Bulls fall to Spurs, need to bounce back against Grizzlies

For two days, we get to feel what it's like being in the West. A day after falling to the San Antonio Spurs, the Bulls will have to try to bounce back against another powerhouse team in the Memphis Grizzlies.

The short handed Bulls have fallen to 3rd place in the East, a half game behind Cleveland, a half game ahead of Toronto. The value in clinging to the two seed would be home court in the second round in the playoffs. The value in the three seed would potentially be avoiding a first round matchup with the suddenly hot Indiana Pacers.

If Indiana makes it to the sixth seed (they are five games back with 20 to play) then the three seed would lose any appeal.

I only caught about half of the Spurs game, so it's tough to give much of a thorough analysis of what happened. The Bulls fell into a hole early and simply couldn't buy a bucket. The fought back to make it reasonably close at the end of the first, but fell right back into that hole at the beginning of the second.

Looking at the box score, it looks like they found their shooting later as they shot over 50% from the floor as a team, better than San Antonio in fact. Unfortunately, they turned the ball over 22 times to San Antonio's seven which allowed the Spurs to hoist an additional 17 shots, and that appeared to be the difference.

Tony Snell had another rough day and after a great February has cooled off in March so far. I'm okay being a bit patient with Snell because his defense has improved considerably and his three point shooting has still generally been solid. I think I'm still sold on Snell as a rotation player, but I don't think he's more than a minor one.

E'Twaun Moore had a solid night and perhaps more importantly played more minutes than Hinrich. When Butler and Rose are healthy, my hope is that Hinrich is forgotten from this rotation as Moore seems to have pretty cleanly outplayed him at both ends of the floor.

I will say Hinrich does facilitate a bit more ball movement than Moore/Brooks, but he's so much worse at everything else that this minor skill isn't worth keeping him in the game for.

Nikola Mirotic seems to have taken it upon himself to replace Jimmy Butler in terms of getting to the charity stripe. Since moving to PF, he's received a ridiculous amount of foul calls, especially for a rookie. In his last seven games his ft attempts are: 5 (in 18 mins), 8, 11, 16, 5, and 9.

That's pretty ridiculous right there. Hopefully the Bulls can find a way to continue to play him at PF more frequently than SF.

Grizzlies present an interesting challenge

The Grizzlies are a strong team, but much like the Bulls, they've been playing around .500 ball for awhile now. They just blew a big lead against the Pelicans to fall Saturday, so they'll also be trying to get back on track with this game.

The Grizzlies can go through similar scoring droughts as Chicago and have a similar front team in terms of front court strength and not as much perimeter play. Given the Bulls present injuries, I'd favor any elite team over them which includes the Grizzlies, however, this is a game I could see Chicago pulling out.

Memphis has size in the front court, but they don't have all that much athleticism, and I like the Bulls odds against teams that don't have athletic advantages with their bigs. Chicago may struggle to contain Conley and Green's athleticism on the perimeter, but they can always help on those guys.

The question with the Bulls will come down who scores points. Scoring didn't ultimately prove a big problem against San Antonio (surprisingly), and if Chicago can get a quality shooting effort again then I think they'll have a good shot.

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  • I don't believe Hinrich creates better ball movement, at least the ball movement doesn't make the offense better. When Noah and Hinrich are both in the game, those 2 just keep passing the ball back and forth in the perimeter and wasting valuable time off the clock without creating anything.

  • In reply to handushk:

    EXACTLY!!!
    The ball never penetrates the 3pt arc (neither through passing or dribbling) until the shot clock is too low.

    Watching the Spurs, they penetrate early in the shot clock (via pass or drive) and this initiates their offensive flow.

    Other teams get more hype, but damn the Spurs know how to play!

  • In reply to Edward:

    Yea, watching their offensive scheme(and defensive for that matter) last night all I could think about was how they looked like PHD's from MIT while the Bulls look like GED's from the state prison system.

    There was one play in particular that perfectly illustrates the Bulls complete lack of any offensive principals. On one of the POSdog's idiotic crosscourt pass turnovers, he was stuck in the corner and both Mirotic and McPillsbury came over into the same corner no more than 5 feet from the dog, thus dragging 2 more defenders into an area already constrained by the backline and sideline. Simply moronic, leaving the dog no other choice than to hail mary it out of there.

    Really how hard is it to study the Spurs offense and mimic it. It isn't really entirely based on superstar talent. It is just a continuous motion(bodies and the ball) and passing offense. If we do replace Thibs, I wouldn't mind seeing someone from the Spurs coaching tree replace him, if there are any guys left.

    Maybe its hard to execute after a night of tequila shots on the river walk followed by a breakfast of lead and molasses which is what the Bulls players looked like they did Saturday night/Sunday morning.

  • In reply to handushk:

    Totally agree on the Noah/Hangdog cirlce jerk, it drives me nuts that those 2 guys are ever on the court together, 2 guys passing the ball back and forth to each other with neither one capable of(or even thinking about it most of the time) making a play to score the ball, usually leading to a forced shot by someone else at the end of the shot clock.

