21 January 2010
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="309" caption="Baron Davis got the best of Derrick Rose tonight. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill via espn.com)"]
I take no joy in predicting Bulls losses. I really don't. In fact, in pains me. But boy was I right on with this one. With each loss that the Bulls suffer, a new weakness because more glaring. In this loss, it was just so obvious what the Bulls are lacking.
Look eat Chris Kaman. Imagine if the Bulls had a player like that. He's not the best athlete, and he certainly isn't the most exciting player in the world, but he's such a weapon. He has tremendous footwork in the post and when he puts the ball on the ground and works his way to the basket, he's almost certainly going to get a foul call because he's so big. Compare him to Joakim Noah. Joakim noah is a tremendous athlete. A superior one to that of Kaman. But he has a smaller frame, and he lacks both the ability to push someone around in the post on offense as well as the footwork to be effective in the paint and make your way to the basket. He just isn't polished enough. He can't do it. He can rebound with the best of them, but he will never be on Chris Kaman's level in the post. Kaman had a very nice game with 20 points and 8 rebounds, both right around his averages. So while Stacey King was raving about the Bulls doing a nice job of containing him late in the third quarter, they actually did not contain him at all. Kaman had his way with Noah.
What about Marcus Camby? Is it me or are big-men always setting records against the Bulls? Last year, Camby sets a career high with 27 rebounds against the Bulls. This year, today, he goes off for 25 boards. It's not like he's a young guy...he's been playing for years. Imagine if he played the Bulls every game. He'd average around 25 rebounds a game. Is it that the Bulls are a bad rebounding team? Absolutely not. In fact, they're a good rebounding team. A very good one. Joakim Noah is second in the league in rebounding, just above Marcus Camby. The reason Marcus Camby, and Brendan Haywood, and Kendrick Perkins, and so many other big-men have such success against the Bulls is because of the amount of defensive rebounding opportunities. The Bulls are a horrible shooting team. Bottom five. It's a team full of below average 19 foot jumpshooters who collectively shoot %43 from the field. As a team, that's awful. So what happens when you brick 52 shots in a game? 52. Wow. What happens is you allow a great rebounder like Camby the opportunity to do what he does best: REBOUND. That's just what he did last year when he set his career high, and that's just what he did tonight. Camby also finished with 3 steals and 2 blocks. He had his hands on just about every ball the Bulls managed to get inside the paint. I've never seen so many stripped balls in my life. One second you see a Bulls slasher coming into the lane attacking the basket and as soon as he takes off, the ball is already in mid-air on its way to the other end on a pass from Camby. It just totally exposed how weak the Bulls are in the paint. No options down low whatsoever, and even Derrick wasn't quick enough to get the ball past Camby.
Like I predicted, the Kaman and Camby's good play did not stop Noah from getting his. He finished with 14 points and 15 boards with 3 blocks. An excellent effort. He also had a sick ole behind the back dribble play on Baron Davis where Davis had no idea where the ball went, but Joakim got a little excited about being on Sportscenter so he decided to take it coast-to-coast and try to finish the play. Ummm...hindsight is 20/20...he was no where close on the layup and it led to a transition bucket on the other end. But other than that, Joakim came out and did what he's underpaid to do. Sure, he really couldn't stop Kaman that much, but at least he hacked him if he had to (Clippers are a horrible FT shooting team).
Derrick Rose and Baron Davis had a nice little matchup going. Overall, I would say it was an even matchup, but Baron Davis clearly gets the edge. Derrick finished with 23 points (10-24), 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Davis finished with 23 points (8-17), 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. The lines were similar, although Davis scored much more efficiently. On top of that, Davis scored when it mattered. At the end of the game, the momentum was shifting in the Bulls' direction. The Bulls cut what was a 14 point lead down to 4. Davis knew what he had to do. I mean, there was absolutely no question...no hesitation. With 4:09 left, Joakim cuts to the basket and scores on a dunk off a nice feed from Kirk. The score is suddenly 90-86 Clippers. Davis suddenly gets that look in his eyes. The look that says, everyone get out of the way, 'cause you're not getting the ball. He sprints up the court after the inbounds and drains a three in Derrick's face. Ice cold. On the other end, Tyrus Thomas made an ill-advised but patented 19 foot jumper (it's never gonna stop folks), and Davis grabs the ball dribbles the ball up the court and drains a 19-footer of his own. No one else has touched the ball now on 2 straight Clippers possessions. The rest of the way, it was Davis attacking the basket, getting fouled, making layups, draining free throws. It was the definition of being a team leader. It was the definition of being a superstar. It was the definition of what the Bulls lack. They simply don't have a guy with the weapons of a Davis to go and take over a game, put the team on your back, and pull it out. Derrick wants to be that guy. He's almost that guy. But he's not that guy. Not yet. He's not versatile enough yet. He doesn't have the three-point shot that a true scorer so desperately needs to be able to make at the end of close games, just as Davis did. He doesn't have the fall away jumper that Davis drained in Rose's face so many times tonight that it will probably haunt his dreams. He doesn't have the post-up game that Davis schooled Rose on how to use tonight and that he used so effectively to score at an efficient rate. I just hope Derrick took notes tonight, cuz that's how it's done folks.
Kirk Hinrich came back to stink up the court, although he did have some nice passes late. He went 3-14 from the field and a spectacular 0-7 from three. 0-7? How badly do the Bulls need a 3-point shooter? That badly. Although we did see the emergence of James Johnson tonight. Every game he is starting to grow on me. It seems to me that he can hit the three if he's wide open on a fairly consistent rate. That's something any other Bull cannot do. Not Pargo, definitely not Hinrich, maybe Salmons (MAYBE). No one else. Pathetic. But JJ looked good tonight, playing very under control. He drained a nice open three, and had a terrific power move to the basket with a very very strong finish. He made no mistakes. I think it's time for him to log some more minutes as the Bulls could use him to spread the floor.
Tyrus played OKKKKK. Nothing special. He took a gazillion 19-footers, the shot from him I absolutely hate. He made a number of them, which is bad. Why is it bad? Because that means he's going to shoot them again next game and he'll miss every one. I gave up on Tyrus hitting that shot consistently a long time ago. It's just not going to happen people. So just pray, as I do, that he stops taking it because every time he does it, it's a wasted possession. And the one play at the end of the 4th with 25 seconds and the Bulls down 6...Derrick choosing to pass it to Tyrus Thomas for an open 20 footer, which he of course bricked...probably not a smart choice on Derrick's part. I would say that's about the last guy you want taking that shot and I don't get how Derrick would think otherwise. And Tyrus pretty much proved it by clanking that one, which is the most important shot he took all night.
Which brings me to my next and final point. Baron Davis just makes a jumper to make it 95-101 Clippers. You call timeout. What play do you call? A drive and kick to Luol? Apparently yes. Am I missing something? Is Luol Deng an outstanding 3-point shooter or something? That's the play you call? Do you even need a three in that situation? Absolutely not. Is Luol Deng the guy you want taking it? Absolutely not. Who do you want taking a three? Nobody. Because you have no good three point shooters. Just call a play for Derrick Rose. As Stacey King says, "It's a simple game." Apparently not for VDN and the Bulls.
The Bulls are now 0-2 on this 7 game road trip, which I still maintain they will go 0-7 on. All these problems and gaping holes in their game spell nothing but trouble for the Bulls in the days to come, and I expect to see these weaknesses both exposed and exploited each and every game. It's going to be a rough stretch.