Bulls provide at least one more night of joy

Let it be said at the end of this series, regardless of the outcome, that the Chicago Bulls did not quit. They did not throw in the towel, they did not drop the rope. They've had some terrible shooting, poor coaching decisions, bad calls go against them, horrific luck with injuries, and weaknesses exposed, but they haven't given up or stopped believing.

Hats off to Taj Gibson

Taj rolled his ankle fairly badly in the midst of game five and had to be taken back to the locker room. He later returned for the game but played with a noticeable limp the rest of the way. However, Taj Gibson was simply incredible in this game. He was credited with four blocks, but that seems like far too few. He hit the offensive glass hard, gave Chicago some scoring, and made every hustle play there was to make.

He may have ended the day with eight points and seven boards, but it would do a disservice to him to think of his stat totals relative to his contribution. If you watched this game and weren't a Taj Gibson fan when it started, you were when it ended.

No decaffeinated Brew

Ronnie Brewer hasn't had an exemplary playoffs thus far, but much like Gibson, he dominated this game defensively while finding a way to get the Bulls some offense. Brewer played the role of frenetically high energy shut down defender all night long making big plays on defense and timely contributions on offense.

Behind Brewer and Gibson, it felt like the Bulls had two guys who could guard anyone on the court, and they switched with reckless abandon and left Philly hopeless to compensate for it.

True defense

This wasn't a phantom "good defense" where the opposing team had plenty of open looks which they missed, this was a defensive clinic. The Bulls made the 76ers look like a poor man's version of the Rose-less Bulls out there on offense. The rotations were impeccable, every shot was contested, and even fast breaks were frequently chased down.

This was the Chicago bringing their full defensive arsenal at its best to a game and laying the smack down on a team that struggles to score.

Even with the great defense it was a struggle

What happens in this game if Luol Deng doesn't find his three point shot in the fourth quarter and nail three bail out threes for the Bulls with the shot clock winding down? The Bulls probably lose. They completely laid the smack down on Philly holding them to a mere 26 points in the first half.

However, the Bulls offensive woes are still equally present. The Bulls have improved considerably on not wasting the shot clock by over dribbling. Lucas's foible that cost us game three has been corrected. That said, the Bulls still aren't passing out of the double team with enough efficiency and are still struggling to find good looks at the basket.

Despite a relatively comfortable eight point win, it's easy to see how Chicago could have dropped this game [though of course it's easy to see how Philly could have dropped either of those games in Philly as well].

The NBA has to want to banish this series and burn the tapes

Seriously, is this the ugliest first round playoff series you've ever seen in your life? The collective field goal percentage in this thing when it's over is likely going to be around 38%.

Philly deserved all the calls in this game

I thought the Bulls got hosed badly by the refs in game four and the free throw disparity was huge. The free throw disparity in this game was huge as well, but Philly largely earned every one of those free throws while the Bulls didn't really have many forays to the basket that deserved a call and didn't get one.

This is just a note to say that just because a free throw disparity is large doesn't mean one team is getting jobbed.

Luol Deng stepped up

I noted it earlier, but Luol Deng knocked down three clutch threes to ice this game down the stretch. When the Bulls had the shot clock winding down and the game could have tightened up, Luol delivered. I don't have a lot of confidence in a repeat performance here, and I'm still a bit concerned about his 5/14 performance from two point range, but for one night, Luol Deng gave Chicago the offense that it needed when they needed it.

Deng was also tremendous defensively, like always, to give the Bulls a lift on that end of the court. I've come to expect the defense every night, but we'll have to hope he can continue to provide the timely shooting.

What to make of Carlos Boozer?

Boozer's 9/20 night for 19 points gave Chicago a huge lift. I mean, the Bulls need to score points and have few players capable of doing so. His five turnovers considerably offset the efficiency of his scoring though, and the Bulls are averaging a ton of turnovers when playing through Boozer throughout the series.

That said, we tend to be so much harsher on offensive oriented guys who get killed on defense, and despite only middling efficiency once turnovers are factored in, Boozer is providing the volume offense that Chicago needs to hang around in this thing. Boozer served as a bailout option by frequently getting the ball with little time left and going to his turnaround fadeaway jumper.

