Tag Archives: Russell Westbrook

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls bring the noise in a blowout win over the Thunder

Well the Bulls did it again. They played a great basketball game on the road against a quality team and made you wonder just how in the heck the Bulls (25-25) are a .500 team through 50 games this season. This W came in blowout fashion as the Thunder (28-22) lost their third straight since Enes Kanter went down with an injury. Let’s take a further look at how the Bulls managed a 128-100 win after all of their turmoil of the past week.

  • The first quarter was fairly even after the Bulls jumped out to an early nine-point lead. But poor shooting and general inconsistent movement on offense led to a fairly stagnant quarter as the Bulls clung to a 21-20 advantage after one.
  • The following two quarters decided this one. The Bulls shot lights out after the first while even Russell Westbrook couldn’t jumpstart the OKC offense in this one. The Bulls outscored the Thunder 73-53 over the middle two stanzas thanks to scoring from across the board (six Bulls in double-figures) while OKC became a one-man show.
  • It’s easy to attribute this game to a poor shooting night for one team (38% for OKC) combined with an unseasonably hot shooting game from the other (60% for the Bulls) but there was more to it in this one. The Bulls showed the kind of energy on both ends of the court that they often display against quality teas (especially on national TV for some reason). The result, more movement off the ball on offense creating more space and getting back on defense leading to minimal fast break points for OKC (18 on the night).
  • Finding consistency has been the issue ever since Hoiberg took over at the start of last year as they proved tonight they can beat anyone on any given night. While this one feels nice, knowing that they’ve lost home games to the Mavs and Heat take some shine out of it. Stringing five of these types of games together will be essential in what is shaping up to be a jam-packed back end of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
  • There were many positive takeaways on the night but one I want to focus on is Jerian Grant. He didn’t end with the best line 12 points, three assists, three rebounds on 5/7 shooting, but it was his energy in the first that got this team going. Grant had great vision, especially early on, and played very competent defense against a quality backcourt for the Thunder. If he can hit on his jumper like he did tonight with any consistency, Grant may find himself more ingrained in the rotation.
  • The disgruntled duo of Wade and Butler had themselves games as well. Wade ended the night with 18/7/7 on 7/12 shooting while posting a ridiculous +32 on the night. It still astounds me how crafty the veteran can be even after planting his pivot foot. Whether it’s drawing contact to get to the line or finding an open shot, Wade has one of the best pivot games in The Association.
  • Meanwhile Jimmy did Jimmy things posting 28 points on 11/17 shooting with a ho-hum five dimes, four boards, and three robberies against the Thunder. Every time OKC looked like they might creep back into it Butler would get aggressive and bully his way to the basket for an easy layup or getting to the line. He’s what Stacey King used to call Derrick Rose, a “run stopper”.
  • As for the Thunder, the lone bright spot on the evening was the jaw-dropping Russ Westbrook. Westbrook scored 28 points, assisted eight times, and grabbed five rebounds. While he still hasn’t recorded a triple-double against the Bulls (one of only three teams that can claim this), the little offense the Thunder did generate on Wednesday night was a result of him. Even being down 20, Russ was able to throw down a dunk that got me off my couch and generally makes everyone look like they’re in slow motion.
  • It’s obvious, however, that this team misses Enes Kanter. This team was lacking serious depth before the injury, meaning their bench is getting exposed now as there starters are forced to exhaust themselves throughout the game. I’m sure we’ll see a similar pattern as tonight, where the Thunder will stick around early before their depth catches up with them later in ball games. Russ can’t win games by himself every night despite what he might think.
  • Up Next: The Bulls play The Beard on Friday night in Houston as their second game of a six game road trip.

 

Russell Westbrook: the man, the myth, the triple-double machine

Famously, Oscar Robertson is the only player to average a triple-double – it happened in 1962. The closest anybody has come to such a feat since then is just eight games in (Magic Johnson). Russell Westbrook, at a whopping 41 games into the season, is averaging a triple-double. It’s insane. Check these numbers out: 30.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 10.4 APG in 34.7 MPG. When the Big O accomplished the feat 55 years ago, he also posted 30.8 PPG, but amassed 12.5 RPG and 11.4 APG, a couple figures ahead of Westbrook.

