Well, it had to happen eventually. A team doesn't play a full season in this league without throwing up a complete clunker where they don't even compete. There were a lot of things that could have been going on in this game.
First and foremost, the Magic are awesome. Team's aren't beating the Magic without bringing their 'A' game, and if the Magic also bring their 'A' game like last night, then it's going to be tough to win no matter how you play.
Second, you wonder if the team came out with some sense of complacency after having a pretty good road trip. All the fans and media were quick to point out how great the road trip is and while Joakim Noah termed the expectations for the Bulls 'poison', you wonder if sub consciously it started to sink in a bit around the team.
Next, Carlos Boozer's return obviously changes up the rotations and the style of play. In the long run, this is a good thing, but in the short run it forces everyone to refigure out their role, play with different people, at different times, in a different style.
How do you feel Noah vs Howard went in this game?
It's an interesting discussion:
Howard 13 points on 5/12 shooting, four assists, three turnovers offensively.
Noah 16 points on 6/11 shooting, four assists, no turnovers offensively.
They each had one block.
Sounds like Joakim Noah won the battle doesn't it?
Did I forget to mention Dwight Howard had 12 rebounds and Joakim Noah had none?
4 of those rebounds were offensive and the results of them were largely represented in Howard's points, so to give him more credit for them is almost double counting in a way. The real difference though that Noah was putting in so much work to keep Howard off the glass that the he couldn't get on it himself.
On the defensive end he remained grounded trying to keep his body into Howard's to keep him off the glass. Despite Howard's rebounding totals, this was fairly successful, most of Howard's rebounds came when Noah went to help or when Howard was defended by someone else. The problem was that when Noah wasn't skying for rebounds because he was bodied on Howard, the Bulls didn't box out everyone else.
Howard created so much pressure on the Bulls offense with his ability to get position that he also created most of the Magic's open three point shots, even when he wasn't directly passing the ball or even touching the ball. Though the numbers didn't entirely tell the story, Howard dominated the game.
Carlos Boozer will get better, but struggled in this one.
With Noah locked into Howard and using all his strength to try and keep Howard off the glass, the Bulls needed their PF to step up and grab all those boards while Noah was just boxing ou Howard. Carlos Boozer didn't do that (neither did Taj Gibson for that matter).
He had a matchup of finesse vs power, and finesse won out. Boozer struggled to stay with Lewis on the perimeter, often cheating up to help on Howard but unable to get back which allowed Lewis to go 3/5 from behind the arc. The unfortunate thing is that with all the cheating he was around the hoop enough to help the rebounding battle but didn't.
On the offensive end, he was a bit too rusty to punish Lewis with his power and strength. It's a matchup that I expect Boozer to win next time the team's meet, but unsurprisingly Boozer struggled in his first game this season.
Luol Deng let Carter get too many easy points.
Deng's usually a great system defender, rebounder, and low mistake type of player. However, he let Carter get slip past him for multiple offensive rebounds and tip ins to get easy points early.
While ultimately, the Bulls had a complete breakdown everywhere, Deng was another guy who really needed to step up and contain his man on the glass and help the Bulls with his own rebounding, but he really failed to do so.
He also failed to contribute much offensively going only 2/8 from the field though at least one of his makes was a three.
Derrick Rose had his moments, but it wasn't enough.
Early on, Rose kept hitting shots to keep the Bulls in the game. Through one quarter, the game was close enough that the Bulls were still right there, largely because Rose carried the team. However, he couldn't keep it up all game long, and seemed to lose interest in really forcing the issue when the Bulls were down by a huge margin.
Given the fact that Howard's knocked Rose out of the game twice, I'm not all that disappointed that Rose didn't go nuts throwing his body around with a 20 point deficit against the Magic in the late 3rd and 4th quarter though.
Tom Thibodeau went back to the hockey line theory of coaching
This was one of the key points of the game. The Bulls are down by 6. Dwight Howard goes to the bench. Tom Thibodeau comes out with five bench players. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and C.J. Watson. The lineup goes down by 5 points over four minutes (it was worse at times).
At a point where you have a chance to climb back in the game, why go full on bench? I was highly critical of this substitution as the Bulls were getting smeared by doing it earlier in the season, and Thibodeau responded by keeping Noah, Rose, or Deng on the floor at all times for the most part. A plan which was highly successful.
Now if the Bulls had kept one of those guys in the game here, would it have made a difference? At this point, the game is still very winnable, and with Howard out, it was a chance for the team to make some hay and get it close again. However, instead they fall down by even more, and when both teams go back to the starters, Orlando's starters win again.
Now the Bulls are down by an insurmountable lead and basically quit the game. If the Bulls had found a way to capitalize here, and instead go +5, then they'd have been sitting around a 10 point deficit at the half, they came out strong in the second half, and the game would have had an entirely different complexion.
Granted, it's way too much to say the Bulls would have won given how poorly they played the rest of the game, but the pressure and momentum would have been entirely different, and the game really turned from winnable to out of hand largely because of this stretch.
In defense of the five bench man lineup, Gibson was recently starting, and Brewer probably should be starting. Still, I think in the long run Deng, Boozer, Rose, or Noah should always stay on the court.
They tried the "You're our only hope James Johnson" substitution a bit too late.
I say it in jest, but have you noticed James Johnson has a Pargo like role for the team? We're screwed, throw out James Johnson and hope for something good. Then something good happened twice to help the Bulls win. Johnson did provide a lot of energy and positive play, but he came in the fourth with the game was already decided.
I like that he played well, and I think you can make a case that Bogans should just not play while Johnson steals all his minutes, but Johnson playing better almost mucks up your rotation more as it's one more guy off the bench to go to, but who has no real minutes available.
Every team has some dud games, and this was the Bulls first this season. However, you really don't like to see them in games that you're hoping for a statement game. I'd imagine that Tom Thibodeau is going to have some choice words to the team.