Bulls fall to Rockets, 5th place in the East

Bulls fall to Rockets, 5th place in the East

For all the mocking we've done of the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls have now fallen into the bottom half of the bracket. Technically, they're tied with Cleveland, but their 0-2 record against the Cavs means they'd lose the tiebreaker.

It was much of the same old story for Chicago with some new and old culprits. Derrick Rose had a familiar game. One that would have been efficient except that he jacked up all kinds of threes to ruin his night. Many of his threes were good looks, and he had his mid range jumper going for some of the night, so I'm not completely perplexed by the attempts.

Still, Rose needs to pass on some of these looks even if they feel like good looks. They aren't, because you aren't a three point shooter.

The bench, for once, did the Bulls in. Chicago was destroyed when Mirotic, Brooks, and Moore were on the floor. Why don't we try McDermott? Who knows, but as I said yesterday, this guy better look like a non NBA player in practice to justify our reluctance to put him on the court given Moore is getting regular minutes now.

Typically the Bulls have thrived with the bench on the floor with Aaron Brooks actually playing like the best PG in the roster, but it didn't work out last night as the Rockets consistently got runs off against the bench group.

The game basically fell apart in the fourth going from manageable to unmanageable when Brooks had a couple of turnovers in a row that Houston capitalized which pushed a lead that had hung around 10 to one that hung around 15.

Chicago made a bit of a run in the end, but Brooks tried to play the hero and missed a 30 footer that would have dropped the lead to five with a minute and change left. As it stands, Trevor Ariza scored the dagger on the next possession ending the Bulls threat to make a serious run in the game.

Butler more or less played Harden to a draw, though it was frustrating to again watch how bad the Bulls pick and roll defense is, particularly when Gasol is involved. Pau Gasol is year one Carlos Boozer for the Bulls. His defense is abysmal, his scoring is high volume but pedestrian in its efficiency.

Fortunately, we're paying Gasol under seven million instead of over 14. At the pricetag, he's still a bargain, but the Bulls need to figure out how to utilize him more and keep him fresher. Nikola Mirotic has struggled recently, but I still think the Bulls force more minutes on Mirotic's shoulders.

He again was played extra at SF last night. I don't like this look for him at all. The Bulls aren't generating a lot of value from his spacing at SF because he's not taking SFs off the dribble so easily if they leave him. His defenders can quickly recover on him at this position, and he's less prone to take advantage.

Perhaps in a year or two he'll have a deadly post up game to use against NBA SFs, but right now, I'm not sure he has the strength to make this consistently work. It was a good thing to try, and I'm glad Thibodeau is showing the flexibility to give it a shot, but it'd simply be far better to keep him at PF where his strengths are maximized and lower the minutes of Gasol/Noah some to keep them fresh.

I suppose the Bulls are looking for anyone to avoid playing Hinrich/Snell more. With Mirotic playing the three and Moore getting some burn, Snell didn't play at all. There's still one more guy left to try Tom. One more guy who actually can do the same things Dunleavy can do on offense.

At any rate, Chicago's now 5-10 in their last 15 games. That's the record of a lotto team. They only have 12 of 32 games left against playoff teams [at least if my quick math was right], but that doesn't include a couple matches against OKC who will certainly play like one even if they aren't.

In that sense, most of the Bulls tough schedule is behind them. More than half the NBA makes the playoffs, which means Chicago has played an overloaded schedule to date in terms of competition and likely has an easier run than other Eastern Conference teams the rest of the way.

That said, Chicago isn't exactly falling to the giants and beating up the crap teams of the league, so while the schedule will help, it won't solve all of their problems.

Let's just hope Mike Dunleavy really is as important as he seems and that whenever he does make it back, he does so at full health. The Bulls have two days off to think about it before a Pelicans/Magic back to back this weekend.

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  • I assumed Snell was hurt, though he dressed. He is not the answer to any of the Bulls' problems of course, but he gets zero minutes while Hinrich gets 31. I don't get it.

  • In reply to bjb57:

    unfriggin believable that the Hinrich gets 31 minutes and 3 points but Snell and McDermott can't get on the floor. I'm sorry to say but the Pau/Noah tandem is not working to good, not enough spacing and Noah's man is dropping off of him and sagging.

