Joakim Noah not being at 100% is a real problem. In playing only 27 non-beasting minutes tonight it forced the rest of the Bulls frontcourt to step up, and they decidedly did not. Brad Miller shot a decent percentage but not enough production overall with 1 rebound and 8 points in 33 minutes. Taj Gibson may have had his worst game of the season, with not only zero points and one board in over 15 minutes, but simultaneously got demolished by Elton Brand. There's been reports of injuries for all 3 of them, and they certainly looked like they were playing their second game in less than 24 hours .
Defensively, without Noah patrolling the paint with his usual activity, it pressures the Bulls individual defenders to not get beat so often (as either a hobbled Noah or a normal-footed Brad Miller won't be there to compensate), and in addition to Taj's struggles, Luol Deng played solidly but was ultimately beat on too many posessions by Andre Iguodala. A lot of Iguodala's shots were tough, but while Luol is a very good team defender he can be exposed when facing more athletic wings (in fact the Sixers are an athletic team period outside of Brand+Dalembert), and that happened tonight.
(It seemed like a perfect opportunity to get Tyrus Thomas more time, but he only played 15 minutes as VDN went small (3 guards+Deng+Miller/Noah) down the stretch. Not exactly new strategy for VDN, but he hadn't been using it as much as last season, and it was especially odd tonight given that Tyrus was extremely productive when he did play, getting 12 and 6 in those minutes, and I don't think any were jump shots. He could've helped especially on the boards, where the Bulls allowed several key second chance opportunities in the 4th and OT. But the burying of Tyrus Thomas is a season-long story, and it's tough to specifically complain more after a tough loss when the same thing happened on the 5 game winning streak and through most of the season. I suppose that Noah's (and Taj for that matter) foot problems should force VDN to play the guy, but he doesn't trust Thomas (he doesn't leverage the positives Tyrus can bring, but he's also not a good coach) and there's certainly no organizational pressure to overcome that. It's a sad time to be a Tyrus fan, there's no real hope for him here. I can just sit back and sigh when fans call him an idiot and worthless, then follow his play on some other team next season)
The defense was the story tonight because offensively the Bulls actually were not 2-pointer reliant. Derrick Rose got to line 10 times (though he deserved a couple more in OT, some of it is avoiding contact, but jeez...) on his way to a 30-point night, and the Bulls hit 8 three-pointers, led by Salmons going 4-7. On the perimeter the Bulls were more than making up for what Iguodala was bringing from the Sixers, it was that big frontcourt, like the Clippers the night before, that killed the Bulls.
And with Noah hobbling, Taj the same (or just not that good), Tyrus exiled, and Brad Miller coming off of his fantastic couple of weeks to where we can reasonably expect him, it may be a struggle every night, even against teams like the Sixers.
Devin Brown watch: 0-3 in 10 minutes. Heck, Jannero Pargo could do that. Though at least Brown doesn't need to dribble his way into bad shots.