Bulls Struggle To Score, Fall To Pacers

Bulls Struggle To Score, Fall To Pacers

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.

Game Notes

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.

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.

Final Thoughts

- 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.

- In their next game, the Bulls face the elite defense of the San Antonio Spurs. F**k.

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  • Rose continues to play at 1/2 speed (or less) until the 4th quarter. he jogs the ball over half-court and makes a lazy pass around the perimeter, and then walks to the weak side of the court and stands completely still. It absolutely kills all offensive flow and takes 10 seconds off the shot clock. if the ball moves inside and the defense collapses, he continues to stand in one spot and won't even take a few steps to create a passing angle for a big man to pass out for and open three, and the defense doesn't have to account for him. And he shows no effort on defense unless it is either the 4th quarter or a big match-up (lillard, paul,etc.) I can't stand to watch it anymore. my hope is that he is just preserving his body through the first half of the season and will start playing with some intensity once he gets his legs under him, but this is garbage.

  • Can we send Taj or Pau to Sacto so they improve a little to ensure we get their draft pick in 2016?

  • Bright spot of the game: we got a Portis sighting.

  • This team appears to have no cure with the current roster. This is a bunch of sub-athletic pretenders. The Bulls need a new fresh start with more energetic and athletic players. Time to reset the button. It hurts to watch this team being so miserable and thinking they can even compete against the elite teams. Rose is not even considered an average PG at this point. There is no start level SF and the front court is just a joke being out rebounded by a bunch of dwarfs. Time to reset the button.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    Completely agree. They have a decent record but this is not a contending team. Primary problem is one Derrick Rose. Reset around Jimmy, Niko and Bobby, jettison the rest.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    While I agree with your reset premise, as long as Rose still has double vision, I will give him more time. If it never goes away, then he simply needs to retire and collect the insurance money. At this point even if his vision returns to normal/perfect, I don't really expect him to return to normal as a player, at least not his previous normal.

  • Interesting picture from BAB,


    A fierce, manly rim protector.

  • Another interesting article about the Bulls problems on offense from Today"s Fastbreak.

    "The Chicago Bulls are a deep and talented team on paper. Not many teams can boast a rotation filled with so many established players and former All-Stars (Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah). This team, with offensive savant (at least in college) Fred Hoiberg at the helm, should be one of the best offensive teams in the league. So far they’re only better than the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers on offense.

    You read that right. The Bulls rank 28th in the league in points per 100 possessions. Chicago ranked 10th in the league in offensive efficiency last season with defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau as the coach and Rose limited to 51 games. Rose has double vision this season and Mike Dunleavy Jr. has yet to play, but that putrid number is still shocking. Chicago’s sixth-ranked defensive efficiency and the brilliance of Butler is the only thing keeping them from being a mere .500 team. How in the world are the Bulls this bad on offense? Their shot chart tells some of the story:


    The Bulls’ shot distribution isn’t ideal in the this advanced stats age. A whopping 29.7 percent of Chicago’s shots come from the vaunted mid-range. Their conversion rate of 38.5 percent on those shots is slightly below league average. The bigger issue is that only 28.2 percent of the Bulls’ field goal attempts are coming at the rim, and they’re shooting an abysmal 52.2 percent from that range (helped by Rose’s 41 percent shooting at the rim so far this season). The only above-average shooting areas for the Bulls are in the corners, but those attempts make up only five percent of their shots.

    Nearly half of Chicago’s shots (49.7 percent) come from mid-range and above the break three-pointers. The Bulls spot up on 20.3 percent of their shots, which is the seventh-highest rate in the league, per Synergy. The Bulls also rank seventh on points per play on those shots, which is encouraging, but there’s room to do even better if they shoot more from the corners and less from mid-range. The Bulls’ shot distribution has been poor, but they’ve actually been an above-average jump-shooting team. The real killer on offense has been the lack of easy buckets.

    The Bulls’ inability to finish in the paint has brought down the offense, but their failure to create easy shots has been just as detrimental. The easiest shots in the game come from transition, putbacks and the free throw line. The Bulls are among the worst in the league in all three of those categories.

    According to Synergy, Chicago is in transition for only 11.7 percent of its possessions, ranking seventh from the bottom in the league. Their points per play of .98 in transition is the fourth-lowest mark in the NBA. That’s unacceptable for a team that ranks eighth in the NBA in pace and has a backcourt of Rose and Butler. The Bulls often crawl the ball up the court offensively instead of pushing the ball in transition. Exhibit A:

    To make matters worse, the Bulls create few second-chance opportunities. After ranking fifth in offensive rebound rate last season, Chicago has crashed down to 27th this season. The starting frontcourt of Gasol and Nikola Mirotic have a rebound rate of 45.9 percent when they share the floor together, per NBA.com. The Milwaukee Bucks have the worst rebound rate in the league at 46.4 percent. You get the idea.

    The Bulls are also drawing significantly less free throws this season. Chicago ranked fourth in free throw attempts and third in percentage last season. This year, the Bulls rank 23rd in free throw attempts and 17th in percentage. Butler is still living at the free throw line, but opponents are no longer falling for Mirotic’s flailing antics. The team’s increase in jump shots has also led to less foul-drawing opportunities. The combination of fewer fast breaks, offensive rebounds and free throw attempts has helped the Bulls’ offense fall from above-average to a near league-worst mark this season. Starting two players who are really struggling offensively hasn’t helped, either.

    Rose and Gasol are struggling on offense for different reasons. Rose has double vision, but more importantly hasn’t shown he can be the same player post-injures. Gasol is a 35-year-old coming off one of the best seasons of his career, but his offensive contributions are inefficient. The Bulls have been awful offensively with both of them on the floor.

    Both players have sub-96 offensive ratings, which is staggering considering the Los Angeles Lakers are the second-worst offensive team in the league at 96.4 points per 100 possessions. Rose has tried to take better shots, but his inability to finish in the paint or hit outside shots has derailed his efficiency this season. He’s a step slower than he used to be and has lost almost all the lift in his legs. He’s also just an average playmaker, so his contributions have been largely negative. Double vision has played a factor in his poor play, but time is running out for Rose. If he can’t prove that he can play at even a league-average rate anymore, he’s likely playing his last season in Chicago in 2016-17.

    Gasol is a poor offensive rebounder whose offense primarily comes from post ups and mid-range shots, which would be fine if he excelled in those areas. He doesn’t.

    Pau ranks in the 33rd percentile in post-ups, which makes up 21.4 percent of his offense. He no longer has the strength to back players down, so he’s often forced to take tough turnaround jumpers. The rest of his offense comes from mid-range jumpers, which make up nearly half of his field goal attempts (48.6 percent). He’s shooting a league-average 42.2 percent on those shots, down from a 45 percent mark last season. This inefficient offensive approach has led to his 94.9 offensive rating, which is third-worst in the league among non-Sixers (min. 25 minutes per game).

    Gasol is a poor fit for this team and Hoiberg’s system, making a trade seem like a good idea, but the Bulls seldom make trades. Thus, this team will have to improve on offense internally. Until the Bulls start taking better shots and creating easier scoring opportunities, that’s not going to happen.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Starting to sound a lot like Thibs wasn't the problem.

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