Struggling Bulls face tough test against Spurs

Struggling Bulls face tough test against Spurs

The Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs enter tonight's game with the same record. However, let's not pretend these are teams headed in the same direction. San Antonio is 9-9 without Kawhi Leonard whom returned from injury three games ago. They haven't lost since.

The Bulls, theoretically, have home court advantage, but they haven't played well at home this season. Beyond that, Chicago's locker room is in turmoil as the team has lost its defensive identity and hasn't shot the ball well enough to compensate.

Bad teams are having their way with Chicago right now, and with Kawhi back, the Spurs look like a championship caliber team again.

The Bulls were upbeat after a meeting on Tuesday to clear the air and talk, but that positive attitude likely goes right back in the tank with a few more losses.

The schedule isn't doing them any favors their either as the Bulls should be underdogs in three of their next four games (Spurs, @Mavs, and @GS).

This could be a turning point for Chicago. In the middle of a season where they have legitimate championship hopes, they've appeared to decide to stop working hard and tune out the coach. The team looks on the verge of imploding.

It's hard to see this game as anything but a blowout for the Spurs, and Chicago doesn't look like it would deal well with another blow out despite the positive meeting.

That said, it's also an opportunity. If Chicago can circle the wagons, rally the troops, and get a win then it has some real meaning for them. Going on a win streak against the crap teams of the East might not mean much to these guys, but beating the Spurs, with Kawhi, could get them back focused on the prize. Same could be said for Dallas (Friday) or Golden State (Tuesday).

Noah is listed as doubtful, Dunleavy questionable, and McDermott probable [though he didn't play despite being active last game]. Thibodeau said he liked the way Jo moved in practice on Wednesday, and Dunleavy went through a full practice. I figure there's a decent chance that Dunleavy is back in action for Chicago while Joakim Noah's likely still out.

Tom Thibodeau actually played the injury card with the media, a big change from "we have more than enough to win" which is interesting in and of itself only because now they really have more than enough to win whereas in the past they haven't.

“Quite frankly, I’m surprised we’re where we are with the amount of games that have been missed and practices that have been missed,” an upbeat Tom Thibodeau said after the team’s brief, 75-minute session. “This is why I have great respect for our guys. They’ve done this year after year.”

We've seen Thibodeau change up several things over the past couple days. Canceling a practice when the team was playing really badly and his inner Thibs had to be screaming work harder at him, and now actually acknowledging injuries as a reason for losses.

Is Thibodeau really changing before our eyes to a more moderate coach and stepping off the gas? I don't know if he's desperately grasping at straws or simply acknowledging different teams need different things from their coach, and this Bulls team needs something different from the last couple seasons. Either way, it's nice to see his willingness to change given his reputation.

Now we have to see if any of these good vibes and positive attitude make a difference. The big problem for the Bulls isn't the losses. The overall record means little to me. My goal for the Bulls is to simply not face Cleveland in the first round. The big problem is they aren't even competing.

Championship caliber teams don't win every game. They take some games off. They sometimes don't take the regular season as seriously as they should. They sometimes just show up and try and win on talent instead of effort.

However, championship teams rarely go through a stretch where they're this bad and aren't even close in many of their losses. Their pride is hurt. When they get blown out, they come back and crush the next team and prove that when they put forth the effort no one can stop them.

The Bulls haven't shown that yet. They aren't likely to crush the Spurs either, but I am hoping for a strong effort.

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  • The bulls just need to show some toughness and start grabbing down some rebounds. I know the team has been in a slump both offensively and defensively but I think a little toughness and a higher emphasis on rebounding could help a lot. The Bulls used to be pretty good at taking charges and it takes toughness for that to work. I think the Bulls haven't been taking charges because of the injury problems. Taking the hard fouls is something Hinrich used to be very good at but this season he seems reluctant to do so as well as everyone else. And when you think about all the ankle sprains, hamstring injuries, and knee surgeries they've been having it makes a lot of sense. The problem with that is teams know the Bulls aren't trying to make physical contact and are taking advantage. These teams are like sharks smelling blood, they see the Bulls weakness and are exploiting it. As you already mentioned rebounding has become a huge issue and IMO an even bigger issue than the defense. That's half the reason we're struggling to get back in games when we're down. Once teams get a sizable lead in the 1st quarter we need rebounds to make a comeback and we're not getting any second chance opportunities.

