Jazz feast on Bulls for Thanksgiving


Nov 27

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The Bulls played the Utah Jazz Thursday on Thanksgiving, so they seemed to accept the occasion as the turkeys with the Jazz as the hosts. That’s right. The Bulls got carved up badly in this one, mashed like a potato, creamed like corn, had the stuffing knocked out of them, squashed like a butternut and whipped like cream.

I know. That was pretty corny. But anything for a smile after this Bulls disaster of a 105-86 loss to the Jazz, the fourth consecutive game in which the Bulls trailed by at least 24 points.

Sorry. That’s just bad basketball. There’s no bright side to that. You lose like that and it means you are not competing.

“They played harder than us. That’s all I know,” said Joakim Noah, who had six points and nine rebounds, his third straight game failing to reach double figure rebounds after taking the league lead. “We’ve got to do something. We’re not competing like I know we’re capable of competing.”

Who’s idea was it to go heavy on the tryptophan for the pregame meal?

The Bulls now head back to the Midwest 1-4 on the trip with a final game in Milwaukee Monday. But this wasn’t that difficult a trip. Yes, the Bulls played very good teams, and maybe 1-4 with an opening win in Sacramento was not unreasonable. But there were no back to backs. You have to compete to the end in games like that.

At least one of them.

“We’ve got to do something,” said Derrick Rose, who had 19 points, but just two assists and four turnovers. “We’re not competing like I know we’re capable of competing. It’s on nobody’s shoulders. It’s a team effort and we’ve just got to stick together as a team and get it together because we’re not there yet. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but when we get home, we definitely need to go over it. We’ve got to communicate out there. We’re not communicating, and we are letting people do whatever.”

This one was so bad not only because of the score, and not only because the Jazz has no big huge front line like the Lakers or Trailblazers, and not because the Jazz had just lost at home to teams like Sacramento and Oklahoma City and won in overtime over Detroit.

This was a .500 Jazz team struggling to win at home and having difficulty scoring.

But led by Carlos Boozer with 28 points and Deron Williams with 21, the Jazz put on a basketball clinic at the Bulls expense, running an efficient offense that shot 60.8 percent and dominated inside with 62 points in the paint, the Bulls heads spinning as Jazz players, led by Ronnie Brewer, constantly went backdoor for dunks and penetrated and kicked out for wide open jumpers.

The Jazz had been toward the bottom of the league in steals and blocks but had 10 steals and eight blocks and led by 25 with four minutes to go despite missing 10 free throws.

The Bulls were led by 28 points from Luol Deng, who seemed the only Bulls player who felt activated for the game. Deng, who also had eight rebounds and four steals, went to the foul line 11 times. The only other starter with a free throw was John Salmons with one. Rose had zero free throws as the Bulls in falling behind 57-40 at halftime didn’t shoot their first free throw of the game until a minute left in the first half.

Yes. Live by the jump shot….

It was symbolic and instructive how the Jazz finished the first half with Brewer waiting on the baseline in the left corner and getting backdoor cuts for scores twice in the last 30 seconds as the Bulls tried to close the lane on top and the Jazz found the cutter wide open.

The Jazz had 29 assists on 45 baskets while the Bulls had 14 assists on 34 baskets. Utah had three players with at least six assists each. Salmons led the Bulls with five assists.

So that’s all you had to know of the Bulls constantly running high pick and rolls and taking an outside shot quickly while the Jazz moved the ball and found cutters off screens or shooters off drive and kick.

It was a delight to watch the Jazz offense, and the Bulls players must have loved it the way they seemed to be watching as well.

It actually was a good deal as they didn’t have to pay to get in and had a real close view of the action.

“They have a great offense, get easy baskets,” agreed Rose. “It’s probably the most effective offense in the NBA.”

The Bulls can talk about other games on this trip, like when they led Denver big early and pulled within four of Portland in the third. But this one was never very close. And they’d just had two days off while the Jazz was being crushed and booed at home Tuesday in the loss to the Thunder.

It seemed fairly obvious what was coming as the Jazz had two layups and a three foot floater within the first five minutes. The Bulls could point to Kirk Hinrich being out with a sprained left thumb from practice Wednesday. Hinrich will be reevaluated when the team returns home Friday, but it initially was not considered serious and not on the same hand he injured last season.

But Utah has been playing through injuries as well and had free agent rookie Wesley Matthews starting.

It was only close midway through the first quarter until Noah went out for a still ineffective Brad Miller, who was scoreless in 14 minutes.