  • In reply to bjb57:

    What are you talking about, this was stat sheet stuffer for the corpsedog, he had 4 rebounds and 4 assists to go along with those 2 points.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    sorry, 3 points

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    Well I'm at a loss at this point. I'm thinking more and more that this is what this team is. 5-10 in their last 15. 5th place in the east. Only 2 games up on the Bucks. I'm also very tired of hearing the same comments from players about "effort." This has become a tired excuse. I believed it the first couple of times but now I just don't. I watch the games. The team is trying. They're playing with effort. They're just not very good. The Bulls had their championship window open up in 2010. It's 2015 now and I think the window closed last season, which is a shame because a healthy Derrick Rose wasn't able to be a part of those last two seasons. The Bulls have been good (12-3) when their projected starting five play together, but I think from what we've learned with injuries and this team the last few years, it's probably a pipe dream to think that they'll ever consistently have that lineup playing healthy. We can talk all we want about "when this team gets healthy", but it just never happens. One guy comes back, another goes out. At this point, I don't think this team will even match last seasons 48 wins. Call it the curse of Kirk maybe. He's never been a part of a 50 win team. Looks like that might just hold up once again. If they're really in a win now mode, changes could and should be coming. Stay tuned......

  • Dunleavy is a red herring, it's still the pick and roll defense, and rim protection in general. Until Noah starts and Gasol becomes the Bill Walton supersub, the defense is going to suck.

    And the Hinrich whining is ridiculous. Sure, he should only be playing 20-25 minutes a night, but do you really expect the rookie coming off knee surgery to come in and make a difference? Maybe if he was a center who could play the pick and role....

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Did you think keeping Kirk Hinrich over DJ Augustine was a better fit?

  • In reply to juice44:

    Not me. I wanted Augustine. I could not believe that they resigned Kirk, especially above the minimum. Huge mistake, which is hard to do for a player getting under $3 million.

    I think Thibs wants to get canned! Not sure I blame him.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    No the corpsedog should be out of the league, or at best keeping Nazr company playing cards on road trips. Nevermind all the productive players that we could have signed instead over the past 3 years. Check out Augustins performance helping keep Detroit afloat since Jennings injury.

  • "The bench, for once, did the Bulls in". I actually the think the bench has been a big issue these past couple of months, but everyone wants to put all the blame on Rose, Hinrich and Thibs. There have been a lot of games where at least the starters keep it close, and then end of the 1st or early 2nd, as well as beginning of 4th, the bench gets destroyed or doesn't hold opponents to keep the score close. Then Rose has to try to play hero ball and makes it easy for people to knock him. Niko has been terrible since December. AB has had a few spurts, but nothing DJ Augustine like, and Taj has been OK, just not good enough. Would obviously like to see the starters build a big lead, but sometimes, you just need the bench to keep pace and starters take over in the last 8-10 minutes of the game.

  • In reply to Keep:

    The starters have made a bad habit of putting the team in a hole from the very beginning of almost every game. That puts the bench in a bad position as soon as they hit the floor. I'll agree the bench has it's problems, but lets be honest, it's made up of mostly rookies, cast-offs and glorified D-Leaguers; so what can we really expect from that group?

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    I understand it has been a combination, some blame on starters, some on bench, guess not looking good either way as of right now, but still time to turn it around.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    The problem is, the starters always have at least one guy who is not a real starter!

    Before it was Dunleavy, at less than 8 ppg.

    Now it is Kirk at about 3 ppg in 25-30 minutes!

    If any team is starting non-starters, they can never be great. Bulls need a trade to shake things up.

  • The Bulls are basketball Groundhog's Day. Same story over and over again.

    I was really hostile last night and was planning an expletive-laced tirade here. Lot of the same things to complain about: Rose's personal bubble play, the physically finished Hinrich, Gasol's LA Euro lackadaisical defense. But to me it comes down to Thibs.

    Thibs' bull-headedness with poor player rotations and overusing some players while under using others is apparent. But the coaching and preparedness of "one of the best coaches in the league" is vastly over-rated. As Doug stated, the Bulls still have problem with pick and roll. Why? Why is it so hard to defend the most basic of all basketball sets? And the Bulls don't have an offense, unless you count passing the ball around the perimeter and forcing up a shot as the clock expires an offense. Where are the in game adjustments. Where are the pre-game adjustments for the actual team you are playing instead of running your stock defense.

    His motivational skills have evaporated, as we hear game after game from the players themselves about their lack of intensity. And not every loss is because of poor defensive effort. Look in the mirror dude.

    But he dosesn't. Which is way he keeps trotting Hinrich out there despite, as stated by another commenter, being the worst 25+ minutes player in the league. But stats be damned. He is good in Thibs world and that is all that counts. Split up Gasol and Noah? Not in Thibs world. Play McDermott? No. Rookies = bad in Thibs world even when your vets are playing like crap.

    Sadly, barring a trade, it seems the Bulls are who they are which is a 2nd round playoff exit (maybe first). Why expect anything different from an oddball coach who won't change?

