The "ON" switch

The "ON" switch

For the Bulls, there is a perpetual on-switch that for the most part during the Tom Thibodeau era, has been turned on. This season is a different story however, so it was much to the delight of Bulls fans that during the second half of last night's game against Miami, it was turned on and worked flawlessly.

After digging themselves yet another hole, the Bulls found themselves down 19 to a Miami Heat team that couldn't even get Dwyane Wade going. It was purely a matter of weak effort, something that's been a recurring theme for most of the season, including Wednesday's loss to Orlando. After a pep talk from Nazr Mohammed, the 2010/2011 Bulls appeared on the court for the second half. That's high praise, but after playing the best third quarter of the entire season, it's a fair compliment.

Chicago did, almost literally, nothing wrong during that 12 minutes as they demonstrated just how dominating they can be, when playing for each other. Not only did they out-produce Miami 33-8 from a scoring standpoint, they did something far more encouraging: They forced Miami to change behavior and imposed their will on the game. That last bit always sound corny, but nevertheless it's true. It's how that aforementioned 2010/2011 team won 62 games and followed that up by winning 50 out of 66 games the next season. Remember, Bulls fans, when the Bulls would go on disgustingly effective stretches where teams would score a combined 20 points over a period of 25 minutes? Or what about the times where Chicago's help defense and quick rotations would force teams outside and Hail Mary themselves for the rest of the game?

Or better yet, remember how the body language changed in opponents after getting completely and utterly shut down for five straight possession in such a manner that made them want to just go home?

That's the team that showed its head last night. That's the team that understood the mental aspect of the game and its significance in getting the upper hand. Down 19 going into intermission, on national TV no less, having played about as uninspiring as one could possibly imagine, and to come back out with the mindset of winning through combined efforts and unselfish basketball... That shows character. Something that's been missing since late October.

Now, before things get too crazy, it's important to note that mental edges aren't always sustainable throughout a season. This could simply be a team fed up by poor play, trying something new and getting lucky. For all we know, the Bulls could be back in first-half mentality tomorrow against Philadelphia. But for the moment, everyone got a glimpse of how these Bulls could look full-time, when they're on the same page and ready to self-sacrifice personal glory. It wasn't about them scoring 120. It wasn't them having one guy go off for 35. No, it was the foundation of which the Bulls are built; defense, multiple efforts, unselfishness, rebounding, and turning off their mouths to turn up their games.

By the midway of the third quarter, it became obvious to everyone watching; the Bulls weren't going to drop this. They just couldn't allow it. It didn't matter what needed to happen, as long as it did. Nine players playing for one another, as a unit, is a rare sight for this year's team, so take it all in and hope it lasts.

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    Good Comeback Win!
    From what I noticed the 1st half the Bulls couldn't score. 32 freak'n pts was pathetic!
    Then came the 3rd qtr and suddenly Tony Snell, Aaron Brooks, and Mike Dunleavy all came alive and started draining 3's. What's the odds of that happening?
    The 4th qtr came and the Bulls cooled off a bit, but it was too late for the Miami Heat. They looked deflated by then.
    The 3 pt shot was the difference. When the Bulls can make them it's like watching a championship team in the making, but when they miss em it's like watching the 1st half over and over again.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    Sometimes they try and take too many threes. Take Orlando for instance; in the 1st half they were draining threes and that was all fine and dandy when they were falling. Then came the second half and the threes stopped going in. Rather than try and get something going in the paint or even just inside the arc, they continued chucking up three's and that's what lost them the game. I don't like it when the Bulls live and die at the three point line because they're too inconsistent and streaky shooting the three ball. That's the one thing I really don't like about Mirotics game. Sometimes he just launches up three's just for the heck of it before the rest of the team can even set up a play or a big can get in position for a rebound. All I'm saying is if the Bulls are gonna go deep into the playoffs and compete for a championship, they won';t do so at the three point line. They're at their best when they're fouls and getting to the free throw stripe.

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    In reply to ajaychitown:

    It's true the Bulls are streaky at best from the 3 pt line, but they have to keep making them, not just taking them. When they make 3's it spaces the floor. When they miss 3's and try to attack the basket to draw fouls defenses pack it in on the Bulls and draw offensive fouls. The Bulls are so much better when Snell, Dunleavy, Brooks, and Niko are draining 3's.

  • Hopefully this is the switch on at last. This is the kind of effort the Bulls will need to bring to go deep on the playoffs.

