I had hoped the UC would come out rocking. I would hope the fans would unite with the players left. I had hoped the Bulls could put together a team game to beat up on the 76ers. However, after a strong first half, the Bulls became as flat as their fans. Philly started shooting ridiculously above their level, the loose balls all rolled their way, and Chicago couldn't throw the ball in the ocean.
It wasn't just one thing that had the Bulls turning an eight point half time lead into a complete rout by the 76ers in the second half. It was everything. The ball movement stopped, the 76ers destroyed Chicago in transition, the Bulls got nothing on the glass, and Philly hit a ton of tough shots while the Bulls hit virtually none.
Some of that was poor luck. Some of it was out of Chicago's control, but a few things need to change in order to get back in this series.
Avoid the trap by pushing the pace more on offense
The Bulls weren't playing well with C.J. Watson in the second half and turned an eight point lead into a big deficit, but the stretch that ended the game for the Bulls came with John Lucas in the game where the 76ers trapped him repeatedly. Lucas spent possession after possession not passing the ball until there was less than six seconds on the shot clock.
The Bulls can't consistently get good looks if they can't initiate the offense until the shot clock is winding down. They need to get the ball moving faster, earlier. The easiest solution is to stop slow walking the ball up the court. On many possessions Chicago wasn't even in position to attempt to initiate the offense until 12 seconds were off the shot clock because John Lucas is taking his sweet ass time walking the ball up then spending six seconds trying to dribble around the trap once he's there.
The Bulls need to apply pressure to the Philadelphia defense by attacking on offense in order to get them on their heels rather than awaiting the defense to attack the Bulls offense.
Get the ball inside
The Bulls largely fell apart over a stretch where every shot they took was a heavily contested jumper. Much of this had to do with not initiating the offense earlier, but it also had to do with what they attempted to initiate when they did get it going. The Bulls shooting in that second half was below their norm, but it wasn't that much below what they'd normally do on those types of shots.
When a team can't get any easy looks due to turnovers/transition, they need to find other ways to get the ball close to the basket. Run some post ups. Any of the Bulls big men should have some success posting up the players guarding them. It's not the offense I'd want to see all night long, but after the 10th heavily contested twenty footer in a row, its time to try something else. If you can't attack the basket off the dribble, then you have to attack it by passing it down low. You can't simply sit on the perimeter all night long.
Time to mix up the rotation some
This theory of playing starters for a quarter than bench for a quarter isn't working. I've never been a fan of running the show with nearly two completely separate units, and the Bulls need to find ways to keep better offensive personnel on the floor longer. I think the team really needed a lot more Rip Hamilton out there.
He only played 22 minutes, and while he had a putrid second half along with everyone else, he can at least attack off the dribble and create a higher quality shot than the Bulls were getting otherwise. I'd love to see the Bulls whip out a Watson, Hamilton, Deng, Gibson, Noah lineup to attempt to close out quarters.
Chicago can't forget about the bench mob since they were so critical in the Bulls success, but the dynamic of the bench mob has changed considerably with Watson being replaced by Lucas, and the Bulls need to try and find rotations that work better together.
Gut check time
The Bulls will have two days off to analyze how everything feel apart. To watch game film of every missed rotation and the poor offensive execution. Their season is at stake next game, and it's probably good that they're going on the road because the home crowd was an embarrassment.
It was even worse watching the camera pan to Rose in the box every 10 seconds to try and get a glimpse if he could look any more depressed than the last time they looked at him. Thank goodness his family showed up because if he was left alone the whole game he'd probably have thrown himself over the edge after watching that.
There are few times where I feel the team gives up, but in the second half, this team looked like it stopped believing. They couldn't even hit free throws to try and chip away at the lead during their cold shooting stretch.
Now we find out, do the Bulls get this one out of their system, or do they simply fall apart?
Give some credit to Philly
In the end Philadelphia dominated the Bulls on both ends of the court. Their defense was absolutely suffocating and lead to much of their good offense. However, on offense, they took complete advantage of every Bulls mistake. They ran the perfect amount in transition to get easy opportunities without ever turning the ball over.
When they got a bunch of easy looks to fall, all the hard ones started falling due to the confidence they built while the Bulls missed all their hard looks and then failed to make the easy ones.
It's a tough loss, but it's just one game. However, seeing the Bulls lose this game in this fashion was nearly as painful as seeing Rose tear the ACL. If the Bulls are who we think they are then they'll bounce back. If not, well, then we weren't going to get past Miami anyway.