Bulls shot down in Miami


Nov 2

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Can’t anyone here make a shot?

It’s something of a paraphrase of Casey Stengel’s famous line about his 1962 New York Mets and whether anyone here can play this game. The Bulls aren’t that bad. But in losing to the Miami Heat Sunday 95-87, an unsettling pattern is beginning to develop.

This Bulls team can’t make shots. The Bulls shot 40.9 percent Sunday and now are 41 percent for the season, 24th in the NBA and 28th in points scored. You’d bring up Ben Gordon, though the Pistons are 29th in points scored.

The only reason you’d say the Bulls aren’t shooting themselves in the foot is they’d probably miss.

I thought the bigger issue was that the Bulls seemed to be getting good shots. You’d almost wish more were contested. Kirk Hinrich is two of 13 on threes. John Salmons is three of 19. They are the team’s long distance court spreaders along with Jannero Pargo, who is one of three on threes in limited playing time. The team, overall, is seven of 43 on threes.

This looks like it could be a problem.

Though it looks like there could be a bigger one with Derrick Rose, who perhaps we shall call Stem Rose for now. Because this Rose isn’t close to being in bloom. Rose looked back to health in an impressive opening night win over the Spurs.

But in the two games since, Rose is averaging nine points and 3.5 assists and shooting 34 percent.

“He is not 100 percent,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “Derrick has to play with more thrust. His conditioning isn’t great. That will come back. He’ll keep working and go from there.”

Rose, as we know missed all preseason with an ankle problem, and it seems still a problem. He’s been in position to explode to the basket and dunk as we’ve seen before and has backed off. You have to wonder now whether it may be best to shut him down until he’s fully ready, though Rose wants no part of that.

Sure, the Bulls are 1-2, and given the teams and road games that’s the start that generally was expected. Maybe not even that with the Spurs the opener. But for this Bulls team to have success, Rose has to be a scorer. With Gordon gone, I felt Rose should average 20 points per game this season. He can. But not in this condition. Though Rose insists he’s getting closer.

“I missed a lot of lay-ups,” Rose said Sunday. “I’ve got to get back in rhythm. We had the game and let it slip. Shots I usually hit, I was missing. We played better than last game. John (Salmons) found his stroke. I just have to step up my game.”

Rose will have to do it quickly as the Bulls Tuesday face the Milwaukee Bucks with lightning quick rookie point guard Brandon Jennings, who has been outrunning even quick guards like Lou Williams. We hate to say it. Or see it. But Rose is playing, at least for now, like an ordinary, unexceptional guard who only can make some plays and is burned on defense.

Rose did look a bit like the rookie sensation midway through the second quarter when he hesitated and drove left strong for a layup, though that was when he had Michael Beasley on a switch. But it was a tough sequence shortly thereafter when Mario Chalmers stole the ball from Rose and went down and scored and when Rose tried to repay, his shot was blocked by Beasley. That gave Miami a 42-37 lead late in the second quarter. The Bulls climbed back, but Wade finished up the Heat’s first half scoring with the play of the game, splitting the double team on the perimeter with a behind-the-back dribble and then reversing lands coming in for a left handed layup and 49-48 Heat halftime lead.

It’s why the Bulls, among likely several other teams, are dreamily contemplating the possibilities of Wade as a free agent next summer. Though Wade has been mostly making light of it, last week when the Heat played the Knicks and Sunday against the Bulls as he’s given no hints or any real reasons at this point why he’d want to leave the Heat. Especially with Miami off to its best start in five years and just third time ever 3-0.

Still, the Bulls played a spirited, competitive game Sunday, exchanging leads seven times throughout the fourth quarter and 15 times overall with six ties. The Bulls missed their last six shots and didn’t make another field goal after Salmons, with 17 points and better seven of 14 shooting, gave the Bulls an 83-82 lead with his only three pointer of the game with 3:54 remaining.

The Bulls missed a chance to extend that brief lead when Luol Deng, who was terrific with 26 points and eight rebounds, missed and Joakim Noah missed a tip chance.

