(Quarter breakdowns and 4 factor numbers via Hoopdata).
Last night's game was a bit of a microcosm of the Bulls' year so far. They started out very strong, got trounced in the second quarter when Thibs went to his hockey-style line change with the second unit in the second quarter, and then spent the rest of the game trying to make up the difference.
Derrick had a pretty mediocre game. He finished the game -8, while his counterpart Rondo finished with a +11. Derrick spent a whopping 46 minutes on the court but was only able to come up with 18 points, on 19 shots, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, and 6 turnovers (though 2 of those were kind of bull to charge to Derrick, one was the phantom offensive foul on Derrick's late drive against KG and the other was the pass that Taj plain dropped after Derrick had collapsed the defense). I thought the Celtics did a pretty good job of containing Derrick's penetration for the most part, though he got to the rim for 7 attempts and made 4 of them. The most damning thing to me, though, tonight was Derrick really didn't look like he was competing on the defensive end. I don't know if there was miscommunication out there or what, but Rondo and Pierce murdered Rose and Deng in the 1-3 pick and roll a number of times. A couple of them it was unclear whether Derrick or Luol was at fault, but it wasn't pretty. Beyond that, Derrick gave up dribble penetration to Rondo easily a number of times, which was disappointing to see.
Speaking of Luol, he had a terrible, terrible game, particularly down the stretch. I know he hit two back to back clutch three pointers towards the end of the fourth, but he also had two terrible in-bounds plays in a row when the Bulls had a chance to pull away from the Celtics late. One he just threw the ball out of bounds, rather than calling a timeout to prevent a five second violation and the other he threw to Korver in an awkward position (Ray Allen pushed Korver in the back causing Korver to drop the ball, which of course was not called). Luol's rebounding is also still MIA as he secured just 6 boards in 43 minutes, combine that with 20 points on 19 shots, 2 assists, 4 turnovers, and some absolutely terrible pick and roll defense in overtime and Luol was another big reason the Bulls lost. He did give Pierce a hard time for most of regulation, though, as Pierce finished the game 4-14. Unfortunately, Pierce made plays down the stretch and Deng didn't.
We also saw why Thibs doesn't play Korver much, despite his needed floor stretching abilities. The guy got absolutely worked by Ray Allen and Pierce in the 2-3 and 3-2 pick and roll during overtime. He was a -8 in just 20 minutes and it was not hard to see why. He also only provided 5 points on 5 shots. Yuck.
Scalabrine finally only played 3 minutes and even registered a block on Pierce in isolation. Both of those things were good to see. Pierce getting embarrassed is always nice and Scal not playing is a much needed adjustment by Coach T.
Joakim was absolutely fantastic save for two plays. The first wasn't a play at all, really. He got T'd up at the end of the first half, which gave the Celtics an extra point to start the second half. It's impossible to say how the game would shake out if the point hadn't been granted or how strategies would have changed, but the fact is that the Bulls ended regulation tied and that 1 point didn't NEED to be given to the Celtics. When you're playing a team like Boston, you can't give away free points. Joakim has to be smarter than that. Finally, the only other bad play that Joakim had was when he attempted to push the pace towards the end of OT after a rebound, rather than getting it the ball to Derrick. KG snuck up behind him and poked the ball away to Big Baby and that was a pretty decisive possession. Other than that, Joakim gave us 49 minutes, 26 points on 13 shots, 10-10 FTs, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 2 turnovers. I love him.
Similarly, Taj looked fantastic. The Celtics left Noah and Taj open all night for long 2 point jumpers off of Derrick's penetration and they consistently made them pay. Taj even displayed a few new moves in his offensive repertoire, including a floater. I also thought his defense on Garnett was very solid. KG finished with just 16 points on 17 shots. You'd like for Taj to grab more than 7 boards in 40 minutes, though.
Ronnie Brewer looks like he's finally healthy (some nice cuts and finishes in the lane and a nice pick of Ray Allen's pocket late for an easy transition dunk) and it couldn't come soon enough, because Keith Bogans is truly terrible. Oh, and Keith, stop trying to run the fast break. It's embarrassing.
Jimmy Johns had a pretty brutal game in his short stint. He jacked some ugly shots and finished with no points on 4 shots in 6 minutes and only 2 boards and 1 assist. I'm afraid it looks like JJ had a fluky game against the Pistons and that's about it.
Finally, a word about the refereeing. I normally don't complain a lot about refs, at least after the fact when I've calmed down and seen a replay, but last night was truly awful. The foul disparity doesn't seem to be that great just looking at the box score, but the calls last night were terribly one sided. Rondo reached in on Derrick 4 times by my count that should have been obvious fouls and he was never called, including on the final play of regulation where he dove into Derrick's midsection. Big Baby got away with a couple of blocking fouls that were treated as charges, and Derrick was charged with a crucial offensive foul late for having the audacity to be hacked by KG. It was pretty ridiculous. Then, on the other end, Ray Allen shot a three pointer and fell down like he was shot because Derrick challenged the shot (didn't touch Allen, mind you) and got a 4 point play. In a tight game, all of these things made the difference.
It was good to see the guys hang tough in that kind of environment, but it sucked to see them fall apart at the end to a team that just kept executing in the clutch. As someone who appreciates well-played basketball, Pierce's pass to Allen for the dunk over Korver in crunch time was beautiful. As a Bulls fan, it made me want to throw up.
Oh and one more thing, Kevin Garnett is a dick.
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