Bulls First Quarter Recap

November basketball is finally over, hallelujah! These first 17 games aren’t exactly spotlight, primetime, high viewership events, especially since the NBA is still competing with football season. Nevertheless, with anticipation high and avid fans’ attention turned towards basketball, everyone (read: sportscasters and the fans that listen to this nonsense) makes mountains out of mole hills. It also doesn’t help that the Bears haven’t done much good in Chicago, as was expected in the First Quarter Forecast. Prime example: Derrick Rose’s persisting injuries, and those that question his motivation. For a spot-on article that complemented the one (D)Roses and Thorns put forth a few weeks ago, Rose’s (Non) Controversial Statement, read Rick Morrissey’s article in the Chicago Sun Times. His final thoughts reflect my sentiments exactly: “All the anger over Rose is more of a reflection on fans and media than it is on a struggling basketball player. It’s up to them to figure out why they’re so mad.” I vented enough in my last post,  so I won’t spend any more time on this.

But praise be to the basketball gods, November is finally over, and we can take a look back at how I fared in that First Quarter Forecast through the first 15 games…

W/L predictions

Game Prediction Result Predicted Record Actual Record
Bulls @ Knicks W W 104-80 1-0 1-0
Cavs @ Bulls L L 114-108 1-1 1-1
Bulls @ Timberwolves L W 106-105 1-2 2-1
Magic @ Bulls W W 90-98 2-2 3-1
Bulls @ Bucks W W 95-86 3-2 4-1
Bulls @ 76ers W W 118-115 4-2 5-1
Celtics @ Bulls L L 106-101 4-3 5-2
Pistons @ Bulls W W 91-102 5-3 6-2
Bulls @ Raptors L W 100-93 5-4 7-2
Pacers @ Bulls W L 99-90 6-4 7-3
Bulls @ Clippers L W 105-89 6-5 8-3
Bulls @ Kings W L 88-103 7-5 8-4
Bulls @ Trailblazers L L 87-105 7-6 8-5
Bulls @ Jazz W W 97-95 8-6 9-5
Bulls @ Nuggets L L 109-114 8-7 9-6

Notes:

– You can’t predict injuries, but you might say if the Bulls were healthy, they might have had a better record. Through the first seventeen, Bulls players have missed the following number of games: Rose – 8, Taj – 5, Pau and Noah – 3, Hinrich and Butler – 2.

– I had a conservative 8-7 prediction in preparation for some disappointment, although 9-6 was more realistic, and some fans (namely, my father), boldly predicted 82-0, but adjusted it to 81-1 after the Cavs loss. He was looking pretty good until the Bulls lost to the Celtics, shattering his hopes and dreams for a near-perfect season.

– When the Bulls stood at 7-2, some scoffed at my prediction of 8-7. As it turns out, the Bulls went 2-4 after that, in the heart of their west coast road trip and finished at 9-6.

– I went 10-5 in my game-by-game preseason predictions (granted, I didn’t disclose all of these, so you just have to trust me), and was one game off of the actual overall record. So, all things considered, not bad. My worst stretch was a four game flip-flop against the Raptors, Pacers, Clippers, and Kings, as I had all 4 games wrong in my preseason preview, losing to the Pacers and Kings and inexplicably topping the Clippers and Raptors with injured Bulls players; however, I nailed the five games in seven nights, picking the Boston matchup as a trap game (though they did it without Rondo, which was unexpected).

Where else I was (mostly) right

– On Friday, November 28th, you were recovering after a very hearty Thanksgiving meal. Not too difficult to be right on that one.

– The Bulls only won one game by 20+ points – and it was opening night against the Knicks,  104-80. Admittedly, this prediction wasn’t looking so hot right off the bat, but it held up. The largest margin of victory after that through fifteen games was against the Clippers, at 16 points.

– As suggested by the low margin of victory, most of the games were contests up until, and through, the 4th quarter.

–  “Derrick Rose has been the primary reason the Bulls have won the games that they have.” I’m taking partial credit here. In the nine games Rose has played up through the Nets game, the Bulls are 7-2, compared to 4-4 without; and that’s counting the 10 minutes he played in the Denver loss. Derrick also boasts by far the highest +/- on the team, at +7.6. The team’s point differential is +14 with him and -2 without, and per 48 minutes average 103.6 points with Derrick on the floor, and 99.3 points without. Opponents also score nearly 12 points fewer with Rose out there (89.3 compared to 100.9 points per 48 minutes); simply put, when Derrick is on the floor, the Bulls win. Also, his passing ability is markedly improved, which is scary. (Okay, if you want to be a stickler about it and hold me to the first fifteen games, not including Boston/Brooklyn, the Bulls are 5-2 with him and 4-4 without him).