His shooting, although posting higher numbers, isn’t notably higher than in past seasons. Historically, he shoots at a 43.4% clip, and is actually a bit worse this year, at 42.4%. The difference is how many more shots he’s getting up: he’s on pace to hoist nearly 2,000 shots, compared to his career average of 1,430 (normalized over an 82 game season) – an increase of 36.6%.

A greater percentage of these shots are also from beyond the arc. Of his 977 attempted field goals, 257 have been three point shots (26%). For his career, he’s typically only looking for a three ball one out of every six times he puts up a shot, at 17%, and for a normalized season of 82 games, just 245 total, a number he’s already passed, on pace for 514 at the end of the 2016-2017 season, nearly 110% more than his career. Considering that recent history is a better indication of his shot distribution and volume, he’s still on pace for 42% more three point attempts than the past three seasons’ average.

Where his shooting has simply been an exercise in altering his shot distribution and increasing his volume, his work under the basket is more of a function of involvement: he’s demonstrated a significant increase in activity, averaging almost twice as many boards as a typical year, which is a testament to his own work and engagement.

Russ’s stats have always been impressive – for his career, his splits have been 22.1/5.9/7.8, which is a stellar line. But with Kevin Durant’s departure to Golden State, Westbrook has had more than his fair share of possessions, as offensive sets run right through him. Westbrook blows away the competition in usage rate, at 42%. The runners up: James Harden, Joel Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeMar DeRozan, ranging from 32.8%-35.2%. It’s really not even close.

What may be the coolest part about his offensive performance this year is his Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which is a measure of a player’s offensive performance compared to the rest of the league. For his career, he’s averaged a PER of 23.3, which is definite perennial all-star material. This year, his PER has skyrocketed to 29.7, which is almost as ridiculous as averaging a triple-double through 41 games. To put this in perspective, only 20 times has a player ended a season with a PER over 30.0 – the highest score ever was 31.84, which was Wilt Chamberlain. Michael Jordan and LeBron James lead the way with four 30+ seasons, with Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain having accomplished three each. The only other players to end a season with a PER over 30, and just once each: David Robinson, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Tracy McGrady, Anthony Davis, and Steph Curry. If he finishes the season with a PER over 30 to match his triple-double stat, he’ll join the ranks in all-time history in more ways than one.

He’s showing no indication that he’ll be slowing down any time soon, and if he doesn’t win the MVP award this year, it might be a travesty.

We’re witnessing greatness. History is happening right before our eyes. Don’t blink.

Note-A-Bulls: An ill Jimmy Butler leaves Bulls short-handed in loss to OKC

Well we’re 38 games into the 2016-2017 Chicago Bulls season, and they are who we thought they were: a team mired in mediocrity (thanks for the term Rick Hahn) with no clear direction. The Bulls need to take a page out of the White Sox playbook and sell their assets to rebuild for the future. Being a .500 team and the 7th seed in the East with an aging roster may be the worst situation in the NBA right now, minus the dumpster fire that is the Nets who mortgaged their future for a couple 40 years old a few years back. Jimmy deserves better, Hoiberg deserves a chance, and this fan base deserves better. Now let’s take a look at the 109-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (23-16) that dropped the Bulls to 19-19.