It's not the best shot in the world, but when the rest of the team can't break 40% to save their lives, Boozer knocking down those turnarounds at around a 40-45% clip in bailout situations is healing salve for the Bulls offense.

Defensively it's still ugly at times, and virtually every good look the 76ers got in the half court had something to do with a Boozer or Hamilton miscue defensively, but he's still providing the Bulls with plenty of offense which they aren't able to find anywhere else.

The Boganizing of Rip Hamilton has been completed

Quite honestly, I'm not sure that Hamilton's a better Bogans than Bogans was. His defense certainly isn't nearly as good, and while his playmaking is much better his shooting is much worse. In short, the Bulls haven't been able to get much benefit out of Rip Hamilton in this series, and once Rose went down, I thought Rip could step up as one of the primary play makers.

He has the size to pass out of the trap easier, the court vision to make plays, and enough handles to still create his own shot better than most of the Bulls. Hamilton may still bust out for a big game before the series is over, but time is running out for him to do so, and if he can't show the Bulls something then they'll have to wonder if they can expect anything at all out of him next season.

The pressure now mounts on Philly

Neither team can throw the ball in the ocean, but the whole world has given up on Chicago. Teams simply don't come back from 1-3 deficits, especially with their two best players out for the series. Philly will now have tremendous pressure on them to win at home in game six on Thursday, because they certainly don't want to play a road game seven on Saturday.

I think Philly will close this thing out, they have such a large advantage in attacking the basket against Chicago, and they'll grab a lucky shooting day eventually and hit 40% of their shots which should be enough to bury Chicago. While the Bulls defense has been astounding, it's difficult to see Chicago holding Philly in the low 30s in field goal percentage for two more games.

That said, I think this Bulls team absolutely believes in itself, and I wonder if three games of horrific shooting will tighten up Philly's shooters even more. While I'd predict a Bulls loss on Thursday, the game could clearly go either way as not much separates these teams.

For now I'm happy to have at least one more day of Bulls basketball.

Comments

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  • Well I was wrong the ghost put up a rare big line! Deng played like he should finally and bulls pulled it out. If they are to have any shot they will need Deng and Boozer to both put up lots of points. It was a good game loved the fight from Taj and the comment from Anthony that its a good thing NBA players don't know how to fight when he and Elton got into it. :-)

  • In reply to Chad:

    Deng's been very good defensively all series. In this game he still wasn't particularly good offensively, but he knocked down his open threes under pressure which is about all we can hope for.

  • Be a little more positive, Doug! We have some confidence and momentum right now with this being our first win after Rose's injury. I could tell our intensity picked up last night due to incredible gang rebounding and winning 50/50 balls. I can see this carrying over into Philly. Sure, I don't expect Deng to hit the same kind of clutch shots, but I think someone else is capable of stepping up (Rip? Korver? They are both due). The 76ers are young and their home crowd is capable of turning against them if they start out slow. Should be another close game, but we're the #1 seed for a reason. And those reasons are finally starting to show now that our players are getting over the mental hurdle of Rose's absence. I expect us to win tomorrow!

  • In reply to HINrichPolice:

    It's hard to be positive when this team cam barely score. It's not mental on the players part, they just can't score bottom line.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Agree. They simply don't have enough shot creation to get efficient offense with any consistency, and hoping to hold Philly to sub 70 points for two more games seems like a stretch.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I think the one thing killing the Bulls is the inability to get to the line. too many darn jumpshots. can anyone pumpfake and draw contact? but I agree with both of you that not having ball handlers/shot creators is the main key aspect missing. Doug Collins drills it into his team to attack the rim and get to the line, of course they have the athletes for it.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I agree with the problem, but you highlighted the reason for it. The Bulls don't have the ball handlers/athletes to force the issue to get to the line.

  • Not for nothing, but I really think Derrick Rose ought to be sitting on the bench with Noah, talking to the guys, cheering them on, encouraging them, giving them advise, etc. It's cool that he is there at the UC, but why in teh suite? I know his family is there and everything, but c'mon.
    I love Rose, but i just don't get why he's sitting up there, and not at the bench with his teammates.

    Anyways, I'm still hoping the Bulls will come out as the winner of the series. Bulls will be the 9th team in hisotry to win-out from a 1-3 deficit.