– Kenneth “Manimal” Faried domination (See: “Monster Mash.”) Faried had 12 points and 9 rebounds in this game in 24 minutes. The bulls didnt’ lose by double digits, but they were down ~10 most of the game and lost by five. Granted, no Taj, no Noah, Rose on limited minutes, and Cameron Bairstow got what will prove to be his first and last start in the NBA. I’m taking partial credit.

– Football in Chicago is nearly over because the Bears are all but out of playoff contention at 5-7. This was also not hard to predict…

– “Chicago fans are pointing fingers with gusto,” at:

1. “Pau/Thibs for disrupting Noah’s involvement in the offensive scheme” and not seemingly utilizing the two effectively (up until these past few games). People give Pau a pass because he’s been incredible, but they’re still pointing fingers trying to figure out how to get Noah more involved. It’s still November, this will work itself out. Noah was coming back from knee surgery, he’s also been forced to guard athletic/stretch 4’s away from the basket, and he hasn’t had many games with all 5 starters in at once, with the injuries to Rose.

2. “McBuckets for making mistakes and being a rookie.” McDermott has only averaged 3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.1 apg, and 0.8 topg in 11.6 mpg and has a +/- per game of -3.3. His defense has been suspect, and his release has been too quick, not hitting his shots (yes, because I am the authority on shooting mechanics… ha). However, he has shown a propensity to put the ball on the floor and get to the line, which demonstrates veteran-like savvy, and is a good sign. Once he gets comfortable, just like Mirotic has, he’ll fit right in.

3. “The reserves for playing without any real flow.” Of the regular reserves, aside from the aforementioned Doug E. Fresh, the reserves’ +/- are as follows: Gibson @ +1.9, Hinrich @ +0.9, Snell @ -1.4, Mirotic @ -1.1, and surprisingly, Brooks @ -0.2. Bairstow has an atrocious -5.8.

4. “Thibs for playing Butler too many minutes.” The critics recognize Jimmy as a stand-out playing at an All-Star level, but these same cricits spray blame out the other side of their mouths, and it’s landing on Tom Thibodeau. What do you want, you riotous, self-indulgent psychopaths: play Jimmy fewer minutes and miss out on those precious advance stats gains and resultant win shares, or play him the minutes he deserves and cruify Thibs for “wearing him down?” Let’s drop some knowledge: for context, among the top ten minutes earners behind Jimmy Butler are (in no particular order): LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Rudy Gay, Trevor Ariza, Anthony Davis, and Reggie Jackson. That’s some pretty good company to be in. Butler is a key contributor to the success of this Bulls team, and he’s #winning. Play him and pay him.

IMG_2460.JPG

– “Everyone has an opinion about the rotation, and everyone seems to have the solution.” I’ve heard everything from starting McDermott to benching him indefinitely, and from making E’Twaun Moore the guard behind Rose over Hinrich/Brooks to moving Dunleavy to the reserve unit to help their flow (this one isn’t so crazy. In fact, Sam Smith campagins for this quite frequently. As an aside, Sam also wrote a nice piece on veterans Dunleavy/Hinrich that’s worth a read).

– Brooks has proved to be a great “buy-low” pick-up, averaging 11.2 ppg in 20.3 mpg, shooting 45.4% from within the arc and 43.9% from behind it.

–  Since this was written after the Nets game, I’m taking credit for correctly predicting victories over the Celtics and Brooklyn. Chalk up the wins.

Where I was (mostly) wrong

– Nobody is pointing fingers at Mirotic lately for passing up shots and being soft, because it looks like he’s finally got into a bit of a groove. Since the Pacers game, he’s averaged 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds on 49% FG% and 41.6% from downtown. He looks comfortable out there, and I’m glad no one is pointing fingers (not too many, anyway).

– Same with Pau, no one seems to be upset with Pau because he’s been spectacular, at 19.4/11.0/2.1/2.1. He’s a pro.

– Thibs has arguably not-as-stubbornly stuck to his defense-first mentality to the point of handcuffing the offense, as I thought he might do early on in the season. Of course, he still focuses on defense, rebounding, and turnovers as needing improvement, but the Bulls have found ways to simply outscore their opponents, despite the defense being suspect at times. The Bulls have gotten transition baskets and run a pretty high scoring offense, in contrast to the last couple years. The Bulls are averaging 101.1 ppg (13th) and allowing 98.3 (11th) – much different than last year’s last/first split. Over time, the points allowed ranking will probably gravitate towards the top once again.

Just remember what I said in the first post: “R-E-L-A-X.” It’s been a month now, so we’ll check back in another month, and as I suggested, we’ll say that this was all according to plan. It’s been a good run so far, but better times are ahead! This is where is starts to get fun. #BeepBeep

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