Mehmet Okur put back a missed free throw and then hit a transition three after a Jannero Pargo miss to give the Jazz a 28-22 lead after one quarter.

The Bulls then opened the second quarter with Aaron Gray, back from injury, along with Miller, and the pairing was just too slow to keep up with the Jazz’ movement.

While the Bulls were firing away 20 footers, generally on a handoff or quick screen, the Jazz was picking the Bulls apart with movement. With Boozer up to set a screen, the Bulls defense calls for the big man to come out and blitz the screen. But the other big man was invariably too slow to rotate and Boozer and Millsap got layups for a 10-4 run before coach Vinny Del Negro got Noah back three minutes into the second quarter trailing 40-26.

“Our schedule hasn’t been kind to us, but those games are scheduled,” said Del Negro. “We’ve got to come out, find ways to keep ourselves in games.
We didn’t shoot the basketball well, especially in the second half, and we could never really put up a fight to get back in it and put some pressure on them. Their cuts, their movement, they shot it well.”

Boozer was obviously terrific all around making 12 of 14 shots and adding three blocks, five assists and eight rebounds. This was the first regular season games between the teams since Boozer-to-the-Bulls trade rumors last spring and Boozer’s comments this summer about wanting to play for the Bulls as the Jazz planned to trade him. He sure looked good, though Tyrus Thomas remains out. The Jazz insist they never tried to deal Boozer and all indications this season have been they have not entertained any offers for Boozer, who will be a free agent after this season and had mentioned Chicago and Miami this summer in radio interviews as his preferred destinations.

“You can see he’s back to where he was a couple of years ago when he was an All-Star,” said Williams. “Hopefully he can just keep producing like this because he’s playing great on both ends of the floor.”

Rose got it going a bit later in the second quarter and hit his first three of the season as the Bulls pulled within 10 before the Jazz ran those back door cuts and left the Bulls gaping and gasping.

I loved one of their plays late in the second when Williams came up to lay a backscreen on Noah and Boozer cut down the lane wide open for a layup on a pass from Andrei Kirilenko and that was what they meant about Malone and Stockton.

The Jazz continued to open it up after halftime and the contrast was stark.

With Utah leading 65-50, Salmons, who was four of 11 for nine points, isolated and took a long three that missed, dribbling to try to get open. The Jazz rebounded and Williams penetrated, drawing the defense and passing back to a wide open, squared up, standing still Okur for a three.

It was the Bulls searching out shots on their own or going quickly off screens while the Jazz got penetration and kick outs for good look. The Bulls were doing little to close with a hand up.

It was further symbolic with the Jazz playing for a final shot after getting the ball with 25.4 seconds left in the third. Kirilenko took a jumper as the 24-seconds clock went off. Apparently thinking the buzzer was the end of the quarter, two Bulls stood around as the ball came off and Brewer put it back in for an 81-65 lead after three.

“We didn’t play well, especially defensively,” said Deng. “They got whatever they wanted. Whatever kind of shot they threw up, whatever kind of shot they wanted to take they got it. I just really thought our defense was terrible.”

And that had been the best thing about the Bulls this season.

The Bulls, now 6-8, had given up 100 points just once in the first nine games. They’ve now yielded more than 100 points in the last four games, all losses, with the opponents averaging 111.8 points per game and shooting a combined 52 percent for the four games.

Pretty good teams and on the road. But, hey, not the ’86 Celtics or ’96 Bulls.

As Mark Jackson would certainly say: C’mon, Bulls. You’ve got to be better than that.

In the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, the Jazz got three dunks.  The Bulls opened with a trap and the Jazz busted it easily for an Okur dunk on a fast break. Paul Millsap spun and had a reverse dunk on Miller after a nice run out and three-point play from James Johnson, who had a career best 10 points in 18 minutes and showed he deserves some playing time.

But then after Johnson missed a three, Brewer ran out and took a lob from Williams for a dunk. It was pretty much over from there as the Jazz made 10 of their first 11 fourth quarter shots.

You can run, and the Bulls have to with those limited three-point shooting and postup options. The Jazz isn’t a good shooting team and made just two threes. But they took smart shots, moved the ball, laid bodies on guys and attacked the basket. Just basketball.

“We’ve got to compete better,” said Deng. “This road trip was definitely a tough road trip. I know it’s been a long road trip so we didn’t finish it up the way we wanted to, but we played a lot of great teams on this trip. We’ve just got to try to get better for the future.”

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