    Go Bulls!

  • In reply to NorthShore Ripper:

    Guessing that he can't move fast enough to get out of the way on the bench if someone comes flying over there.

  • In reply to NorthShore Ripper:

    The worst thing has already happen to Rose, now can you imagine someone chasing down a ball near Rose sitting on the bench and he can't move out of the way?

    He is in the right place he can't protect himself from any crazy movement that can occur in the game.

    I bet you would be the first to whine why in the hell is he on the bench and can't get out of the way.

  • In reply to BullySixChicago:

    somone flying into the bench???

    well, i didn't think of that. That is true, that could be really bad.
    And, no man, i wouldn't be the first one to whine about Rose getting hurt if he was there, cuz I wanted him there. But now that you and FOJN mentioned why he ought to be at the suite, i agree now that he shouldn't be at the bench.

    I don't know, it was just tough to see the other guys looking out of spirit w/o Rose there.
    In that sense, though, Noah is putting himself in a bad position then, although he's injury is not as severe as Rose's knee.

  • In reply to NorthShore Ripper:

    I agree that Rose is where he need to be, why in the hell would he be on the bench and someone so someone can fly after a loose ball and land on him and he ends up like Barron Davis of the Knicks with a dislocated knee cap a ACL and MCL injury.

  • Our guards are getting badly out played!

    I'm hopefull if Noah and Gibson can make quick recoveries from their ankle injuries that we can still win this series!
    We have too much talent even without Rose to lose to the 76ers but they are very athletic, hungry, better than a 8th seed (look at their before All-Star record), well coached, etc...

    As Doug pointed out RIP is RIP indeed! Bogans gave us more last year then RIP does! RIP moves well without the ball and is a willing passer but his shots aren't falling and he too weak and fragil to guard Turner or Iggy or whoever!

    I hope the Bulls get over hauled this offseason regardless of how far we go which doesn't look like we will make it out of the 1st round after having the best record while being without Rose for 1/2 the season! As others have pointed out there is a big difference between a regular season team and playoff basketball, especially in this shortened season where teams didn't get much or any real practice and couldn't analyse their opponents like they can in the playoffs and exploit their weaknesses!

    I hope we pick up a OJ (Mayo) or JR (Smith) type player (offensive option to supplement Rose) and lose CJ and JL3 and RIP!

  • In reply to smiley:

    I don't think Rose will miss half the season.

  • In reply to smiley:

    Noah is not playing this series. I'd still be surprised if he could play in the second round if we get there.

    We are stuck with Rip next season, unless someone really wants an expiring contract.

    We need more than just a jump shooting scorer, we need a guy with great ball handling skills that can get into the paint/ break down a defense. That is what creates easy buckets in the half court. Without Rose we have absolutely zero ballhandling, we just have ground pounding turnover machines.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Watson can handle the ball fine, he just can't shoot it to save himself. Lucas has the opposite problem. If we could merge them into one player he'd be great.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    I think Lucas handles the ball just fine, he just doesn't have the size/athleticism. Watson shoots fine too, but he's not the type of shooter who can still shoot while trying to create his own shot all the time. When he's playing off the ball he's pretty deadly.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I agree CJ is fine as a spot up shooter but it doesn't really work when you want him to be your point guard with no other ball handlers. He's been abysmal this playoffs, really makes you wonder whether letting him go is the better option even though I think he's pretty good value on his current contract in the right situation. It's just a Rose-less Bulls next year might not be that situation.

    As for Lucas I think you're splitting hairs, fact is he can't get around anyone and spends 20 seconds pounding the ball because of it, I don't think that's handling it fine even if his dribbling skills would work if he had a better NBA level body to put them in.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    The real problem with cj is he's playing out of position. he's more if a sg than a point guard. if he played on a team that i coached, he would be playing at the sg position.

  • In reply to rob32:

    I don't really agree, he's a combo guard who has the skills to be a PG, and probably be a pretty good one in the right offense. He played the position fine on the GSW, but they had other ball handlers and shooters. Really the problem is the Bulls expect their PG to dominate the ball and shoot a lot, and it's dragging CJ's efficiency way down.