Wade, who led the 3-0 Heat with 25 points and scored his 10,000th point in the game, then hit a baseline jumper for a lead the Heat wouldn’t relinquish.

Rose followed with a drive, but his layup attempt spun out. Udonis Haslem, who was a difference maker with 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, then hit a 17 footer. Salmons then had his drive blocked by Joel Anthony, who’d just entered for the ineffective Jermaine O’Neal. Hinrich got the miss but was off on a jumper. Wade then effectively clinched the game as the Bulls closed on him as you are supposed to do, and he dropped the ball off to Quentin Richardson. Pretty much dominated by Deng all game, Richardson sent in a three pointer for an 89-83 Miami lead with 1:40 left.

Rose then tried a drive when it appeared he could dunk, but backed off and missed. Deng fought for the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws. Wade then missed and Joakim Noah, with 10 points and seven rebounds and a good job on O’Neal, was fouled on a rebound and made both to bring the Bulls back within 89-87 with 1:02 left. But Haslem hit still another jumper on another Wade pass.

“The one with Q (Richardson), we had just talked about in the huddle,” said Wade. “I had seen it the previous play and he was going to have an opportunity to get a shot up and he knocked it down. And UD (Haslem), he’s been shooting the heck out of the ball. When I drove I saw the defense coming and I saw him the whole time and he knocked it down. It all about trust, and my teammates are doing a great job in these first games in making us believe in each other.”

Rose then threw wildly to Hinrich on a baseline drive coming out of a timeout. Hinrich tried to save the ball back to Rose, but Rose had not gotten back on the court and it was a turnover and little left but to foul and head for the airport.

“We had some open looks,” said Del Negro. “We didn’t knock them down. We had an opportunity on the road (13-28 last season and now 0-2). We didn’t capitalize down the stretch. We didn’t shoot the ball well enough to put pressure on them. We didn’t get stops when we had to.”

It was, still, for the most part, an entertaining game, close and contested throughout. Though I wondered about Tyrus Thomas playing so little (21 minutes), including not at all in the fourth quarter. We often wince about Thomas, but I felt he did well when he was in there and could have helped with his size.

Del Negro went long parts of the game with a small lineup that had Deng at power forward, and I thought Noah was at a huge disadvantage fighting for offensive rebounds with so little help. When Del Negro went big, it usually was with Noah and Brad Miller playing together as James Johnson clearly isn’t in the rotation and the team basically is playing eight with Rose already at 35 minutes.

Coming into the game, the Bulls looked to get slumping Salmons and Deng going, and both responded early. Each hit five of seven shots in the first quarter as the Bulls took a 27-24 lead. Noah added another perimeter jumper, and it looked like Wade would have to hold off the Bulls on his own as he had 11 in the first.

Deng did a good job posting up and scoring on the smaller Richardson, and Salmons got off the three point line and started driving and shooting his more reliable pullup.

The Bulls got hurt in the second quarter and early in the fourth when Wade went out and a reserve unit led by Carlos Arroyo with 12 points didn’t allow the Bulls to extend their lead or take advantage of Wade’s absence.

The Bulls did pull ahead 62-57 in the third with a sharp Salmons lob to Noah, Thomas getting fouled and making both and Deng hitting a jumper on a Rose drive and pitch. But Wade came right back with a three point play, and the Bulls went into the fourth leading 70-69 when Deng caught a Pargo airball and put it in.

The Bulls opened the fourth with a steal, though Pargo botched a two-on-one when he got his shot blocked from behind by Dorell Wright and the Bulls actually lost ground to the Heat reserves.

In fact, Haslem and Arroyo combined for 12 fourth quarter points, one fewer than the Bulls starters as the Bulls shot 28.6 percent in the fourth and scored just 17 points.

“I thought we played hard,” said Del Negro. “We had open shots, good looks. We did not knock them down.”

It seems to be a developing pattern.

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