I don’t get too low during regular season losses. That’s why you didn’t see me act as if the sky was falling when the Bulls lost on Sunday to the Heat at home.
And while I try not to get too high on regular season wins, Tuesday’s overtime thriller against the Warriors is probably as good as it gets.
Put as much stock into bad home losses to the Celtics, Pacers and Heat as you want. But do so at your own risk. As far as I’m concerned, it takes some real gumption to pull out road wins against superior Western Conference teams.
The Bulls are 12-6 against the West. Tuesday’s win represented the first for any Eastern Conference team against the Warriors in 15 games. The Bulls are 13-9 against teams with records at .500 or better and that’s puts them in the top four behind Atlanta’s 16-5 mark, the Warriors’ 15-6 record and within percentage points of the Grizzlies 14-10.
Over the course of an 82-game season, good teams lose bad games.
Bad losses aside, the Bulls’ body of work speaks for itself.
So, what makes Tuesday’s season win stand out above the other 29 regular season wins?
How much time do you have?
Those of you who lamenting the Bulls’ lack of defense and citing the fact they have allowed the most 100-point games in the Tom Thibodeau era should have seen a glimpse why that 100-point number can be deceiving.
Golden State hung 100 last night in defeat, but it was a hard 100. The Warriors shot 42.5 percent from the floor (48-of-113) and 27.3 percent on 3-pointers (9-of-33), while only attempting 12 free throws.
One-hundred eleven points, be damned. The Bulls held a team shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from the 3-point line — both league bests— well below their season averages. The Warriors needed 113 shots to get 111 points. The team that prides itself on shooting efficiency and gets 1.28 points per shot only score 0.98 points per shot.
For perspective, the league-worst Philadelphia 76ers average 1.10 points per shot.
Not only did the Bulls take the Warriors’ best shot on multiple occasions, they found ways to counter their attack and bear down defensively for key stretches. To see that out of a short-handed team is eye-opening.
Overcoming the backcourt blues
The Bulls won despite starting two back-up wing players, as Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy missed the game due to illness and injury, respectively.
Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich on the wings last night. And you could definitely tell that wasn’t going to work from the outset.
I detailed Hinrich’s struggles in a post yesterday and to be honest, he wasn’t great in Tuesday’s win, either. He only two assists (only one turnover) and shot 2-of-8 from the field — including 1-of-6 from the 3-point line in 38 minutes.
Albeit, that one gave the Bulls a lead with 15 seconds left in regulation.
At age 34, it’s impossible to not notice Hinrich in his stage of decline. If the Bulls had better backcourt depth, head coach Tom Thibodeau could probably hide Hinrich better. Prior to getting increase burn due to Mike Dunleavy’s injury, Hinrich was shooting a respectable 39.5 percent on 3-point attempts. Even then, his turnover rate (15.1 percent) being higher than his assist rate (14.3) is still a major cause for concern.
For all of Derrick Rose’s heroics (and we’ll get to that soon), it was the Bulls’ frontcourt which won Tuesday’s tilt. And that is despite David Lee going off for 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting (58.8%) from the field.
Joakim Noah played his best ball of the season. He ran hard and didn’t look to be laboring. That’s big for a guy riddled by knee injuries this year and foot injuries in recent seasons. Noah scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting (58.3%) grabbed 15 rebounds (7 offensive, 8 defensive) and dished out six assists, while committing only two turnovers.
Fellow center Pau Gasol proved to be a quality facilitator, too, as he handed out a team-best eight assists. For good measure, Gasol tacked on 18 points (also on 7-of-12 shooting) and grabbed 16 rebounds (6 offensive, 10 defensive).
Interesting to note that Gasol and Noah combined to assist on four of the Bulls’ eight made 3-pointers.
Quite the contrast to Taj Gibson, who struggled to move the ball to open shooters when given the rock. It might be something to monitor moving forward.
“Shoutout to Derrick Rose…”
We were all thinking it, right?
Well, at least those of us who have heard Kanye West’s killer verse on Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” were definitely thinking of it after Rose hit what turned out to be the game-winning jumper.
It wasn’t vintage Rose. Heck, it wasn’t even an ideal shot. But that was as ice cold as it gets.
Dribble. Jab step. Off-balance step-back jumper. Splash.
It was an important splash, too, as Rose played one of the ugliest games Bulls fans have seen from the former league MVP.
Rose scored 30 points, but needed 33 shot attempts (including 12 attempted 3-pointers) to get there. Rose didn’t even get to the free-throw line.
His lone assist led to Kirk Hinrich’s lone 3-point make, which gave the Bulls a late lead in the fourth quarter. But that came after 47 minutes and 45 seconds in which Rose racked up 11 turnovers.
Had Rose finished with no assists, he would’ve gone down in the record books with the most turnovers without an assist. Had he finished with no assists and 10 turnovers, he would’ve been the first to do so since Yao MIng had that dubious distinction in a Dec. 12, 2004 game against the Bobcats and the first Bull player to do it since Bill Cartwright against the Pacers in 1988.
Rose posted an all-time weird stat line that has yielded the following stat comps per basketball-reference.com’s play index (since 1985-86 season):
- Rose’s 11 turnovers is tied with 10 others for the sixth most in a 30-point game. Only Chris Mullin (13) and Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Allen Iverson and Sleepy Floyd (12) had more than Rose’s 11.
- His 1-assist, 11-turnover game is a first for a point guard. Allen Iverson had 8 turnovers (but 47 points) in this 2001 loss to the Hornets; Jason Williams, a more traditional PG had 8 turnovers in this 2002 loss to the Jazz.
- Rose joined Kobe Bryant, Tim Hardaway and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf as the only guards to have a game in which they scored at least 30 points on 30 shots with no made free throws. Of that group Rose, Hardaway and Abdul-Rauf can proudly say they didn’t even attempt a free throw. Bryant missed his lone attempt in this 2012 win against the Warriors.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons tweeted: “Derrick Rose last night: 33 FGA, 11 turnovers, 1 assist and 0 FTA. That’s basically everything you don’t want from your point guard.”
And he isn’t completely wrong. There aren’t too many nights where a 1:11 assist-turnover ratio is acceptable. Neither is 0 free throw attempts from a guy who attempted 11 shots in the paint last night. And on a team that features efficient scorers such as Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, attempting 33 field goals isn’t ideal.
Still, Rose’s offensive aggressiveness was a bit of a breath of fresh air. It was nice to see him play aggressively, even if he was careless with the ball much of the night.
Most importantly, Rose played 40+ minutes for the first time since the Bulls’ 100-94 win against the Pistons on April 15, 2012.
Talk about burying the lede. That might have been the most important thing to come out of Tuesday’s win.
Yet, because of the other oddness and randomness of the night, that minor nugget has been buried.
At least, for now.