  • With Jimmy Butler suffering from the flu, the stud Guard could not duplicate the effort of his Herculean predecessor (MJ) from the ’97 Finals. Butler finished with just a singular point on 0/6 shooting from the field and clearly wasn’t himself, but credit his competitive nature for gutting out 29 minutes that could not have felt good for him. Without Jimmy, the Bulls were down to one alpha for the night.
  • Dwyane Wade was the most consistent threat for the Bulls throughout the night, scoring 22 on 7/16 shooting while also distributing six dimes. Wade also was able to get to the line on a consistent basis going 6/8 on the night. However, Wade could not do it all by himself on this night as he could not keep up with the electric Thunder attack.
  • Fan favorite Cristiano Felicio had himself a nice game, going for a double-double (11 points and 11 boards) on an efficient 5/6 shooting. Felicio’s energy is a breath of fresh air for this Bulls team and he almost always has an impact with his hustle when he’s on the floor. Obviously he will never be a star in this league, but Felicio has proven himself an asset to bring off the bench.
  • Unfortunately, the rest of the Bulls attack was meager to say the least. As a whole, the Bulls shot an appalling 40% (34/84) that would struggle to keep you competitive in a Big Ten brawl. This team is too one-dimensional to confuse any defense and not athletic enough to get to the hoop when that;s their most effective way to score. This team is not built to highlight their strengths or their coaches preferred game plan. For a coach that needs someone to space the floor for his plan to be executed, he hasn’t had the benefit of a bonafide starter whose strength that is.
  • Per usual, Russell Westbrook led the Thunder charge on Monday night. The California native had himself a near triple-double (an off night for him) with 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds. Westbrook is absolutely electric on a basis that is hard to comprehend. To play with that much fire night in and night out is truly a pleasure to watch for fans of the game.
  • Steven Adams also played a nice complimentary piece tonight scoring 22 on 11/14 shooting from the floor. Adams gives this team a much needed inside presence and needs to bring his scoring ability on a more consistent basis for the Thunder to be competitive in the top-heavy West.
  • Up Next: The Bulls head to our nations capital to take on the Wizard sans Butler and Wade. Apparently Rondo is scheduled to try and contain Wall, should be quite the spectacle.

BULLet Points: Merry Christmas! Bulls complete sweep of Thunder

  • The Bulls headed into rockin’ Oklahoma City and delivered a delightful Christmas gift in the form of a 105-96 victory. The Bulls led the entire 48 minutes. After a few demoralizing losses to inferior teams, Fred Hoiberg and co. needed this one.
  • Jimmy Butler was the man from start to finish. He pulled off highlight plays the entire game, with this buzzer beater worth watching a few more times:

  • Butler finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. He also did a great job containing Kevin Durant as much as humanly possible, consistently making him work to get his 29 points. Derrick Rose had a moderately encouraging day as well, finishing with 19 points and four rebounds on 7/18 shooting. He struggled to distribute the ball, finishing with just one assist.
  • In the absence of Joakim Noah (shoulder), the rest of the frontcourt stepped up in a big way. Nikola Mirotic started at small forward once again, and it actually worked out very nicely for Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls. Mirotic was a team-high +20 in only 16 minutes, adding seven rebounds and two blocks.
  • Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol were beasts. Gibson had 13 points and 10 boards in 34 minutes while Gasol was everywhere, tallying 21 points, 13 rebounds, and six dimes. The Thunder just don’t have anyone capable of stopping Gasol consistently inside, especially with Steven Adams in foul trouble early on. It was a great game for the duo, and hopefully a sign of more to come. The Bulls badly need more offensive production out of the frontcourt. With Joakim Noah out, the continued scoring of Gasol in particular will be critical.
  • Bobby Portis got another chance to shine with Noah out for a few weeks. His energy and offensive skill set are obviously exciting (the three point stroke!), but Portis is still raw. He has trouble guarding his man and still hasn’t learned the difference between an available shot and a good one. I’m looking forward to him getting more rotation minutes and improving. He had seven points, five rebounds, and three assists in 20 minutes.
  • The problem for the Thunder was a void of scoring from anyone besides Durant and Russell Westbrook, who tallied 26 points along with seven rebounds, eight assists, and six (!) steals. Serge Ibaka struggled mightily to hit anything and aside from Enes Kanter (a legitimately useful 14 and 12), none of Oklahoma City’s secondary options were able to provide a big enough boost.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to Dallas tomorrow night for a 7:30 matchup with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.

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.