  • The 76ers are just plain bad. Their halfcourt offense is terrible. It's not just the Bulls defense. Are they even going to win one game in the next round? It was odd to see them close out the Bulls twice, considering that's the biggest problem they had during the regular-season.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    Atleast they are better offensively than the bulls because they have more guys that can score and create their own shots(holiday, williams,turner,iggy(can create but is a bad shooter),hawes(can shoot for a big man).

    their probem like the bulls is they go on them long shoiting droughts. thats why both teams are shooting at a low percentage throughout this series.

  • I would not say the Sixers are bad. They have given Bulls trouble in the past with Rose in the lineup. They have good athletes that can score even though they aren't the greatest jumpshooting team. What's keeping them around is not only the defense but their rebounding has been solid. In fact I think that's where they really deflated the Bulls, kind of taking away our superman weapon which was affective for us all season long even when Rose was out.

  • Glad that you pointed out Hamilton's poor play, on both ends. He has been boozer bad on defense and a sloppy mess on offense.

    He is just not physical enough or quick enough or effort enough to play against Philly's guards.

    He has been so bad that you wonder if he should start. But we know that Thibs would never be that bold to make a change.

    Even with Rose I always contend that the Bulls are a bad hands team and a bad ball handling team. Without him, we are pathetic, which is really a problem against the sixers who are an Edward Scissor hands team on D, they contest everybody and everything, everywhere on the court.

    Even I have to concede your point on boozer, we need somebody to score even if he likely costs us twice as many points as he scores.

    But will everybody please stop saying that he is scoring in the post, just because he is scoring. Nearly everytime that he attempts a post move the sixers strip the ball from him and sprint out for easy fast break baskets(with boozer remaining frozen like a statue on the offensive end of the court), 15 official turnovers in the last 3 games, plus offensive fouls which are basically equivalent to turnovers.

    Brewers impact on game 5 argues for more Butler time, as he has some of the same physical abilities that Brewer has and could be effective against Phillys guards. For many of the same reasons, we could likely benefit from Mike James playing some at PG.

    Korver appears unable to get open for shots against Philly as is usually the case against good/smart/effort defensive teams. But he does at least bust his ass to the best of his abilities on D.

    As horrifically as the sixers played/shot, I still feel like we were fortunate to win, basically, like you said, lucky that Deng clanked in those 3's. What is our formula to win twice more?

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Agree that we should be giving Butler, and perhaps James, some minutes on court. Thibs needs to take advantage of (1) the times when we're flowing and way ahead but need to give rest to the guys on the floor AND (2) the moments when we're really struggling... by giving Butler and James some minutes. We won, but only because Philly couldn't break 70 points!

    Giving Butler some burn will give us another variable, which we desperately need because the equation right now isn't working--despite the happy victory.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah Rip has been terrible, but don't worry next year when we let Brewer and Korver go because of Boozer's contract and Rip is missing half the games through injury and Deng is recovering from surgery we'll be starting Butler and a vet minimum guy. Ladies and gentlemen your Chicago Bulls!

  • Bigway our formula to win 2 more and take the 1 round series is for Scal to play out of his mind good! :-)

    We are in big trouble without Rose and now obviously without Noah because Hawes is killing us where as with Noah he would neutralize Hawes and have a hand in his face away from the basket.
    Hawes has really come up big for the 76ers in more ways than 1!
    He was looked at as a bust in Sacramento but on this 76ers team and with a good coach in Collins he is coming into his own!

    We need to take the next 2 games one at a time and alot of pressure is on Philly to win at home as they don't want a game 7 in Chicago!

    I agree with playing Butler and Mike James against the 76ers even if just for the defense!
    I would challenge Thibs to start Noah and Gibson against them and have Boozer and RIP off the bench but we have had the best record in the regular season with our 2 linups including that strong bench mob but the playoffs are entirely different and you need to analyze the individual matchups more!

  • Hopefully deng stepping up wasn't hust for one game. if he can bring his hot shooting to philly and if boozer can continue to score like he has been doing since game 3, the bulls can win the series. i ain't worried avout anything else, i know taj and the rest of the team will play hard and give their best effort. the only issue will be can the bulls(deng and boozer especially)score enough to win? we'll see tomorrow night.

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