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Bulls crack like a bell in Philadelphia
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 3
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It may not be time to panic after Saturday’s 107-104 Bulls’ loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But is it a quarter to time?
“I don’t think he’s playing poorly,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said about Derrick Rose, who had the basketball game equivalent of a bad cheese steak, or just a cheese steak, with 13 points on four of 14 shooting and eight turnovers, three in the last three minutes. “I think our team is playing poorly right now. We have to straighten that out. When things are going well, they go well together. When things aren’t going well, we do that as a team, too. We have some issues that we have to correct. We just have to work our way through it.”
It was a discouraging loss for the Bulls, who led by 20 points in the first half, still by 18 four minutes into the third quarter and even by eight with seven minutes left. And to a 76ers’ team, notwithstanding their win over Miami the night after the Heat swamped the Bulls, that not only was playing the second of a back to back with the Bulls coming in rested, but who were regarded coming into the season as perhaps the poorest team in the NBA.
But the 76ers led by impressive rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who outplayed Rose with 26 points, 10 assists and three steals, outran, outhustled, and out scrapped the Bulls pretty much all over the floor to pull out the win. The 76ers are 3-0 while the Bulls are 1-2.
“I would have to say the turnovers,” Rose offered about the night’s most disappointing element, though there were many. “The missed shots I can deal with. My rhythm is going to come, but turnovers, I had like two or three of them in a row, which we couldn’t afford at that time.
“I would have to say I’m not playing well right now,” agreed Rose, whose comeback from knee surgery after missing all last season has been one of the big stories in the NBA. “I would blame tonight on me: Turnovers, missed shots, missed communication on defense. I just can’t wait to get in my groove. I can’t hang my head, I can’t beat myself up. I know I’ve worked too hard for that, so it’s going to come.”
Soon would be better, obviously, for the Bulls who are one amazing Rose game winner away from an 0-3 start and extra scouting on Andrew Wiggins.
Most of the United States turned the clocks back last night, and so the Bulls looked a bit like 2003 as well.
You wouldn’t tell it from the box score, where the Bulls had a 51-39 rebounding edge with 17-10 on the offensive boards. The Bulls also had a huge 23-10 edge in fast break points and 56-44 on inside points. But the rebuilding 76ers, several of whom no doubt still have Rose posters on their walls, never stopped running and never seemed to tire the Bulls after the Bulls led 64-49 at halftime.
The 76ers seemed to pick up every key loose ball, usually a certainty for the opportunistic Bulls, including the back breaker when Carter-Williams retrieved his own miss on the floor with Bulls players sprawled all over and put it back for a 100-99 76ers lead with 3:30 left, their first lead since about five minutes into the game.
But it looked like Rose was going to do it again as in the midst of this brutal shooting game once again (he’s now 15 of 52 on the season), Rose took a pass from Carlos Boozer in the left corner and made a three pointer with 2:12 remaining for a 104-102 Bulls lead.
“If you look at all the great players in this league, you’ll find that they’ve all had games,” said Thibodeau. “But when the ball’s in his hands, which it’s going to be in his hands a lot, more often than not he’s making a great play for us.”
It seemed so again.
But the Bulls defense has been poor basically all three games. Opponents are shooting 45 percent overall, but 31 of 66 on threes with the 76ers making 11 of 22 Saturday. Whereas the Bulls have been known for their great closeouts on shooters, 76ers business management seemed upset so many Bulls players were admitted free given how much they seemed to behaving like spectators and observing the action.
The Bulls offense also wasn’t much more active or entertaining when in the half court with little side to side movement, the ball with a bit too much dribbling settling toward one side before everyone trotted back to see what was next.
The 76ers came out of a timeout at 2:12 left after that Rose three with a terrific play from rookie head coach Brett Brown, formerly on the Spurs staff. They got a mid paint screen from Spencer Hawes as Evan Turner suckered Jimmy Butler with a back door cut and easy layup to tie the game at 104 with 1:59 left.