  • Definitely will take the win, but I'm not going to get excited about the likelihood of Brooks, Snell and Dunleavy shooting lights-out all at the same time. That being said, it's nice to see the Bulls pull this one out, without Butler and a very limited Rose.

    It was also good to see Rose try attacking the basket. His handle and rhythm weren't really there, but he gets points for effort. I also think several of those "ball out-of-bounds off his leg" calls were very questionable too.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    Also loved the offensive charge Rose took in the first half. He sacrificed his body 100% on that play.

  • All I could think was how the Bulls were doing to the Heat was Detroit did to the Bulls only a few weeks ago. It is amazing to me how many times the Bulls have had quarters like last night. How many times they would lay a dud and then follow up with one that looks unstoppable, or look unstoppable and then fall on their face.

  • I was at last nights game in Miami. Here are my notes from the game.

    1. Bulls 1st half - Was as bad in person as it probably was on TV. No rotation, no active movement, missed layups, missed dunk (Gibson), poor shooting. If it wasn't for Gasol's first half offense, don't know where they would be. For Miami, their huge lead came on Michael Beasley catching on fire and the Bulls not hustling to the ball. There were a lot of loose balls that they just didn't get to.

    2. Bulls 2nd half - Was keyed by two things: 1. Bulls defense that forced Miami to difficult outside shots which led to easy rebounds. There was also nothing in the paint in the second half except for Whiteside (who is going to be an All-star if continues to progress). 2. Mike Dunleavy - I gained a new respect of Dunleavy yesterday. He is a tough, scrappy, hard nosed player that plays with an edge. I thought he exemplified the Bulls attitude in the 2nd half. Brooks did his thing, Gibson finally hit some shots and Mirotic had two big 3's in the 4th quarter but I would give the game ball to Dunleavy.

    3. Pau Gasol - Gasol played a good game statistically but I got to see up close and personal his shortcomings. He doesn't move his feet fast enough to get to the right position to defend or contest shots. He also isn't strong enough to hold ground as Whiteside pushed him around with ease. His length helps him contest shots but his lack of movement hurts him. Gasol was also completely ineffective in the 2nd half. Missed shots and just looked tired and old.

    4. Tony Snell - If I had a second game ball to give, it would be to Tony Snell. He didn't do much offensively but he played hellacious defense. Active hands, moving through screens, sticking to Wade and he didn't fall for Wade's pump fakes (brought a smile to my face). Snell was the defensive MVP last night. Offensively - he didn't want the ball. Almost zero confidence to create offensively even though I think it is an area in his game he has an opportunity to grow. He had his moments but many times he gave up the ball even with open looks.

    5. DRose - looked fast and explosive and healthy. Every time he jumped or went down, I kind of held my breath but it was just good to see him. My issue with Rose is two-fold. 1. Poor shot selection. He took a lot of forced and difficult, low percentage shots. He was more looking to shoot even when the shot wasn't there than to set up teammates 2. Too many out of control sequences. While seeing Rose attack the rim was good, he still attacks with reckless abandonment seemingly not looking for contact or to put up a good shot. It just seems like he just goes hard to rim with no real plan and tries to create on the fly.

    6. Mirotic - was disappointed to see Mirotic settling for 3 pointers. I don't know if this is a DRose factor or if he just settled in this game but I don't remember seeing one drive to the basket. He seemed to purely settle for outside shots and trying to draw contact with his pump fake (which made me chuckle). I don't know who needs to get into Mirotic's ear but he needs to drive and create more.

    Also, my observation is that the offense is less free flowing when Rose is in the game and controlling the ball. With his score-first mindset, his teammates are more looking to set him up offensively with screens and different sets. Also, it seems that when Rose does give it up, its because the lane closed or the shot he was looking for wasn't there. There were many occasions when he drove and the defender slid to help leaving an open 3 for Snell or Dunleavy but Rose didn't seem to see or was too intent on putting up the shot than "making the right basketball play." Come playoff time, the Bulls will have 3 prospective shot creators - Rose, Butler, and Mirotic. It would behoove them to show opposing defenses different offensive sets and fronts that would force or stress opposing defenses to make tough decisions on who to guard. I thought Mirotic played with more aggressiveness when he was forced to be the central initiator of offense in the 4th quarter when Rose sat. I don't know why the Bulls feel obligated to run everything through Rose. Not everything goes through Tony Parker on the Spurs. As Rose progresses and returns to more minutes, I really hope to see how Thibs will integrate the talents and abilities of Mirotic and Butler into offense when Rose is on the court.

