Chicago found its offensive touch. They shot 9/21 from the three point line and 50% from the field overall. Numbers that would surely equal a win for a Bulls team, especially one playing an Cavs team without Kyrie Irving that would appear rather offensively inept. However, the Bulls failed in focus and effort to lose the game.
This has to be Tom Thibodeau's nightmare game. I wouldn't want to be a Bulls player today at practice.
Chicago gave up too many offensive rebounds, couldn't control their turnovers, and lost the game out of a combination of sloppiness and effort. The Cavs weren't bigger or stronger, but they played harder and smarter. That's the least acceptable type of loss to this coaching staff.
Chicago certainly missed Taj Gibson and played small a good chunk of the time though they weren't appreciably hurt when going small with Noah in the game, but when Boozer was the lone big man the Cavs went straight at the basket repeatedly for easy scores.
I'm not the biggest Rip Hamilton fan, and I like Marco Belinelli, but Marco has never captured the play he had when he started with the Bulls coming off the bench. You either need to start Marco to see if it kick starts his play again or you need to start bringing Hamilton back into games at points when Marco is killing you.
Rip hasn't been great, but he's been consistently better than bench Marco. I'd like a look at starting Marco again, but bench Marco isn't getting it done and doesn't deserve to be on the floor at the end of games. This was especially true last night when the Cavs seemed mesmerized by Rip Hamilton running around in circles and gave up play after play to other players because they were focused on chasing Rip.
Derrick Rose nearing return?
There's at least a couple rumors floating around that Rose may return this Thursday. Feels like a long shot to me since I think there'd probably be a bit more notice about when Rose returns, but there's a consistent message that 'soon' is on the table being leaked out everywhere. It will be interesting to see what Rose can bring to the table when he's back.
I got to the game right when the gates opened and Rose was warming up for nearly an hour out there before tip off and had a good sweat on his back by the time he was finished. I wasn't watching particularly closely the whole hour, but I didn't notice any more dunk attempts. Rose worked mainly on step back jumpers and three pointers. His shot looked consistent and smooth, but he was obviously going at half speed and not going for full elevation on either move.
Since Rose was only going half speed, there's really not much useful to say about how explosive he looked or whether he could do anything at full speed, but it was still nice to see him out there for so long.
Losing streak coming?
If the Bulls fail to beat Philadelphia on Thursday, they could run into by far their longest losing streak in the Tom Thibodeau era.
They face the Nets followed by road games against Indiana and San Antonio. Without Taj Gibson in the lineup, it's difficult to see the Bulls winning any of those three games which would give them a six game skid if the fall to Philly. Granted, the Bulls have made a habit of winning games I didn't expect them to win this year, but the team looks very out of sync right now.
They haven't been able to execute defensively in a long time, and offensively they only executed last night because the Cavaliers defense was horrific. The Bulls aren't playing at a level right now that gives them even a remote chance of beating a quality team. Hopefully they can get it together.
Mission stay ahead of Milwaukee
However, if they can't, all they really need to do is stay ahead of Milwaukee. If the Bulls finish in sixth or seventh it's generally irrelevant. Their playoff match up won't be appreciably harder than if they finish 4th or 5th. Only climbing to 3rd would really give them an easier time in the first round and that seems like a long climb at this point.
Staying ahead of the Bucks should present little problem as they've got a 3.5 game lead on them already and Milwaukee isn't likely to set fire to the rest of the season and make a run.