Then it was the Derrick Rose bakery with a turnover here, a turnover there.
First Rose went down the left side, leaped and threw a cross court pass into the 11th row. Rose always has had this not-so-fundamental habit of throwing jump passes. But he’s been so quick and able to seemingly hang he gets away with them. Not in a game like this.
Turner, who had 20 points, pulled a back door again on Butler as Butler became occupied watching Carter-Williams razzle dazzle on top. Turner was fouled, making one of two for a 105-104 Philadelphia lead with 1:28 left. It was not seemingly so sunny in Philadelphia for the Bulls.
The Bulls were running their screens, and they got the mismatch they wanted as Carter-Williams got caught on Luol Deng. But Carter-Williams stripped Deng on his drive, resulting in the jump ball. Deng won the jump back to Rose, who drove and basically threw the ball into the air, losing it as he made his move to the basket. The 76ers recovered.
Carter-Williams missed, and Rose went again.
Look, that’s the Bulls offense with Rose. It was when he was healthy and it will be again that is is healthy. They don’t have some elaborate system of offense. Thibodeau runs many inventive plays, but it’s mostly a series of screens and cuts, and down the stretch it’s Rose. For better or worse. You don’t have a divorce, at least right away, when things aren’t going well. You try to work it out. The Bulls intend to.
“So if he has a bad game you’re not going to overreact,” said Thibodeau. “You’re not going to under react. You study, you analyze, and then you go back at it.”
So Rose went back at it trailing by one.
He made his move, crossing over and blowing by Carter-Williams and getting to the rim on the left side. The biggest issue with Rose seems not to be an issue any longer. Rose’s speed and quickness is impressive. He’s beating opponents off the dribble. His knee seems strong. But he’s gone back to avoiding contact on drives, thus not getting many foul calls. Rose did so again as he got to the rim and missed. Boozer rebounded and dropped the ball to Rose just getting back in bounds. Rose passed on top to Noah, who hot potatoed it immediately to Deng on the left wing. Deng’s three went long and to the 76ers.
With about 30 seconds left, the 76ers came into the front court leading 105-104. And flummoxed the Bulls’ defense again. The 76ers continually got center Spencer Hawes stepping outside as he had 18 points with a pair of threes. The Bulls had to know what he’d been doing as he beat Washington that way Friday night.
But Noah and Taj Gibson kept laying off trying to help inside with defensive rebounding.
Hawes came out high and screened for Carter Williams. Rose did a pretty good job staying with Carter-Williams, but Noah drifted off to help. Noah then belatedly ran out toward Hawes as Carter-Williams threw him the ball. Noah flew by as Hawes stepped inside and made a 16 footer with 5.9 seconds left for the 107-104 lead. Again, in the last five minutes, Rose had the only Bulls field goal as teammates were zero for four otherwise.
The Bulls called timeout and as they brought Rose toward the ball, Mike Dunleavy inbounded crosscourt to Deng, who missed a three. Butler got a tie up on the rebound, but his tap to Dunleavy went out of bounds to end the game.
“We understood what everyone has said and written about us,” said 76ers coach Brown. “We just want to knock out great days, and I think that those days have added up. We came in when we all met trying to empower the players and trying to have a system that was proactive and fitness-based that allowed us to get out and go. And let young guys play and let the veterans be able to enjoy their individual improvement in a system that, I hope, is disciplined but is free-flowing. I think it’s a point guard’s league, and I think that Michael Carter-Williams is for real. It sure makes running a team and coaching a team a heck of a lot easier when you have a point guard of his ability, albeit at a young age.”
Thibodeau used to say that.
Well, we’re not writing Rose off yet.
“Me just doing too much, overthinking the play,” said Rose. “We blew a lead and at the end they got to almost every loose ball and hit almost every shot that they needed to win the game.”
