BULLet Points: Rational Criticisms Through Two Games

image via thechicagohomer.com
image via thechicagohomer.com

Game two fucking sucked. I spent a good chunk of overtime crouched on the ground with my hands intertwined behind my head. It just seemed like the right thing to do as I could frog leap up if something good happened and fall down from a somewhat safe distance from the ground in the event something bad happened. If you were to ask me about the game within  four or five hours of its completion, I would have mumbled something unintelligible while wildly waving my hands in the air. But time heals all (even Derrick Rose) and I have calmly put some thoughts on paper about the Bulls, currently down 2-0 to the Wizards and heading to Washington for the next two games.

  • Tom Thibodeau is without a doubt one of the best coaches in the league. His defensive scheme has become the most imitated system in the NBA. His ability to turn broken down and discarded players into key cogs in the rotation is a remarkable and invaluable commodity to the penny-pinching Bulls.
  • In a season where the best player missed 72 games and the second best player was shipped off midway through the season, Tom Thibodeau managed to make a team that scored the fewest points per game in the league fun to watch on a nightly basis. Ask Cavs fans if they had fun watching regular season basketball. Or Knicks fans, or Pistons fans. With superior talent and inferior coaching, those three franchises turned into unwatchable (unless you’re a car wreck fan) dumpster fires that sucked the life out of fans. A Thibodeau coached team will never know that pain.
  • Tom Thibodeau has some major flaws. Wrapping up his fourth year as the conductor of this high speed train, Thibodeau has failed to grasp certain concepts that separate the very good coaches of the NBA from the excellent ones. Greg Popovich, recent recipient of the Coach of the Year award, has found ways to stay ahead of the league in terms of strategy. Pop was one of the first to grasp the value of corner threes. Thibs, to his credit, also understood that a shot worth more points from a shorter distance is super important and built his defense around shutting down those attempts. But where Popovich is miles ahead of Thibodeau is understanding rotations.
  • The Spurs have nine players who average between 19 and 29 minutes a game. Tim Duncan led the team in total minutes at 2,158 minutes. Marco Belinelli is the only other Spur to crack the 2,000 minute mark at 2,016. Tiago Splitter, who dealt with health issues, had the 9th highest minute total on the team at 1,271.
  • The Bulls had six guys crack 2,000 minutes for the regular season. Joakim Noah, who somehow managed to stay on the court for 80 games, led the team with 2,820 minutes. Hinrich, the sixth most used Bull, logged 2,116 minutes. DJ Augestin, picked up midway through the season, still managed to log 1,800 minutes. The 9th most used Bull this year was Luol Deng, who hasn’t been on the team since early January.
  • I understand it’s unfair to measure Thibodeau against maybe the greatest coach of all time, but it needs to be pointed out that Thibs is SEVERELY lacking when it comes to pacing his players and understanding when its ok to take your foot off the gas. Tony Snell is never going to make an all-star team, and he may never even develop into an average NBA player (his PER of 8 is, ugh, low). But the marginal cost of playing him a couple more minutes a night against the marginal benefits of keeping Jimmy Butler fresh (and by fresh I of course mean “not on the verge of death by exhaustion”) likely outway those costs.
image via kcsportsninja.com
image via kcsportsninja.com
  • The Bulls, for two consecutive games, have turned into a middle school basketball team offensively in the fourth quarter. In game two, Chicago shot 7-25 in the fourth quarter and overtime. A lot of those shots came as the shot clock was winding down and resulted in Kirk Hinrich taking wild jumpers and DJ Augustin trying to get bailed out on out of control drives to the basket.
  • Whether it’s a result of a change in play calling or a ramping up of defensive pressure, the Bulls completely abandoned Noah in the high post. The flex sets where Joakim catches near the free throw line while the other four Bulls on the court screen and cut around him have been a staple of offensive success for this limited team.
  • High screen and rolls with Hinrich as the ball handler are not going to cut it in crunch time. No one is afraid of Kirk’s shot or his speed and the man guarding Hinrich happily goes under the pick, clogging things in the paint and forcing the Bulls to settle for bad shots.
  • I don’t care how ramped up the pressure is on Noah off the ball. The Bulls need him to facilitate the offense to prevent it from completely dying down the stretch.
  • The Wizards are more talented than the Bulls. Wall and Beal are better than any (healthy) Bulls guards. Nene and Gortat present the rarely seen dual threat front court that can stand toe-to-toe with the fearsome Noah-Gibson pairing. Their athleticism allows them to make up for small defensive breakdowns, closing on just about every shot and challenging everything at the rim.
  • I expect the Bulls to take one of the next two games, but I don’t expect much beyond that. Dropping both games in Chicago has put the Bulls in a difficult hole to crawl out of.
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