 draft.
- Up Next: The Bulls travel to Boston on Wednesday night as the Celts will look to avenge their only loss of the season.
The Bulls truly need every win they can get as they scrap for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They delivered a comfortable 118-102 victory against a Brooklyn Nets team lacking in talent. Let’s dive into the BULLets.
- The Bulls went up huge early on, at one point doubling Brooklyn’s score with a 47-23 margin. They entered the half up 18, with great contributions coming from up and down the roster.
- Unfortunately, the Nets came out firing to make the game close again in the third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic finished with a scorching 26 points and five assists after somehow dropping 44 on Philadelphia on Tuesday.
- Ultimately, the Bulls had built a big enough cushion to put the Nets away without too much anxiety. Doug McDermott continued shooting lights out, pouring in 25 points on 8/16 shooting and 5/8 from deep. Over his last five games, Doug is hitting 58.3% of his threes and averaging 17.6 points. He’s up to 42.9% from deep on the season, good for sixth in the NBA. McDermott has only shot below 40% on threes in one month this season, 37.3% in December. He is an elite shooter.
- The Bulls bench contributed in a big way in this one. Bobby Portis snatched 14 rebounds to go along with 12 points and was +22 in 28 minutes. Cristiano Felicio was +20 in 21 minutes, tallying six points, 10 boards, two blocks, and a steal. With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah out, the production of these two is critical for the Bulls. I’m skeptical of Felicio’s ability to stick in a legit rotation, but Portis continues to show signs of improvement. This was a ridiculously exciting play:
- Jimmy Butler appears to be almost all the way back from his knee issues, leading the team with 22 points and seven assists. He hit 7/12 field goals and all eight of his free throws in 32 minutes. Derrick Rose looked good too, adding 12 points, five assists, and three rebounds in 29 minutes.
- The injuries never stop. E’Twaun Moore played just two minutes after suffering a hamstring injury. On the bright side, Aaron Brooks added a crucial 12 points on 5/7 shots in just 16 minutes. A great performance, but the Bulls are much worse off if Brooks has to take Moore’s minutes for an extended period.
- While Justin Holliday hasn’t played particularly well, he’s shown enough that Tony Snell is completely out of the rotation. Over his last five games, Holliday is averaging 9.8 points on 46.7% shooting overall and 50% from three in 23.8 minutes per game. His career shooting numbers are putrid, so it would be quite the development for these results to stick. The Bulls will continue seeing what they have with the lanky wing.
- Brook Lopez is pretty clearly the best player on the Nets, but he was a complete no-show on Thursday night. He had nine points and just three rebounds in 31 minutes. To be fair, Lopez was +9, as Brooklyn’s YMCA-caliber bench got annihilated.
- I’m a big fan of Thaddeus Young. He’s had an interesting career; as a young player, he was expected to evolve into a ball-dominant star that he was never suited to be. After Doug Collins left Philly, Young finally started shooting threes, taking 3.7 a night his last year there as he seemingly transitioned into being a stretch four. However, this season Thaddeus has once again eschewed the three point shot, and it’s hard to blame him. He’s averaging 15.1 points this year and a career high 9.1 rebounds. His herky-jerky game is perfectly suited for confusing defenders inside the arc. There are a ton of ways to be a good NBA player, and Thaddeus has found his own. He had 16 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks against the Bulls.
- Coming up: the Bulls host Utah on Saturday night.