The Bulls got 20 points from Deng, but he shot eight of 21. Boozer led the Bulls in scoring again with 22 points and a team high 10 rebounds on nine of 16 shooting, the only starter who shot at least 50 percent. But once again the Bulls did not look for him much down the stretch as he did not have a shot in the fourth quarter, though he only played about four minutes.
And once again you can’t blame it on the bossa nova, but you can blame it on shooting.
The Bulls were three of 14 on threes and now 13 for 56 on the season, 23 percent. The Warriors’ Stephen Curry alone has made 16 threes in three games. The Bulls are last in the league, 30th, in three point shooting. They are 20th overall in shooting percentage. It’s amazing they have been even this close with such horrendous shooting.
Though Joakim Noah with 10 points and nine rebounds hit two outside jumpers in the first half, he didn’t make any after halftime and later in the game again began to pass up shots as the defense sank off him. Butler had nine points, six rebounds and four assists and continued to show great hustle and a nose for the ball. But he attempted just six shots and still tends to pass up shots to drive the ball.
Taj Gibson had a strong effort with 12 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes, finishing strong on the break. And Dunleavy made three of seven shots. He’d only had 11 shots in the first two games. Again, the Bulls went with a tight rotation with eight players and Nazr Mohammed getting about eight minutes.
So teams continue to dare the Bulls to take outside shots. They’ll come out if they make a few. They haven’t yet. Rose has been trying to involve his teammates. But they’re either not making or not taking too often. And thus the driving lanes are like the Eisenhower with road construction.
So the way the 76ers wanted to play seemed a good fit.
The 76ers are in full push mode with the ball, playing and shooting quickly. Though obviously it’s something they’ve trained for and their players again looked fresher in the second half as they came from behind to win all three games this season.
But the way the Bulls have been shooting and with Rose’s quickness, a fast game fit the Bulls well.
The Bulls nosed ahead in the 76ers track meet to start, leading 34-22 after the first quarter with 24 of the 34 points inside. Noah and Gibson made the only shots outside 10 feet as the Bulls shot 62 percent. The Bulls continued to pour it on in the second quarter as Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich made threes and the Bulls raced to a 63-43 advantage.
They let up some in the last minute of the half as Carter-Williams scored twice, but still led 64-49 at halftime. Boozer was dominating inside and the Bulls’ size and Rose’s speed seemed too much for the 76ers on their back to back.
Maybe those old lady glasses holders around Rose’s neck were good luck.
But the 76ers got up off their backs, and I thought overconfidence creeping in for the Bulls, or fatigue, began to show. Rose threw a lazy crosscourt pass on a fast break while ahead 68-53. The 76ers picked it off and went back and scored early in the third. Then midway through the third, Rose was walking the ball up when Carter-Williams stripped it and scored when the Bulls were leading 77-65 midway through the third. Every time it seemed the Bulls might break away the Bulls began to break.
Rose went out with the Bulls still up seven with about five minutes left in the third quarter. So it hardly was a loss because of Rose. The Bulls then went flat, closing the quarter with three turnovers in the last minute, consecutives ones by Hinrich. And then it was a game as the Bulls now were hanging on ahead 83-82 going into the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good young team and they kept going,” said Rose. “Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner fired them up and they played a great game.”
Still, the Bulls seemed to take the game back to open the fourth with a strong defensive stand. Hinrich pressured and made a steal and Gibson with a block led to consecutive Philadelphia turnovers. Gibson ran out and slammed on a fast break, Dunleavy made a jumper and then Noah put back his own miss and the Bulls appeared to regain control with a 93-84 lead with 8:28 left.
Dunleavy made another shot and Deng battled for a Noah miss and score to give the Bulls a 97-90 lead with 5:57 left. But Carter-Williams burned Rose and the Bulls for a three-point play out of the timeout and this time it was the kiddie 76ers making the big plays and the Bulls continuing with the it’s early analysis. But you also know when the clocks turn back it gets darker earlier.
“For me, “ said Rose, “just continue to take the shots they’re giving me. I’m going to have that breakthrough game.”