Sometimes perception does not match reality. It had felt through the first 16 games that the Bulls’ record was not indicative of how well they had been playing. Before their 102-96 loss at the United Center last night, the Bulls were in first place in the East at a seemingly improbable 11-5. This was in spite of the fact that they looked subaverage and even mediocre in many of their games. Improbably, they kept winning, and the hope is that this game was not an indication of a trend in a different direction.
Though, for much of the game, it looked very well like the Bulls would avoid their sixth loss, poor shooting, bad defense, and a couple of untimely missed free throws in the final minutes cost them.
- As a whole, after a 1/6 start from the field to go against 5/6 from Charlotte, the two teams shot almost exactly equally. Both were 37/89, but the difference came largely from the three pointers. The Bulls shot better (36%), but made one less than did the Hornets, who simply took more shots from beyond the arc, giving them an extra three points on the Bulls there. They were also 18/25 from the free throw line, compared to 13/19 for Chicago. No drastic differences in shooting, but greater opportunity yielded a higher number of shots for the Hornets.
- Throughout the game, it felt like the Bulls were giving up the paint on both ends. Especially early in the game, the Charlotte defense was particularly effective in disrupting the Bulls’ post play. Namely, much of their scoring troubles early on came from the fact that they could not establish shots or passing lanes for Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol down low. To this end, Mirotic’s first points from the post came on a rebound when Marvin Williams tripped and left the rebound open to Mirotic. On the other end of the floor, the Bulls gave up a lot of relatively easy shots to the Hornets.
- Speaking of Mirotic, he made his return after leaving Wednesday’s game with a concussion. Originally, he was not expected to suit up last night, but he was able to play 27 minutes and score seven points and grab seven rebounds. His +/- was -8 though, some of which came from his 1/6 shooting from three point range. He missed his two free throw attempts, both of which came at a very inopportune time, right when the Bulls had the chance in the waning minutes of the game.
- Derrick Rose had one of his best games of the year. His three point stroke looked fine, draining three, and he converted on several of his patented twisty layups that we’ve been itching to see. He finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 8/17 shooting.
- Tony Snell played just 12 minutes against Charlotte and offered little. He scored zero points and produced just one assist. His offensive production has completely disappeared.
- In all, it seems so far that the Bulls have been playing up to some of their more challenging opponents like the Pacers, Spurs, and Cavs – and even the Warriors in spite of ultimately losing, and then playing down to the softer opponents. While the Hornets are a young and dynamic team, the Bulls should not be struggling to beat them like they have been.
- I was begrudgingly a fan of Kemba Walker when he was in college, and last night he reminded me of why he was so frustrating to root against at times. As I mentioned earlier, the Bulls seemed to struggle to establish their post game, and much of the time, it was Walker who was the disruptive force. Like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte has a team stacked with young talent. Along with Kemba, you have Cody Zeller, Nicolas Batum, and rookie Frank Kaminsky.
- Coming up: the Bulls will stay at the United Center to host the 8-12 Phoenix Suns on Monday.