So the Bulls aren't playing great basketball lately. Derrick Rose wasn't able to attack the basket at his usual rate, the Bulls completely failed to box out and defend the glass. In the first quarter, 10 of the first 12 Bucks points came off of offensive rebounds (it may have been worse, but I had stopped counting at 12).
They got little love from the refs who seemed to routinely let contact go when the Bulls were on offense then blow the whistle on the other side. Particularly at the start of the third where the Bulls seemed to fairly clearly draw fouls on three straight plays, but not get the whistle until the third one.
However, for all the ugliness, the Bulls ended up with a comfortable win, an ugly win, a moral loss.
Derrick Rose looks like he's playing hurt
Maybe he's not, but if something comes out in a few days saying he's playing through knee soreness or a minor ankle sprain or something I won't be surprised. He's still playing at a fairly high level overall, but he's not pushing the ball like he typically does. In this game, C.J. Watson pushed the ball harder when he was in the game than Rose.
His energy level just seems down. Maybe it's simply playing with Boozer/Thomas in the starting lineup, and he knows his big men aren't beating anyone down the court, so he's running a different offense, but he doesn't seem as comfortable.
Rose, again, managed to throw up pretty impressive stats in what was a fairly poor outing for him. He seemed to struggle badly to score in the paint, though he got robbed out of at least two separate trips to the foul line, which would have turned a 7/17 18 point night into a 7/15 21-22 point night and made all the difference in terms of efficiency. However, despite that he struggled to really get inside and missed several floaters he normally knocks down.
He did regain his form from the three point line after missing a bunch of shots on the road (I think 0-11?) and knocked down three of four from the three point line which really helped out the offense.
Carlos Boozer gives plenty of offense, not so much defense
Boozer didn't box out well at all in this game, and if he had done a bit better job, the Bulls would have been leading the game by 20 for the majority of the game as the Bucks lived off of their offensive rebounds.
He failed to get out on Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute when he was matched up on them which left them with a lot of open shots. They didn't capitalize nearly as much as you'd expect, particularly Ilyasova who really struggled shooting the ball. He also didn't put much pressure on Bogut when he was matched up on him either.
In the end, his lack of defense wasn't really capitalized on, but it's a disturbing trend, and it's going to become a large issue in the playoffs against better teams.
Offensively, Boozer more or less dominated outside of the offensive fouls / traveling calls that lead to turnovers. A couple of those were pretty dicey though, especially relative to what Milwaukee was able to get away with on the offensive end.
Even with the turnovers, Boozer was consistently able to create offense. His turnaround jumper in the post is a dream. It's been so long since we've had a guy who could create a shot like that. Even when I know he can shoot it, my mind still thinks "terrible shot" everytime I see him try with visions of Tyrus, Chandler, and Taj trying the same shot so unsuccessfully.
Luol Deng turned the game in the third
In the third period when the game was still going back and forth, Luol Deng scored 11 points, including six of the Bulls final eight to help build up a five point lead going into the fourth while pacing the Bulls offense at a point where Corey Maggette was providing efficient offense for the Bucks on the other end of the floor.
Deng had a nice night, forced some fouls inside by forcing contact, and knocked down his mid range jumpers. He was a couple open three point misses away from having a truly dominant night offensively.
Kurt Thomas gave another solid effort
He's limited offensively, and the Bulls are slowing down the pace while he's in the game, but Thomas has really made his hay on the defensive end of the court. He harassed Bogut into a poor shooting night, and that alone more or less doomed the Bucks in this game.
One thing I love about Thomas is that he tends to make sure guys don't score when he fouls them. You don't see a lot of and1s when Thomas fouls, unless he got screwed on the call. For the most part he quickly realizes when he's been beat and let's the guy go or completely tangles them up giving them no chance at the basket.
A new disturbing Bogans trend immerged
Think there's any chance we stop starting Bogans? Think again, for the first time in recent memory, Thibodeau actually went back to Bogans in the first half after pulling him out. Korver was really struggling out there, but I was surprised to see Bogans re-enter the game as he's typically only played at the start of quarters and then did not return.
Bogans knocked down a three, but he also had an absolutely ridiculous drive int four defenders. Why four defenders met Bogans in the paint is beyond me. Why he failed to pass the ball out to one of the three wide open Bulls and instead tried to force up a shot is even more unfathomable.
Kyle Korver seemed completely lost in the first half before finding his shot a bit later
Korver has really struggled lately. He started forcing a couple shots in this game, it appeared as though he felt he just needed to get some shots up to justify his time on the floor. He's not hitting the tough shots for the most part, and even missed a couple open ones early.
In the second half he found his shot some though as he knocked down a three, pump faked into a dribble two, and had a brilliant pass to Boozer for an easy lay in. Hopefully he's able to build off of the second half, because it's been a struggle lately.
How Ronnie Brewer played less than Bogans in this game is a mystery
This was a game primed for Brewer to play more minutes. The Bucks have multiple perimeter threads in Salmons and Maggette, but Brewer barely played even though he was solid while on the floor.
See disturbing Bogans trend above.
Taj Gibson's searching for some offense, but found some defense
It seemed like Gibson got all five of his shots in about 30 seconds and then was scared to launch the ball after that. Sure it's an exaggeration, but he had a stretch where it seemed like he just laid brick after brick.
Gibson did a nice helping guys on defense and blocking shots on the interior. He could have another block on Maggette as well, but got whistled for some body contact, apparently, he doesn't have the Dwight Howard respect there.
One problem with Gibson's shot blocking though is that in his pursuit for blocks, he frequently took himself out of rebound position, and the Bulls as a team, weren't rotating well to keep the Bucks off the boards. That's not Gibson's fault, his job is to help and contest, but the other guys need to back him up better.
C.J. Watson played really well.
It's a shame we didn't find more minutes for him in this game. Loved the veteran move on the fast break where he slowed down, made the defender run into him while protecting the ball and scoring a layup to draw the and1.
He played with a lot of energy while on the floor on both ends, and the team seemed to light up a bit when he was out there.
Omer Asik played pretty well too
Omer tends to get called for a lot of cheap fouls, but he still needs to work on staying out of foul trouble or making more decisive fouls like Kurt Thomas. However, he impacted the game defensively, and he did a nice job on the glass in his limited minutes when the Bulls were really struggling on the glass.
He did fail to dunk a ball which should have been an easy dunk instead getting a touch foul, but it was a shot where he went up soft rather than getting the and1. Fairly rare for Asik though as he typically goes up strong around the hoop, so I'll let it slide.
It was an ugly, difficult to watch basketball game. Skiles and Thibodeau must have been in heaven. The Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter by simply putting together one stretch of good offense that they sustained for a few minutes highlighted by five straight makes including threes by Rose and Korver. The Bucks simply had no ability to trade basket for basket with the Bulls once their offense hit it's stride for however brief a period that was.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. This team didn't play well, but they found a way to win, and ultimately won by quite a bit. Winning when you don't have the A game going is what separates the good/great teams from the average teams.
The Bulls have enough talent, that they can have numerous guys play very poorly and still win games. They've done that recently against several opponents. You'd like to see them just wipe up the floor with the Milwaukees, Detroits, etc, but in the end, what's important is the Ws.