Things were looking promising early. The defense was engaged, the offense was moving well, opening the game with a 7-2 start against the in-form Pacers. It was all going to plan for about three minutes, then things quickly turned.
Giving up 11 straight points to the home team and surrendering their lead early, finding themselves down 13-7, the Bulls would trail for the remainder of the game, ultimately losing to the Indiana Pacers by 12 points.
Shooting 34.8 percent from the field and only having one player above 50 percent for the entire night, the struggling Bulls offense was no match for the streaking Pacers.
Paul George led Indiana, continuing his incredible play this year. Pouring in 33 points on 11-for-24 shots, grabbing eight rebounds and playing fantastically well on defense, the Pacers leader couldn't be stopped by Jimmy Butler and the Bulls.
Despite the individual brilliance of George, he wasn't alone.
Monta Ellis, Ian Mahinmi, Lavoy Allen and C.J. Miles would all contribute with double-digit scoring, giving Frank Vogel an array of options and scoring versatility from all over the floor.
Winners of 9 of their first 13 games, Chicago were finding ways to get the job done, even if their net rating and point differential suggested an average team. Tonight, the Bulls certainly regressed to the mean, looking more like a non-playoff threat than a team boasting a top five record league-wide.
If you lacked faith in the chances of this team as a true contender for the championship, your concerns were only heightened after this performance.
Rose Needs To Take A Back Seat
Derrick Rose has said he would let Jimmy Butler get more shots, he even lobbied for it to happen. Unfortunately, what Derrick Rose says often differs from his actions. Since making comments about getting Butler more involved, three games have passed. Rose has shot the ball more than Butler in all three games, putting up 54 shots in comparison to Jimmy's 35.
That simply can't happen.
Forcing up 16 shots to get to his 10 points, Rose had a night to forget. His scoring was bad, the floor game was worse, and if that wasn't enough, the defense on pick-and-rolls lacked enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, Butler finished the night 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
But lets be real; Both players didn't have a good night. Rose was terrible and Butler was well beaten by Paul George. The Bulls backcourt were able to beef up their numbers in the fourth quarter, but at one point during the third period, Butler and Rose had combined for as many made shots (2) as Kirk Hinrich.
When that happens, you're not going to win many ball games.
Rose: "I feel like I played like (expletive)."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 28, 2015
On this occasion, Derrick's words and actions are aligned.
Bad Offense, Worse Transition Defense
Chicago have not been a good offensive team this season. In almost everything they're doing, they're having a tough time manufacturing an efficient offense. When you're struggling on offense, quick jump shots in the shot clock with no offensive rebounding in place is not a good idea. Rose, Butler and Mirotic were all guilty of this.
Compounding the poor offense issue is the pending problem on transition defense. Missing deep jumpers in a four-out offense early in the shot clock can expose you defensively, especially if you're not hustling back. That's exactly what happened.
The Bulls turned over the ball seven times in the first quarter, giving up 14 points easy buckets to the Pacers, with many of them coming in the lanes. It fueled the 11-0 run the Pacers managed to create, and from that point on, it didn't feel like Chicago had a viable answer to crawl back into the game.
Missing a heap of shots and giving away extra possessions to a team who has been on fire over its last ten games, Chicago would lose the fast break battle 21-5. In a game where the deciding margin is 12 points, Fred Hoiberg will be ruing the poor ball control, decision making and effort getting back on defense.
The Frontcourt Has Been An Unmitigated Disaster
Combining for 13 points on 23 shots, the frontcourt of Gasol, Gibson and Noah were just as bad as Derrick Rose.
Pau Gasol looked uninspired, Joakim Noah was scoreless again and Taj Gibson provided little. In a game where the Bulls lacked energy and passion, more minutes for rookie Bobby Portis would have made sense. In a five minute burst, his intensity could have been the spark the team required.
Making matter worse, the small Pacers were without Myles Turner and Jordan Hill for this game. They played with one big man for the majority of the night, and yet, they still found a way to out-rebound the Bulls. The discrepancy wasn't large (-4), but that's still unacceptable against a team who has gone out of their way to play small ball.
Thankfully, Nikola Mirotic restored some level of respectability into the big man rotation, having himself his best game since early November. His overall shot selection wasn't great, but he did a great job of knocking down difficult shots. He was also smart in posting up the smaller C.J. Miles and exploiting that match-up where possible.
While the Bulls were forcing the issue on the block against the thin Pacers frontline, Nikola was really the only Bull who looked capable tonight on the block. Finishing with 25 points and 7 rebounds on 8-for-14 shooting, Mirotic was the best Bull.
- The Bulls have capable three point shooters, but the volume isn't high enough for it to be a key feature of the offense. Tony Snell was 2-for-4, Kirk Hinrich had 3-from-5. Both of these guys can knock down shots, but they can only do so on catch and shoot plays, not off the dribble. It's something the Bulls lack, even if they're capable of making 11 three's on 42.9 percent shooting. Chicago is shooting the three well, but do teams' fear their outside ability? I wouldn't.
- The shot selection wasn't good. A lot of forced mid-range jumpers, too many misses inside against a much smaller team and not enough free throws to compensate for the horrid field goal shooting. We're 15 games into the regular season, it's time to get serious. It's not impossible for the Bulls to improve their offense, but when the team finds themselves 28th in offensive rating, only beating out the hapless Lakers and Sixers, the signs aren't encouraging.
- Kirk looked like he hurt himself, and now, Jimmy Butler looks like he is fighting through his own injury issues.
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) November 28, 2015
- In their next game, the Bulls face the elite defense of the San Antonio Spurs. F**k.
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