In what's potentially the worst case scenario last night, the Bulls fell to the Clippers after a hard fought battle where all the starters Sans Hinrich played 40 minutes (Deng 39:56). They must now head to Philly for an east coast back to back with an early tip off after having a late tip off last night.
Back to backs are never easy, but it especially sucks with less than 20 hours between games. Due to the time change the Bulls play their next game around 19.5 hours after the Clipper game ended.
The good news is that the Bulls played well in the loss. While the Clippers largely outclassed the Bulls with their athleticism, Chicago was able to keep a relative handle on both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Bulls may have won the game had it not been for a disastrous stretch where they turned the ball over repeatedly and allowed three open dunks, two of which came on back to back breakaways.
Watching the game, I felt very solid about the Bulls half court defense. While there were some missed rotations and box outs, overall, they did a nice job of slowing down an extremely talented and athletic Clippers team.
Chicago wasted perhaps the best three point shooting night they'll have this season when they went 10-20 from beyond the arc. I'd say the night was an aberration, but the Clippers were genuinely horrible at defending the three. I suspect if the Bulls had similar wide open looks every game that they'd regularly knock down 10 threes a night.
Many of the Bulls threes (including misses) were the variety where the player was totally alone, caught the ball, fully set, and released and still had no one running out at him after that. It was truly a poor effort by the Clippers, and I'm almost embarrassed by Vinny Del Negro's coaching job on both ends of the floor in this game.
Carlos Boozer played perhaps his best game of the season which was impressive given he commonly struggles against athletic front lines, and the Clippers have an extremely athletic front line. However, he used veteran moves to get shots at the hoop all night long and finished repeatedly around the rim. Hopefully Carlos can repeat against a Philly team without much athleticism up front.
Deng and Noah both struggled from the field, and you have to think if either of these guys played the way they did for most of the rest of the season that the Bulls would have come away with a win. I was disappointed by the play of both players, and until Noah hit a couple tip ins in the fourth quarter (which were crucial in the Bulls comeback bid) he was simply atrocious from the field as was Deng.
On to Philly
As noted above, this is going to be a tough game on particularly short rest after the starters were run into the ground in a gut wrenching loss. Chicago will need a find a way to get up (both emotionally and physically) for this one, because it won't be easy to go into Philly and get a win.
The Bulls will need to hope they can keep their shooting touch against the 76ers as points may become difficult to come by in this game. Chicago and Philly will both play a tough half court defense, and you have to like Philly's creators more than Chicago's when it comes to generating shots.
The Bulls have the personnel to dominate on the interior though, as they'll have a size/talent advantage against a Philly front line that frequently includes Thaddeus Young playing PF.
Chicago needs Noah, Boozer, and Gibson make things happen on the offensive glass and inside the paint to compensate for the better perimeter play that the 76ers will likely bring to the table.
Not feeling good about it
I think Philly would be the favorite either way, but the short turn around in game time combined with the heavy minutes played by starters yesterday puts the Bulls at a significant disadvantage. It wouldn't be a huge upset for Chicago to win, and the game could clearly swing either way but my money's on the 76ers.