  • "As you already mentioned rebounding has become a huge issue."
    I actually was reading another blog at the same time I was typing this and got my words a little mixed up, but same concept.

  • Prediction: Bulls will bounce back tonight and beat the Spurs. Will then lose two relatively close games to Mavs and GS.

    Interesting article on Bulls this a.m. at Bleacher Report as they graded each Bulls player. Got me thinking.

    Consider this: Kirk Hinrich-
    27.6 mpg
    TS% .489
    PER 7.88

    Mike Dunleavy-
    29.5 mpg
    TS% .592
    PER 11.80

    Plus, statistically Dunleavy defends his position better than Hinrich defends his. So what does this mean? IMO, It is clear Dunleavy on the floor makes a huge difference over Hinrich. The Bulls need Dunleavy on the floor and Hinrich off the floor. Simply stated, Hinrich is an abysmal player. Dunleavy is a decent player.

    Hinrich apologists could argue that Dunleavy's PER is nothing to brag about plus they play different positions. My response is that I really like the PER but you have to recognize it's flaws. For example, PER is based on "per minute" contributions. Having a player just "spacing the floor" to contribute to the offense will not necessarily be reflected as a positive contribution. That's, at least, how I interpret this.

    What about the argument that they don't play the same position. Actually, Kirk is now starting at the two, which is a wing position. He is essentially replacing Dunleavy with Butler moving over to the three position. Not the same offensive/defensive responsibilities, but similar.

    The Bulls have more than one problem but I lay this on GarPax for not fixing this problem at the wing position. Hinrich (and Snell) are truly awful players statistically. Someone from Mars who didn't know the Bulls from gefilte fish could grasp this if he or she just looked at the numbers and could count their fingers and toes.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    No arument from me. Hinrich blows.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Actually, since Dunleavy went out, Hangdog has also played the SF position in some 3 guard lineups(when Butler gets his miniscule rest), in addition to starting at SG.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Nice analysis. Before seeing it, I didn't think of Dunleavy as a big loss, but when I realized that his minutes have gone to what is basically a non-NBA player in Hinrich, his loss is a much bigger deal than I realized. Bulls would be far better off if Rose went down as the drop from him to Brooks isn't nearly the drop from Dunleavy to Hinrich.

    The analysis helps put Dunleavy's loss in perspective, but no analysis is needed to understand that the Bulls can easily improve their team by just cutting Hinrich altogether, or at least restricting him to 10 minutes per game. Instead, Thibs likes to use him 30 minutes per game in Dunleavy's absence, SMH.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Against the Cavs, I had as many points and assists as Hinrich while sitting on my couch. How do you play 26 minutes and get 0 points and 0 assists, I mean that takes some real effort, right? They always like his effort. I just don't get the love affair the Bulls have with Hinrich and I can't just blame GarPax because Thibs loves him too.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Thibs feelings about Hinrich is like a child with his favorite toy. The best way to keep the child from playing with that toy is to get rid of the toy. The child will not play with his toy for only 10 minutes at a time.

  • I am really curious to see how the Bulls come out in the first quarter. If it's another "Cleveland" then we know they have real problem. Even if the Bulls lose tonight they have to at least show effort and make the game competitive. It's sad that it's come down to this. But another pathetic outing means something more than a team meeting needs to happen.

  • My prediction for tonight's game: Klank trips over a gym bag(ala Boozer) hits his head against a wall, suffers amnesia and forgets he's an NBA player - they same way Bulls fans have this season. Minus the 27 minutes of Klank sandbag, Bulls win!

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    You were dreaming - tho who can blame you!

    BTW, Kirk only got 24 minutes. He had maybe 5 minutes of production. Thibs should have played Moore - he had to have been better.

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    Just in- Rose is cleared to play regular minutes. 100% Cleared.... Guess whose going to play Rose 48 minutes tonight!!! lol

  • Gasol is having a great game. Duncan is one of the few guys he can keep up with.

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    Another doom-and-gloom column that was just a bit outside. The locker room is in "turmoil?" Thibs is "desperately grasping at straws?" So they lost six times in eight games, BFD, get over it and move on. A dominating win over the Spurs and a real good win over the Mavs should set the tone for a while.

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    Sam Smith @SamSmithHoops
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    With Bulls winning two straight, media now demanding Thibodeau be given extension considering his harmony and kinship with team
    8:45 PM - 23 Jan 2015

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