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    There's no way this team is getting to the second round in the playoffs. Atlanta, Washington, Toronto, Cleveland...what have you seen in the last month to indicate Chicago has even a remote shot at beating any of these teams in a seven game series? It's time to face facts...this is a mediocre team at best, and will only get worse in the coming years. Looks like it's time to consider moving some assets around.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    I was being being generous by saying 2nd round exit because others have commented about my negativity. They look like a first round loser to me.

    I think this run is over. Their window was missed with Rose's injury. The clock has expired on Thib's, Rose, Noah, Taj & Hinrich. I agree with you that it's time to start moving assets (and coaches). But it looks like GarPax is going to ride out the season before doing anything.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    You nailed it, Vic. The only explanation that really makes sense to me is, Thibs hates the FO and wants to get fired! Guess what? His plan is working!

    Trade Kirk, Dunleavy, Snell and the 1st round pick for Afflalo. Denver might do it, since the pick is becoming more valuable each week! This shakeup gives the Bulls a shot, and it will be impossible for Thibs to overuse Kirk or Dunleavy - if he ever does get healthy.

    Thibs still won't start Noah and bring in Gasol off the bench, but if he did, it would be really interesting to see the results.

  • By the way, how come the Cavs and their new assets have figured it out while the Bulls haven't? Can't be Thibs' fault because I keep hearing from the national media what a great coach he is. This one trick pony has exposed his trick and the pony has died.

  • I don't recognize this team. The Bulls under Thibs have always had a great defense and a great bench. This team has neither. Many of us figured that Thibs was the type of coach players would eventually tune out, perhaps this is the year that's come to fruition.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I don't understand what there is to tune out. From day one Thibs has preached the importance of hard work, practice & repetition and just focusing on "do your job". This is the simple equation to becoming adept at any task one might engage in. Common sense would tell anyone that if you want to be even moderate successful at something, this is the way to do it. To tune out Thibs, is to tune out the entire premise of putting effort in to achieve a goal. To tune out Thibs means you just don't care anymore.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    I agree with you. Who cares what Thibs is saying to you. Do you want to win? Then play like you want to win, regardless who is the coach. I don't think there really is anybody "tuning out" Thibs, just maybe don't agree with everything he says.

  • In reply to Keep:

    I think you both make good points. All I know is, these nose-to-the-grindstone coaches seem to have a short shelf life. Whether it should be that way or not is irrelevant.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    In principle, I agree with you. However, in practice, Thibs sends so many mixed messages to the team ("I'll play the hot hand"...um, OK), I would find it hard to take anything he said seriously if I were a player.

    Thibs strikes me as a Phil Jackson coach, as opposed to a Doc Rivers or Pops. He is clearly a good/top tier guy, but he needs just the right roster to really be effective. Whereas, Doc and Pops can adapt themselves to what they've been given.

    Had Thibs been the coach of the Heat the previous 4 seasons, I think they probably go 3-1 in the finals as opposed to 2-2. That was a roster that would have made the most out of Thibs' defense first mantra while perhaps masking some of his other deficiencies.

    The 2010 Bulls were a secondary scorer away. This current Bulls roster is nowhere near the type of team that Thibs can wring maximum effectiveness out of on a consistent basis. Part of it is injury, part of it is the players, part of it is just his own stubbornness (Klank Bogans is a paci that needs to be taken from his mouth and thrown in the dumpster...otherwise, the sucking will continue on and on).

  • Rose's PER the last five games is 8, which is just a bit better than Kirk's 1.5 and Niko's 3.4. A team won't win much when their PGs are playing that poorly. And Gasol's horrid defense is not helping anything.

    This year is starting to remind of the season when Skiles was fired.

  • Look, anyone who thinks Brooks and Mirotic haven't played well and then had their minutes plunge and waver under the Kirk/vet friendly Thibs then think again. Of course players are going to fall off eventually when you don't reward them and make unjust play time by dropping performing players like bad habits and inserting Klank with a true consistency i.e reward. It's called preferential treatment i.e stupid.

    Last night looking at Kirk's statline it tells you everything you need to know. The guys sucks ass, and continues to get minutes on a nightly basis. Thibs who wasn't a head coach for 30 years should have stayed that way. Excellent defensive assistant, lousy including playoffs head coach. ECF team the offense SUCKED. I'm not going to blame career lows on Deng, Rose etc. alone. And this Jimmy Butler and Loul Deng "security blanket" is as shortsighted and ridiculous in terms of long term winning and team chemistry as is playing god awful Kirk Hinrich night after night for 27 plus minutes a game.

