For three quarters it was a layup drill. Jimmy Butler had a couple of amazing tip dunks, the Bulls built up a mammoth lead, one that would surely put the game away.... Then someone put a lid on the Bulls basket.
The Bulls missed 17 straight shots, and the Pacers went on a 20-0 run, much of the damage done by Chris Copeland. Fortunately for Chicago, the Pacers used up all their makes coming back from their huge deficit and couldn't buy a bucket in the end game.
Chicago wasn't much better, but Pau Gasol hit a tough turn around jumper followed by some free throws for Noah and Butler, then Butler knocked down the three to put the Bulls up two.
Down the stretch, the Bulls have the ball with five second differential between shot clock and game clock and a two point lead. All Chicago had to do was launch a high arcing three and make contact with the rim as the shot clock winds down, and they win.
Rose was in position to do that, but drove in for the mid range shot instead of driving sideways for a three. Probably a good decision if he's thinking about making the shot rather than running out the clock, which I'm sure is every player's natural intention.
The ball rolled in and out and Indiana came away with the board, but was slow to call a timeout costing them some valuable time and leaving them just a half second.
That extra half second they could have had may have proved crucial as the Bulls left an opening for Indiana when a defensive breakdown on the final inbounds play left C.J. Watson with a wide open corner three.
Had Indy been slightly more patient on the pass in so that Watson could have gathered his feet prior to catching the ball the look would have been a lot cleaner. Had Watson another half second to work with in order to gather himself the look would have been a lot cleaner.
As it stands, Watson was open, but he had to catch, gather, turn, and shoot in one motion which made the shot much more difficult than it looked. He missed, and the Bulls hung on to win by two.
Derrick Rose regresses
It's not about his play so much as his decision making. Rose had a 5/20 night which isn't all that great no matter how you slice it, but his 1/7 night beyond the three point line was really ugly in that so many of them were rushed threes with bad form.
His attempts to force a basket for Chicago when they were in the midst of their scoreless streak were cringe worthy as well and largely fit the same model of Rose rushing shots and not gathering himself properly.
When you can't score, you need to get the ball inside. Get a post up, get a drive, draw a foul, something, but Rose kept jacking up off balance long range shots that weren't going in. I don't hate Rose shooting threes, but he should only shoot them when he's open, and his feet are set. His off balance threes feel like they go in at a ridiculously low percentage.
It's not a particularly big deal. Star players have bad games sometimes, but it does bring up my overall concern that while we've seen Rose shoot much better recently, we haven't seen him get back to the guy who can get to the basket at will. If he had that going for him too then he probably wouldn't have settled for those types of shots.
What's surprising about Butler is how clutch he's become
Butler doesn't seem like the greatest guy to create shots or bail your team out of trouble, but time and time again, he's been the man to hit a big backbreaking shot at the end of the game. Whatever the Bulls need, Butler is there.
What's been especially encouraging recently is that Butler's been huge even with Derrick Rose back. In Rose's initial games back Butler seemed to defer a bit more, but now, Rose and Butler have really found some nice chemistry together.
Jimmy's played so well that I've run out of superlatives, but knocking down the three to win the game? That's one which isn't really in his repertoire. With Jimmy, all things are possible.
As expected, Nikola can't find the court
His play is still strong when he does, but the Bulls aren't figuring out a way to get Mirotic out there for enough minutes. He's playing 8-10 minutes a game now. He looked good for his 10 minutes last night, but I'd like to see Chicago limit Gasol's minutes some and find a way to get Mirotic an extra five minutes a night.
Pau Gasol playing 28-30 minutes a night is probably in his own best interest as well as the Bulls, and it certainly would be a boost to Mirotic's development.
Oof, rough game for Aaron
Aaron Brooks has been a bad ass for Chicago this season, but he struggled badly in this one going 0-4 from the field with four turnovers. He didn't look aggressive out there, and it appeared like he lost some confidence in the fourth quarter.
There were several positions where the Bulls swung the ball to Brooks where he was open beyond the arc but instead of gathering himself and shooting, he took his time and set up to run a play. If Brooks gets an open three, I want him shooting it, especially when he has time to get a clean look.
Several times, he wasn't even aggressive enough to fake the shot then drive which would have put some pressure on the Indy defense as well, but overall, he just looked passive at the end of the game.
Passive isn't a good look for Brooks.
A win is a win
It was a downright ugly win, the Bulls scored just 11 in the fourth quarter and looked completely helpless on offense. It was a combination of bad shot attempts, poor shooting, and lousy continuity.
However, that's why the other quarters all matter. Chicago did enough early in the game to more or less completely collapse and still win. We've seen the Bulls drop a number of games like this in the past few seasons, but this year, it's been nice to see them do just enough to hold on and win after big collapses.
On to the Nets tonight. Brooklyn has won four of their last five and is playing a bit better, but they still don't have much in the way of quality wins. As long as the Bulls don't have a big let down, and last night's near collapse may help with that, Chicago should take this one.
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