  • I love Taj Gibson. His defense is great and his dunks can instantly swing momentum in favor of the bulls. However, Nikola Mirotic is the future and the bulls are great at developing big men. Do you trade Gibson after the season for a wing or another ball handler? Then draft size or bring in a backup center. How much longer is Pau Gasol going to play? Taj Gibson seems to be valued like an Aaron Afflalo or a JR Smith. He is a solid role player that could start or come off the bench. I guess this is more about Niko playing in crunch time as of late and less about Taj being hurt.

  • In reply to bullinthesouth:

    I think we posted simultaneously. See my comments about Taj below. I totally agree... Love Taj, but need to make room for Mirotic.

    Now, perhaps we trade Pau instead? He has two years remaining and should have considerable value after this season. Pau's D is TERRIBLE. Taj is younger than Pau, too, although he's always rolling an ankle or tweaking a knee. Both players are on team-friendly deals.

  • Bulls lost to the Spurs for two reasons:

    1. Too many stupid turnovers... I didn't check the box score, but Mirotic had at least 3 bonehead turnovers. (He was at SF against Leonard on at least one of these turnovers... which is a mismatch.)

    2. Bulls D atrocious. They simply could not get stops. Ever. ESPN currently has an article up discussing the Bulls defensive weaknesses and it's old news: Noah coming back from injury and Gasol pretty much blows at that end.

    There is also some debate about Thibs and if he'll returns next year. Regardless, this is what needs to happen for next year:

    1. Trade Taj. I love Taj. Love his style, his ferocious dunks. But, he has trouble staying healthy and if he comes back and finishes like he did in last year's playoffs he'll have the best trade value of the bigs. (unless possibly Gasol is on the market...) He's a nice two way player on a team-friendly deal with two years remaining. You figure the Bulls could get a decent #1 pick AND this allows Mirotic to start at PF and get more minutes.

    2. Move Pau to bench. Starting Mirotic allows Pau to be sixth man and be the focus of the second team. This reduces the time Noah is at PF. Pau could still get plenty of minutes, but possibly under 30, which could extend his career. And, his minutes would potentially be against 2nd unit bigs and this could partly cover up his defensive weakness. Offensively, Bulls should still go through him while he's on the court.

    3. Sign Butler. Not much to say here. My assumption is also based on the luxury tax increasing in another year or so. Butler and Mirotic in the starting lineup helps with efficiently, as both guys get to the line a ton.

    4. Resign Dunleavy for SF. Snell played out of this world for a couple games. He's ok to play here and there, but he needs to be out of the starting lineup. Dunleavy adds value. McDermott needs to relax, but I still think he has more upside than Snell. But, it would be risky to rely solely on him next year.

    5. Lock up E.Moore. This kid can play.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Actually I really like the idea of bringing Pau off the bench as a focal point of the second unit offense. Let him run pick-and-pop with whomever the PG is, even Kirk can run it with him. The first team can get offense from Rose, Butler and Dunleavy, plus Mirotic/Taj. If Pau pouts, tough shit. This is the NBA, there's another all-star center on the team and you suck at defense.

  • In reply to Granby:

    E'Twaun Moore is under contract with Bulls for next season at only $1 million, though its unguaranteed. I guess unguaranteed essentially act like a team option.

    I agree with resigning Dunleavy at a reasonable salary. Too soon to reply upon McDermott and Snell.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Actually, the Spurs went small for a stretch in both the second and fourth quarters so Leonard was at PF when he was guarding Mirotic and just killed him defensively/athletically. I don't know if they did that specifically as a response to Mirotic, or if it is part of their normal rotation, but I found it interesting when they did it.

    No matter how or why, they were horrible, again in the turnover department. The Spurs did seem to get all the calls on both ends as they were in full Edward Scissorhands mode all night long. I thought the officiating last night was even worse than Indy on Friday. A couple of times they called fouls on the Bulls(Mirotic) when the Spurs player nearly ripped his jersey off.

    I'd love for the Bulls to trade Taj(or Gasoline, heck even Noah) for a pick high enough to get Cauley-Stein, who is likely a taller version of Noah. I almost wish that he had come out last year, since he might have fallen to the Bulls even at 16, of course they would not have taken him anyway, but then we'd have another guy to bitch and moan about for years.

    Totally agree with 2,3, and 4,5 to a lesser extent. The Gasoline thing isn't happening because he won't stand for it without turning into a pouting pain in the ass. Butler is so obvious, even the Bulls can mess that up. We certainly can't count on McDNP replacing Dunleavy next season, but like you I have higher hopes for him than I do Snell. I'll be interested in seeing how Jeff Green does against us tonight for Memphis, as we could easily have had him as our starting SF, even though he is not nearly the 3 point shooter that Dunleavy is. Moore looks like he would be the perfect reason to euthanize the corpsedog.

  • I'm shocked to hear you say that Tony Snell's defense has improved considerably. He has been absolutely miserable lately(Since getting way too much credit for Lebron's tough night against our team defense). Yesterday he looked like a taller darker version of the corpsedog.