    I don't care what bozo they bring in post Thibs frankly they are one of the richest teams in the NBA and if they can't get a good coach that's on them. Period. Two wrongs don't make a right.

    I will say people who are thrust into positions over their head it's not all on them for their incompetence ruining other people's lives. Gar/Pax are as much to blame as anyone. Also, realizing on some level their inadequacy isn't healthy for anyone including that person in this case Tom Thibodeau.

    Often people stuck in these situations become insufferable jerks. When before at their proper station they can be decent guys. I'm sure Tom is not a bad guy as an assistant. But as a head coach he's unfair and definitely incapable of forging relationships that you want from a head coach. Yeah, I'd say this is more on Gar/Pax for lack of offensive talent and enabling Thibs to get resigned/stay on more then anyone else. Yeah, in the end it's Gar/Pax who are the real problem. Of course any guys who needlessly fire valued employees in Ron Adams and try to choke the head coach that they hired what can you really expect from these people anyway?

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Good observations. Unfortunately true.

  • This team needs an identity. The first unit with Noah on the floor and Hinrich lacks spacing. The Rockets had 4 guys in the paint all game and there was nowhere to drive. Either Noah or Pau needs to go to the bench and become the anchor of the second unit. Hinrich is the new Bogans and McDermott is the new Korver. Completely misused and wasted talent. Rose needs shooters to space the floor. With Noah at PF, there will be nowhere for Rose or Butler to drive, and we'll have to watch them heave up 3's at 28% all season.

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    Question for everyone: Do you think the Bulls will win more than or less than 50 games this year?

  • In reply to BullsVsSpurs:

    No way the Bulls get 50 wins. I'll cap their potential at 45.

  • In reply to BullsVsSpurs:

    Less than 50.

  • So it looks like there is no way the Bulls are getting the Sacto draft pick as they are now tied for the sixth spot with Utah.

  • Yep, another same old same old game, although you're right we essentially lost the game with the bench unit of Noah, Gibson, Mirotic, Brooks and Moore on the floor.

    Unfortunately, this is likely the team that we are, I don't see much if anything getting better which means we look to be a first round out.

    It is almost not worth delving into individual player analysis, but what other way is there to express our frustration with a team that is clearly not meeting expectations.

    It was nice of Krispy Kreme to finally score in the post with 15 seconds left in the game and the defense conceding the bucket on the final possession. Again we played a team with no actual center on the floor and not only didn't he dominate, he was mostly a no show lobbing up weak rainbow fallaway jumpers. Double Double, ho hum,16 & 12 looks nice in the post game box score so Gasol can go to sleep happy with himself.

    Taj had a double double also, but really got his butt kicked physically on both ends by Josh Smith(even though he shot poorly). Basically Taj uses up all his effort quota sumo wrestling in the post and conserves his remaining effort everywhere else, especially transition D and boxing out.

    The Bulls dominated on the boards(as they should have) but it didn't seem to do them any good. Noah led the way with 19 boards but was a retard(as usual) on offense. I was actually hoping that he got back in the game in the 4rth just to pick up his 20th rebound. Then we could have gotten an Elias Sports bureau stat about the fewest points scored in a 20 rebound game. Although, I wouldn't be shocked if Rodman went scoreless and had 20 or more rebounds. He also didn't seem to be able to defend Montejunas one on one.

    Mirotic is starting to look lost and just jacks up shots knowing that he is getting pulled quickly.

    Really not sure that there are any solutions, other than hoping for miracles. We simply have an entire team of flawed players, mistake players who don't seem to have the ability to outwork people to overcome their flaws anymore.

  • So what is being said here is, we are out again in the first round of the playoffs.

  • The biggest problems 1st and foremost is Rose and Noah. They are the cornerstones which this team is built upon, and if they aren't performing to standard or only giving sub-par performances then this is a sinking ship.

    The next problem is Thibs though I honestly don't blame him for some of his decisions lately. He simply doesn't have a lot to work with as this team doesn't really have a lot of good players. The chemistry is further damaged by the fact that this old team is always getting hurt. So what are your options? Dunleavy ( ankle ) Rose ( Hamstring ) Taj ( ankle ) McDermott ( Knee ) Rose ( ankle ) Noah ( knee ) Hinrich ( hamstring ) Taj ( ankle ) Butler ( finger ) Noah ( ankle ) Taj ( ankle ) What's your back up plan? Nazr, Snell, Moore, Hinrich? every single one of these guys could easily fit right into the D league.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    I get what you are saying, but Thibs should at least be developing M and M. So what if it loses some games, they aren't going anywhere they way they are playing now!

