BULLet Points: Comeback falls short as Bulls drop fourth in a row

The Bulls did not begin the Week of Reckoning on a good note, losing Monday at home against the Atlanta Hawks 102-100. With upcoming games against the Pacers, Rockets and Pistons, the playoffs are beginning to seem like a fantasy. The Bulls played with effort and urgency down the stretch of this game, but their inability to string together 48 quality minutes doomed them against a quality opponent.

  • Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler turned in miserable performances in this one. The starting back court combined to shoot 31.7% on 13/41 shooting. This team can really only go as far as their star guards can take them, and on nights when nothing is falling, it’s tough for the Bulls to compete against any team.
  • Butler’s lack of explosion and willingness to go inside is very concerning and causes me to wonder if he should even be on the court. Butler attempted 16 field goals in this game with only four coming in the paint. He attempted just three free throws, with one coming off of an insane four-point play in the final minute. To Atlanta’s credit, they do have the second best defense in the NBA this season and have been even better than the Spurs in recent weeks. But without a true rim protector on the roster, Jimmy should have felt confident forcing the issue at the basket. Instead, Butler attempted seven threes and settled for a handful of long twos off the dribble.
  • Derrick Rose was at least missing his shots from theoretically good places to attempt shots from. Rose was not shy about calling his own number against Atlanta, shooting 25 times in 34 minutes. Rose was looked more like the November version of himself, unable to elevate and finish over defenders in the restricted area. Usually when Rose is lacking athletically he turns to the bank shot, but it seemed he forgot he had that in his arsenal against the Hawks.
  • Rose was atrocious on the defensive end. The Bulls were killed in the pick and roll all night by Atlanta, and part of that was due to Rose getting hung up on screens and failing to track his man off the ball. During one sad stretch in the fourth quarter, Rose was back-cut three times on two possessions.

  • It takes two to tango and it also takes two to play horrible pick and roll defense. Pau Gasol was more lamppost than anchor in this game, immobile against the Hawks driving attack. Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder combined to shoot 15/28, mostly by attacking Gasol in the pick and roll. The diverse skill sets of Al Horford and Paul Millsap froze Gasol in space, and his lack of agility made it impossible to recover when it became clear the point guard was going to attempt the shot. Gasol stuffed the box score with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, but nearly all of his points came on long twos and everything he scored was given right back on the other end.
  • Taj Gibson was the only Bull playing with intensity from tip until final buzzer. Taj grabbed a team high 12 rebounds, four offensive. He blocked four shots and contested countless others. He scored just nine points but shot 50% from the field and did not turn the ball over.
  • The Hawks allowed the Bulls to grab 18 offensive rebounds. Atlanta has been one of the worst defensive rebound teams in the league, rare for a very efficient defense. But what they lack in rebounding ability they make up for in effort. Almost every time the Bulls pulled in an offensive board, there was no easy putback shot available. The paint was always filled with Hawks determined not to let up until possession was theirs. The Bulls attempted 105 field goals, 20 more than their opponent. But the Hawks made all 105 of those shots as difficult as possible.
  • Bobby Portis continues to encourage me on the defensive end. His rotations are sometimes off and his help instincts require some improvement, but those are skills that take time to develop. What I’ve enjoyed watching are possessions when the rookie is isolated against a ball handler on the perimeter. More often than not, Portis is able to move his feet and force a pass or a difficult shot. Bobby will only get better as his mental ability catches up to his physical gifts.
  • Aaron Brooks had a crazy fourth quarter, scoring seven points on three very high degree of difficulty shots that kept the Bulls in this game until the final few seconds. Brooks finished with 16 points on 7/10 shooting. But despite the impressive shot making ability, Brooks is still a huge negative on this team when he needs to run the offense. Playing alongside Rose for much of the fourth quarter, Brooks was able to play shooting guard and didn’t have to concern himself with his teammates. Poor Doug McDermott never has a chance to get cooking when he has to share the court with Brooks.

  • Potential offseason target Kent Bazemore was 1/9 from the field. I still think they should offer him a nice deal this summer. The Bulls need to add another athletic wing to the roster to lighten Jimmy Butler’s load.
  • Coming up: the Bulls take on Indiana Tuesday night in a “well, if we lose this, it’s definitely over” match-up.

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