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Bulls make soft comeback again in 9th straight loss
by Sam Smith
Posted on Mar 18
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So I’m hearing now despite the Bulls losing again, 113-106 to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday, that there were a lot of positive signs.
Like Acie Law with 22 points on just eight field goal attempts as he got to the line with seven free throws. Like James Johnson back in the starting lineup and running the wing aggressively for 11 points and several dunks. Like Hakim Warrick off the bench for 13 points and the Bulls again fighting back with a big fourth quarter to get within striking distance of a win with plenty of time left in the game.
Nonsense! The Bulls once again in losing their ninth straight were uncompetitive and had the opponents effectively laughing at them. They gagged as soon as the game became relatively close and for the second straight game fell behind by 25 points.
And not exactly to the ’96 Bulls or ’86 Celtics.
This was a Mavs team blown out by the Knicks at home in their last game. The Grizzlies, who wrecked the Bulls Tuesday, aren’t even a playoff team and lost badly Wednesday to another non playoff team, Houston.
The Mavs didn’t even play Jason Kidd in the fourth quarter.
Yes, yes, I know. The Bulls remain without Derrick Rose, who’ll probably be back against Cleveland Friday from a sprained wrist, Joakim Noah, who should be back Saturday in Philadelphia, though for limited minutes with his plantar fasciitis, and Luol Deng, who’s calf injury doesn’t seem to be improving and isn’t expected back this week. Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro Wednesday said Deng suffered a setback trying to run these last few days.
Still, I recall the Bulls going into Golden State and playing a bunch of D-leaguers and losing.
It’s not that difficult. You aren’t looking at Oscar, Bird, Wilt, Michael and Malone out there.
The Bulls got their butts kicked down the stretch when it mattered by J.J. Barea, with Rodrique Beaubois the two midget Mavs combining for 26 for the game on 10 of 14 shooting.
But Barea did kick butt in the D-league a few years back.
Think they’ll be playing much when the Mavs play the Lakers or Nuggets or Spurs?
Del Negro wasn’t fooled. I give him credit. He’s not being conned by these faux comebacks. It’s easy to play after you are behind by 25. There’s no pressure, and no one expects anything of you, including the opposition. There aren’t any more Jordans. They don’t try to kill you anymore when you are losing. Otherwise, how could they hug like all the players do these days after games? C’mon, at least pretend you’re upset when you lose.
Someone tried to throw Del Negro a softball question in the postgame about Law playing well, and Vinny was having none of it.
Good for him. It would be easy in classic Cubs-fans-in-September fashion to look at the kids and say how bright the future could be and what depth we’ll have. But Vinny knows. He knows you can compete with all the first round picks and NBA players the Bulls have on the roster without Rose, Deng and Noah. If they wanted to. Vinny hasn’t seen that they have.
Asked if his play will earn Law more time, Del Negro veered off.
“Everyone has got to improve,” he said. “I never really worry about guys’ offensive tools. I think Acie has proven that he can get to the basket and do some things. But we’ve got to tighten up some things defensively. That’s how we won early in the season. We can’t control the paint and we’re not controlling penetration as well as we’d like.”
In other words, don’t stand there admiring shooters, as Law and Warrick and several of the new and young guys did. Warrick was active offensively down the stretch, but he had one rebound. C’mon, you’re 6-9. You ought to get hit in the head by at least one rebound without even trying.
You know the old saying, “Nice game, you got one more rebound than a dead man.”
This is the Mavs, after all, not exactly your lock down defensive team.
They call him Irk Nowitzki. You know, no D.
“It (defense) was a little bit better in both games in the second half,” said Del Negro, shrugging about an observation regarding the second straight second half comeback from 25 behind. “It wasn’t anything anyone’s real pleased about. We should be able to play a little bit better defensively, I feel. When we’ve gotten into people and more aggressive.”
Which the Bulls weren’t much once again.
Kirk Hinrich was back from his one game suspension, and while he doesn’t look as flashy as Law driving to the basket and scoring, he, at least, was trying to get up on defense, pressure and compete. And then when he looked around he was alone. The frustration boiled over once again as the Bulls were headed to giving up at least 100 points for the 12th straight game.
Nowitzki gave Hinrich a push going for a loose ball with about two minutes remaining and the Bulls trailing by 10. Hinrich retaliated with an elbow to Nowitzki’s. Big, bad Kirk. But, hey, at least someone showed some fight. It’s why I would have put Joe Alexander in as he’s bolted to the bench even with all the injuries. I recalled against the Hawks toward the beginning of this month of blowouts, he was in for some garbage time and threw a nice cross body block chasing a loose ball. When everyone hid when Dwight Howard ko’d Rose again, Alexander came in late and committed four fouls. I don’t know his skill level, but he seems to want to compete.
I’m afraid I haven’t seen much of that of late.
Doesn’t anyone get tired of being beaten and beat up every game?
Taj Gibson, after a poor effort against Memphis as he fights his plantar fasciitis, came out with a strong move to the basket and followup slam. But the Bulls were shockingly indifferent in allowing Mavs shooters open look after open look. The Mavs shot almost 70 percent in the first quarter to lead 32-20. The Mavs pushed the ball in transition whenever they could and pulled up for open shots. It was almost like the state three-point shooting contest in Illinois this week, which includes some familiar names like James Stack, the son of former Bulls executive Jim, making his second consecutive appearance, and Charlie Morrissey, son of my former newspaper colleague, Rick Morrissey.