    Overall, fun win to witness. The thought crossed my mind to leave at half time as it looked like the Heat were going to run away with this but the arena completely died in the 3rd quarter with the Bulls comeback. I think people were expecting the Heat to have a run of their own in the 2nd half that would have gotten the crowd back into it but it never came. There were so many stunned faces after the game, with people not seeming to grasp how the Heat lost that game.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Good observations but in Mirotics defense it's mostly because he's playing at the small forward spot now which doesn't suit him at all. Make no mistake, Niko is without a doubt a stretch four. He has amazing foot speed for his size and can take almost any 4 off the dribble but at the 3 it's a different challenge. At the 3 he's not quick enough to beat anyone off the dribble so he's stuck playing a perimeter game that he doesn't look at all comfortable with. Niko's at his best when he's slashing to the basket drawing fouls. He also has a nice mid range game but he can't do it consistently at the 3 mostly because of positioning and quicker defenders. Gibson and to a smaller extent Gasol really are hampering his development. They're only giving him chicken scratch minutes and it's hurting his game. The month of march was no fluke.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    I get your comments on Mirotic. Still, his "pump fakes" look idiotic, and no defender ever seems to fall for them, so ... Get rid of the blasted move! This is the NBA, not kiddieland. This is partly a coaching issue, and the coaches need to address this bad habit.

    Rose also has developed some bad habits and they need to be eliminated. When he gives in to the tendency, he looks like a kid, not a pro. Again, what are coaches for?? To fix this stuff!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    totally agree about the ridiculous begging for a foul without even thinking about making a legitimate basketball play pump fakes. It's embarassing to watch and somebody needs to tell him to knock it off. Hopefully the refs will stop bailing him out by calling fouls so that he will be forced to stop it. The last few games he's looked like a fool several times when the refs didn't give him the call, keep up the good work refs.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    Agreed on Mirotic. I love Taj but this team needs Niko's skills on offense more than Taj IMO. Niko should be the first Big off the bench. Taj should be the 2nd big to come in and a defensive specialist as needed. That would maximize this teams skills... But I'm sure Thips feels Taj "deserves" it and its hard to argue....but....

  • In reply to CN71:

    in that sense Taj is the hangdog of the frontcourt in Thibs eye's.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    Totally agree that the main reason for the apparent change in Niko's game is playing almost exclusively at SF. He's basically given up putting the ball on the floor and driving to the rim because he really isn't a great ball handler and cannot do so against SF. Against PF he has an advantage and uses it. Now, he basically just chucks up 3's as fast as he can, which unfortunately he basically sucks at right now.

    His rebounding has also been greatly diminished by playing SF. Is he even a plus player when playing SF, tough call, even though it feels like we still need him on the floor as a scoring option. He clearly struggles more defensively at SF too, which Thibs hasn't been shy to point out.

    It is interesting that a guy as stubborn as Thibs loves to play his guys out of position(Noah, Niko) even after telling us that they can't play said position. Clearly, unless there are injuries this isn't going to change this season.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    First star- Mike Dunleavy
    Second star- Pau Gasol
    Third star- (tie) Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Correction- Taj tied with second star along with Pau. Dunleavy helped turn around the game the most.

    Noah was horrible as the roll man to the basket. Also, he was burned more than Gasol by Whiteside. Whiteside is a stud.

    Something is wrong with Niko's shot. More athletic defenders in NBA bother him. Should concentrate on getting shot off quickly with good form than over- relying on pump fake. The whole Bulls nation knows this. Perhaps we should start a petition.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Whiteside scored at will against both guys, but was Gasol's primary cover and still scored most of his baskets against Gasol as well as most of his rebounds, especially his 5 offensive. If the guy can keep his head on straight, he will be a stud. He registered 19 & 16 without even seeming to try that hard at least not compared to his triple double game. The Heat never really went to him which they should have done to stem the Bulls tide in the 3rd instead of jacking up outside shots.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    But you are right that Noah was not particularly effective last night(if not outright horrible), even if he was part of the group that turned the game around in the 3rd, he was equally responsible for the collapse in the 2nd.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Really great stuff, thanks so much, especially for the balanced view of Gasol. I think he's a good player but his flaws are deep and can be exploited. However, I no longer think Noah's a better player. He's hot garbage out there and it's not just because he's out of position. He's lost any ability to jump and at least a step in quickness.

