The Chicago Bulls had been winning, but the signs of cracks in their Roseless armor were showing for a couple of games in a row. They got crushed by a Denver Nuggets team which they simply could not stop on offense.
My pregame comments summed it up pretty well:
The Bulls came out flat two games in a row, and in their past, this has typically meant a loss is coming. It seems like rather than being scared straight by a near loss, they get more complacent that they'll find some miracle to bail them out. Granted, without Rose the Bulls are probably due for a couple of defeats unless you believe they'd really be 60 win team in a full season without Derrick in the lineup.
They were were simply due for a loss. They were close for a couple games in a row only to get bailed out by a lucky surge, and their luck ran out.
They shot great but failed to rebound!?
So perhaps the biggest surprise in this game was the Bulls shot the ball pretty well. They were 13/20 from beyond the arc, and that typically would spell doom for an opponent, especially with Boozer having a solid night inside the arc. However, this is the Roseless Bulls, they don't have anyone to break things down off the dribble.
Besides the lack of rebounding (Bulls were beat on the offensive glass 5 to 14 which really was the difference in the game), they lost the turnover battle as well. Chicago didn't lose the game due to a lack of offense without Rose, they lost the game because they couldn't execute the fundamentals.
They particularly missed Derrick on defense where Ty Lawson and Andre Miller ate Watson and Lucas alive. Lawson drove to the hoop repeatedly and Miller had plenty of success of his own getting into the paint and then dishing out to the perimeter. The Bulls couldn't stop Denver's PGs and paid for it with a loss.
Aaron Afflalo did a nice job in proving why Chicago wanted him so badly this off-season. Of course, Afflalo was unobtainable as Denver went and shelled out a crapload of money for him, but he played stifling defense and knocked down all the shots when given an inch of room by the Bulls scrambling defense.
Chicago experimented with a three headed shooting lineup for a significant amount of minutes with some success offensively, but plenty of abuse defensively. Lucas, Watson, and Korver were on the court together and the trio were able to generate plenty of open threes due to Denver's weak perimeter defense. However, the trio couldn't defend the Nuggets break on the other end.
There aren't many games where I'm rooting for more Boozer, but this was one of them. Chicago needed to slow the ball down more rather than letting Denver keep the pace wild and hectic; plus, Boozer was playing well on offense in the few touches he had. Seeing his early success, I had hoped Chicago would get him the ball more frequently and keep the Nuggets from getting so much in transition.
Finally, it was a nice night for Omer Asik who was a defensive monster and did a nice job finishing plays inside. He was one of the few Bulls who really stepped up and made a positive difference in his minutes on the floor tonight.
At least Miami lost as well
The Bulls are clinging on to a fragile lead in the Eastern Conference with just two games in the loss column over the my Heat, but Miami went out and did Chicago a favor by dropping a road game to the Indiana Pacers. Unlike Chicago, they weren't due for a loss [as they just lost to OKC] nor were they struggling with injuries.
At this point, despite Miami's loss last night, I think it's unlikely the Bulls will hang on to the #1 seed. They have a tougher schedule than Miami down the stretch and will likely have at least a few more games without Derrick which (obviously) puts them in a position of vulnerability every night.
Of course with two games to go against the Heat, both teams can control their own destiny. While I find it most likely that the teams split the pair of games, if either team can win both then they'll almost certainly win the East.
Despite the loss I'm proud of the team without Rose
This loss makes me cognizant of just how fortunate the Bulls have been to win as much as they have without Derrick. They're 12-5 right now which has dropped them to a 58 win pace while Rose is out. Granted, things could get much worse over the next week if they collapse, but Chicago is very lucky to be in the position that its presently in.
Chicago hasn't lost back to back games all season long [only team in the NBA], but that streak will be sorely tested in Atlanta on Wednesday where they'll take on a balanced, tough Atlanta team while almost certainly still missing Derrick.
Filed under: Free Agency