They’ll be guarded in the contest about like the Bulls were defending the Mavs shooters Wednesday, at least through three quarters.
It got worse in the second quarter as the Bulls were so soft I thought I saw some tissue paper company executives trying to sign up some of the players for endorsement deals.
“This tissue is so soft you can use it to guard Mavs and Grizzlies players like we do.”
The Mavs laughed their way to a 60-35 lead after a Barea three as I swore I saw someone signal to the Bulls bench for a camera so they could get a good, close up shot of him shooting.
“In the first half we gave up a lot of fast break points,” noticed Hinrich, trying to be diplomatic.
Asked generally how the team could improve, he said: “Well, defensively.”
“I don’t know they finished up the game with but in the first half they were shooting a very high percentage (just 65.8 percent). I’m assuming they finished the game that way,” said Hinrich, though the Mavs eased off considerably and ended at 52 percent. “We’ve got to dig in on defense. We’re shorthanded. Everybody’s got to step up.”
The Mavs led 64-44 at halftime, and you could almost hear Bulls players proudly thinking they’re not as bad as the Timberwolves, who gave up 152 on Tuesday. The Bulls attempted four free throws in the first half. So what do you think they were doing other than admiring their long jumpers?
The Mavs kept the lead around 20 most of the third quarter until Law ended the third with a three to bring the Bulls within 88-72.
And here come the Bulls!
Hello, as Norm used to say, “Give me 48 minutes.”
The Bulls have become pretty impressive 12-minute men of late and they scored on 11 of their first 12 possessions of the fourth quarter.
Chris Richard, who does try despite his limitations, got a dunk on a Warrick pass and a nice follow. He had a team high nine rebounds in just 14 minutes. Law has strong moves to the basket and spun by Barea for a drive and three point play. He’s never really gotten a chance to play behind Mike Bibby in Atlanta and with guard oriented teams in Charlotte and Golden State. But he’s not really a point guard as he doesn’t pass much. He’s a good scorer, but also kept going way under screens against Barea, who lit up the Bulls for 10 fourth quarter points on four of five shooting with a pair of threes.
“JJ really stepped up big in the fourth quarter and saved us,” said Nowitzki, who had 26 while Caron Butler added 27 with 14 of 16 from the line. “He made some big shots, two big three’s, two pull up jumpers behind the screens because they left him open and he really used the screen and knocked some shots down.”
The guy’s about 5-10 and 170 pounds. You can’t guard that guy? But, yeah, he did kill at Northeastern. Oh, that’s right. He averaged 7.2 as a senior.
Warrick had a pretty baseline slam dunk and Law a nice baseline drive where he used his body to hold off the defense and scored. He does have talent. That got the Bulls within 98-90 with 6:30 left. Game on, eh?
Nowitzki missed, but Johnson then ran down out of control and lost the ball with a chance to get to six.
Law then got a nice view of a Barea jumper from about six feet away without even trying to get to him as Dallas went back up by 10. It was hardly only Law, and I know he’s not used to playing this much, and they wouldn’t have been close without him and it’s not like Rose is Michael Cooper. But at least make the effort.
Brad Miller got it back to seven with a three point play and Jason Terry missed a jumper. It’s 100-93 with 5:34 left.
You know what’s coming. Hinrich handed off to Johnson, who decided to make a side to side move and traveled. Ooops, turnover again.
Barea then got a three over Hinrich. Murray missed a three, but Hinrich stole a pass the other way and pitched ahead to Murray, who threw the ball away, the third turnover in the last five Bulls possessions once they got within seven. And then Barea did beat them to the basket with a finger roll after Shawn Marion got an offensive rebound for a 105-93 lead. Hinrich then committed an offensive foul on a ridiculous Barea flop. I loved Barea trying to take the ball from Hinrich after the call and Hinrich slapping his arm away.
He’s Bad Bad Kirk, meaner than a junk yard dog.
Barea then stepped back over the three point line with Law again six feet from him and dropped in a three to make it 108-93 with 3:36 left. Make it 10 straight points for J.J. Barea, superstar.
So when Dallas had to play, they basically sent anyone out to beat the Bulls.
That left the Bulls at 31-36 and with Toronto and Charlotte winning, the Bulls fell two and a half games out of eighth (with Toronto having the tiebreaker) and three games behind in the loss column. That’s pretty far behind. You began to wonder with the Clippers winning whether the Bulls now were better off losing all their games to fall behind the Clippers for the 10th worst record.
That way they wouldn’t have to swap picks with the Bucks. Though the Clippers are six back, and the Bulls are not out of it, especially with Rose and Noah returning. But that swap of picks seems almost certain as the Bulls have the 11th worst record now and could hardly fall behind the Clippers without completely dumping the rest of the schedule. Which we really don’t want to see. The Bulls ought to be able to compete even despite the injuries, and you have to hope for much better than we’ve seen lately.
It’s up to them.