    No reason not to develop these kids NOW. Unless he is trying to develop Kirk! That must be it.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    BTW, I'm not sure that Kirk and Nazr would make most D-league teams. Snell and Moore, yes.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    You can't rule out the possibility that maybe McDermott still isn't completely healthy. Just because he's cleared to play doesn't mean he's gotten back used to running on that knee again. Also when you're an athlete if you miss even a week of training then you need to at least make up a week just to get back where you were. He's been out for months so he has a lot of ground to make up before he's ready physically to meet the demands of playing in the NBA. Throw in the fact that he wasn't performing all that well prior to the injury and clearly he still has a long way to go. I want to see him play too but if he's not ready he's not ready. To me that's the worse part about injuries, they're set-backs. I don't expect to see anything major from him until next season. So much for giving up two picks.

    Thibs is trying to play Mirotic but there just isn't room. That's why he keeps trying to squeeze him in at sf but that's not working out either. Taj, Gasol, and Noah are all getting paid millions to be heavy contributers on the Bulls and there's also ego's on the line. The obvious thing to say and do is to hell with the ego's bench these guys, but then that would create locker room problems and people would still say Thibs is a horrible coach and he needs to play one guy more than the next, or start this guy over the other. The real culprits in my opinion is GarPax for log-jamming together this clusterfuq of a team. If your Thibs damned if you do and dmaned if you don't. Coaches are always the 1st to be blamed and is why they're always the 1st to be fired. The Bulls have been notorious in using coaches as scape goats for years. Even the great Phil Jackson wasn't immune to it. Thibs is no fool and he knows what time it is, that's why he doesn't care anymore. GarPax set him up for failure by assembling a team of losers for him to coach.

  • Apparently, both Rose and Gasol said that they are giving everything that they have in the way of effort. I find this interesting since I think that there is actually friction between these 2 guys. I have noticed Rose giving Gasol the stink eye several times lately after guys beat Rose off the dribble and Gasol does nothing to stop them from laying the ball in at the rim. Gasol basically flops his arms rolls his eyes and shakes his head after every basket that he watches go in while standing there doing nothing.

    I can buy Rose thinking that he is giving everything that he has, but it just isn't working right now. However, I cannot believe that Gasol actually believes that he is killing himself effort wise on either end of the court. This is an absolute joke. He is supposed to be a very cerebral guy, he'd have to be a demented moron to believe what he said today. Of course that really is a reflection of how bad the problem of the Krispy Kreme Pansey really is. No way this guy gives up starting(and finishing) even if it is in the best interest of the team, which it is even if nobody has the balls to say it.

  • Let's be realistic. This team is falling off the cliff both on offense and defense while the Cavs is taking off. I was hoping for a great run, at least getting into the EFC, but after seeing this team performing over the past month, I don't think we will see too much upside from the Bulls and I don't foresee this team going beyond the first round. We don't have an elite team, like the Atlanta and we don't have any superstar anymore, like the Cavs have. Period.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    This wouldn't be happening if John Paxson were alive.

  • It really is amazing how far this team has fallen over the course of a month or so. They need a shake up. They have to admit that they can't stay this course.

  • News Flash:

    The SportingNews is reporting that Taj has been involved in "considerable" trade talks.

    I like Taj, but if we can get a decent wing and a fourth big back this makes a lot of sense.

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    Don't look now, but here comes the Milwaukee Bucks! lol
    If I had to put my finger on the Bulls problems, I'd say it was a locker room issue.
    Pau Gasol is a nice addition who was initially recruited by Noah, and Rose, but now that he's here, there's a problem between Taj, Noah, and Pau playing together in the frontcourt.

    We waited 2 yrs to see our favorite Bulls back on the court, but now that's he's back, Rose has become a problem in the backcourt, and it can be debated whether he should start of backup Aaron Brooks at PG.

    We waited 3 yrs for Jimmy Butler to become an offensive threat, and be that perfect compliment to Derrick Rose, but now that he's the leading scorer on the team, his defense has suffered some.

    We waited 3 yrs for Nikola Mirotic to honor his contract overseas, and come play with the Chicago Bulls, but now that he's here there's not enough mins to go around with the log jam of front court players.

    We gave up two 1st rd draft picks in order to move up in the draft and pick the player Gar and Pax had on their radar for two years. Now that McDermott is a pro, he's too slow to guard anybody. He can't hit the NBA 3 pt shot with regularity, and he's been injured.

    Yes, I'd say team is a jar of mixed nuts, and to pin our hopes on Mike Dunleavy is like hoping for one more cashew nut to be left in the jar.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    That's the situation in a nutshell. Almost every single plan has came into effect and has effectively backfired.

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