    He couldn't stay in the same zip code with Westbrook the other night giving up at least 30 of his 43 points in just the first and third quarters.
    When Moore was on Westbrook, in the 2nd and 4rth he basically completely disrupted his offensive flow. Granted Snell is not a PG, so asking him to defend one is problematic, however, Westbrook is kind of a combo guard so as a wing defender he is the type of guy that Snell should be able to cover.

    Yesterday against the Spurs because they are such a beautiful offensive machine he looked completely lost, literally running around like a chicken with it head cut off, just like the Pukedog. Snell appears to be one of those players who is simply too dimwitted(like Eddie Curry or Tyrus Thomas and many others) to be a good NBA player. This is especially obvious on defense, and even more so against a team with great coaching and schemes like the Spurs.

    Combine this with his somnabulant personality and you really have no hope that he will be anything more than an erratic 3 point shooter off the bench. Snell's defensive seems to be a product of the topic that you discussed a few weeks ago, reputation/expectation. He looks like he should be a good athletic defender based on his body type, when in fact he is neither. Comparing him to Butler is ridiculous.

    To me you are usually an astute observer, but you could not have picked a worse day to compliment Snell's defense, don't tell me that he is your new Ben Gordon. Now that he was actually on the court with Leonard maybe people will stop throwing that comparison out there.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I do agree with your contention that he is no more than a minor rotation player, so maybe we're not as far apart as we were on Gordon, who was clearly a more talented offensive player than Snell despite his comical ball handling.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I didn't watch all of the game yesterday (as I noted in the article), so my thoughts on Snell's defense were overall it has improved considerably. That may or may not have been the case yesterday.

    From the beginning of the season to now his positioning and decision making on defense is vastly improved IMO. At times he has good aggression, but that is something he still needs to work on bringing consistently.

    I'm not super high on Snell overall, I think he's an eighth man type at best and a deep bench type at worst, but that's a considerable upgrade from "out of the league" type which I had him early on.

  • does Jimmy Butler qualify for the 30% max or only the 25% max? I wonder if the Bulls get over the luxury tax line, do they have the cojones to dump their love child Kirk. Probably just give Taj Gibson away for peanuts. We of course get the hear the Gar Forman nonsense about "flexibility" garbage. Trade Gibson for a scoring wing or mid-late lottery draft pick only.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    25% max

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Is that the same max that Hayward and those type guys got last summer, if so it may not even seem that bad by the following summer when the new money from the TV deal kicks in. I heard that the union is actually fighting any kind of smoothing provision where some of that money if moved forward to spread out the cap increases over a few years. For once that would actually help the Bulls, but hurt Jimmy, although I doubt he ever dreamed that he'd make $16 million in his entire lifetime nevermind one season.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yes. Hayward got 4 yrs / $63M. Next year's max for Butler will be a bit higher, probably in the 4 yrs / $66M range. Very smart move by Butler to turn down the Bulls offer before the season.

  • Really can't complain about losing a game to the defending champs who are finally healthy and starting to put it together for a playoff run especially when you factor in that 60% of our starting lineup consists of non starters and in at least one case borderline NBA players.

    By the way, Patti Mills, another one of the "100's" of guys that we could have signed over the years instead of not re-overpaying the POSdog, in addition to Bellinelli.

  • According to Sam Smith "Rose said could have been playing on injury for weeks as first felt something in late January."

    How incompetent is the Bulls training staff and how stupid is Rose?

  • The Bulls just need to chill out on the turnovers and start playing some D. It's as plain and simple as that. Turnovers and defense have been the two killers all season even before the injuries. What's worse is you can't even pin it on anyone in particular because the whole team is guilty. I think the reason why it's become such a big issue is that this team has no athleticism to speak of. At times it just looks like guys can't keep up with the pace of the game. Whenever we face any team with even a little athleticism it's a problem and that just so happens to be the majority of the teams in the NBA. Furthermore whenever we play teams that's well coached, organized with a potent offense like the Spurs, Hawks, Warriors, etc. they run circles around us and with young guys like Mirotic, Snell, McDermott etc. half the time they don't even look like they're reading the plays properly. So then coach Thibs looks for stability from his vets only to find out their just as lost as the rookies. Right now we don't have the luxury of a DRose or JButler to play hero ball and bail the team out. These guys are gonna have to find their identity one way or the other. Sink or swim.

  • Rose is now saying he's going to "listen to his body". So he might be out all season. Unlikely, though, he's in trouble if he doesn't come back this year.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    It would be best if Rose doesn't talk at all. Every time he opens his mouth even if he means well it resonates with fans and the media the wrong way. He just doesn't know how to speak publicly and his agent needs to be fired for not setting him up for success. As bad as his image has been tarnished because of injury, it's the comments that he makes that has people giving up on him. Personally I understand perfectly what he means and I've never thought anything he said was at all offensive, but when your dealing with the public you have to be very careful how you phrase your words because the media will eat you alive and spit you back out.

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