    Rose is hurting the team IMO. This version is a way below average player. He can stay at 20 minutes as far as I'm concerned.

    Niko needs to work on his shooting mechanics during the off-season, he can't get a shot off quickly right now. However, I don't blame him for shooting the three, it's always been a big part of his game. He just shouldn't rely upon it so much.

    Taj, my gosh has he been here a year too long already. He should have been traded last off-season. I don't know that there's much of anything to get for him this off-season, maybe a 2nd-round pick or a conditional future first at best, but might as well go ahead and get it or package him with a pick for a veteran wing player.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    My take after yesterday's game. I agree we should get a balanced view on Gasol and Noah both. Yes, Pau can be exploited on defense because of foot speed but he holds his own against most centers on defense. His real plus/minus on defense this year is positive.

    Consider this: yesterday Pau led the Bulls in both scoring and rebounding with 16 points and 15 rebounds. He also had the second best plus/minus on the team (after Dunleavy) at +17. The rebounds came against some tough dudes in Whiteside, Haslem and Anderson. Noah had 3 points and six rebounds.

    Pau was assigned Haslem at the start of both halves, not Whiteside (review the game). Haslem, I believe, had 2 points and 4 rebounds.

    Pau was mostly on the court in quarters one and three. The Bulls led after the first quarter and bludgeoned the Heat in the third quarter. As we know, Thibs takes Pau out at the start of the second quarter. That is when the Heat started to trample the Bulls.

    Whiteside did damage against both Noah and Gasol. The reason Noah's plus/minus was about 10 less than Pau was probably because Jo was primarily responsible for trying to contain him. No surprise here, Noah is our best defender against bigs.

    The real problem with the Bulls defense this year is that our perimeter defenders have not been good. Butler generally holds his own defensively but he has not been as effective as last year. Rose, Brooks, Hinrich, and Moore suck. Snell can have good games but, on average, gives up more points than his opponent. The bigs have been consistently better than the guys at the perimeter if you agree with advanced statistics.

    It is well known that Thibs runs players into the ground. Guess who has played more minutes than anyone else this season? Yep, the old guy. Can a tired Gasol, as well as beat-up bigs Noah and Gibson help us get past the Bucks or Wizards? Good chance IMO. Against the Cavs or Hawks? If they do, Thibs will be a God on this board.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Maybe Snell's somnabulance worked to his advantage in defending Wade. He didn't fall for Wade's usual assortment of head fakes because he didn't even notice them due to his semi awake status.

  • Kind of getting tired of the same old quotes from Rose, especially the part about missing shots that I(he)normally make(s). The only place that he normally makes those shots is in an empty gym. Really if his attitude about what he is doing doesn't change then his game won't either.

    “I was more calm, more patient,” Rose said about his first back to back since mid-February. “I missed a lot of shots I normally hit, but that comes with just playing. If anything, I feel like I’m pushing myself. So that’s the only thing that I’m concerned about. I didn’t know what to expect coming into tonight’s game. I knew before the game I wasn’t sore. I was feeling great. And I still feel the same way. So my preparation for the game, I think, is getting a lot better. I’ve just got to continue to do it.”

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Or my personal favorite: Asked if he will make a regular-season appearance, Rose said: "Who knows?"

  • IMO, Snell is the perfect fifth starter. He is fourth best at hitting open shots in the league (see @vantagesports) and even his worst detractor, Thibs, agrees Snell is the Bulls second best wing defender. So let Snell start, only take open shots and focus on defense. That will allow Dunleavy, still a very good offensive player, to get more shots with the second unit. Also, make the switch and let Taj start. This allows Noah to play with the second unit as the 5, Mirotic the 4 and Dunleavy the 3, brooks at the 1, and rose/butler/snell at the 2. REALITY: Thibs will start Noah, bench Snell, and play Hinrich.

  • Definitely agree on starting Taj, though I'd give him the quick hook for Mirotic, like at the 6-minute mark. A few minutes later, I'd put Noah in for Gasol, let Niko and Noah work together for a while, then go with matchups.

    As far as Snell, while I don't think he's starter material, I think you might be onto something as far as maximizing his talents with the starting unit, where Dunleavy can probably do what he does just as well off the bench.

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