Bulls vs. Boston Celtics: Teague time, an apology to Luol Deng, Taj Gibson's offensive struggles and more

Jonathan Daniel

Some notes/thoughts on Bulls vs. Celtics.

I just had a few leftover thoughts from the Bulls' 101-95 loss to the Celtics last night. It was a pretty rough game to watch for much of it, but I do have to at least credit the Bulls for fighting back and giving themselves a chance. Of course, moral victories don't really mean crap, and it would be nice to see the Bulls win some of these close games against good teams.

Teague time

I'm pretty sure I've flip-flopped my feelings on Marquis Teague like three or four times already this season. When he was first drafted, I was of the belief that he should get decent minutes this year, because why the hell not? If this season is "lost," might as well develop the young talent you have.

But after watching Teague suck in Summer League and preseason, a deep and probably very irrational fear came over me that changed my opinion to not wanting the youngster to see much of the court at all. Also not helping matters was me getting caught up in the competitiveness of the season and refusing to believe that this truly is a "lost" season. That led me to say just a couple days ago that I'd prefer a bum like Marko Jaric to play over Teague were a guy like that signed.

I certainly didn't feel good about Teague heading into last night's matchup, and my fears weren't alleviated in his first stint. He was terrible on defense and did pretty much nothing on offense. He didn't turn the ball over, but he was hesitant and the Bulls' offense just didn't run smoothly with him on the court.

But in that second stint, Teague found a bit of a comfort zone and played way better than I would have ever anticipated. Five points on 1-of-4 shooting may not look all that great, but I was impressed by his ability to get to the basket and draw fouls. Teague also did a pretty nice job on Rajon Rondo until they started running a bunch of screens at him, which helped lead to those two alley-oops that pretty much decided the game. Still, not too bad for a rookie thrown into the fire against one of the league's best point guards.

Now, Teague is still very raw and has a lot of work to do. He's obviously not all that confident in his jumper, as he passed up several open looks, even when there was time running down on the shot clock. However, not folding under the pressure last night was a good step in his development, and likely earned him a bit more playing time going forward. And after last night, I'm not nearly as afraid of throwing him out there.

I'm sorry, Luol Deng

I'll be the first to admit that I unabashedly bashed Deng for not getting surgery on his wrist after his dreadful shooting performance in the Olympics. I ripped on his comment to the media asking whether it looked like he needed surgery, because in my view, it sure as hell did look like it.

Deng is currently making me eat my words.

Deng played 45 minutes last night (Thibs Ball!), scoring 26 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. This comes two games after Deng scored 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder. So in the Bulls' two biggest games, Lu has done his best to be that alpha dog that's needed with Derrick Rose on the shelf. Yes, the Bulls lost both of those games, but I'm sure as hell not going to blame Deng for that.

On the season, Deng is averaging 18.9 points on 48.6 percent shooting, wiping away many of the concerns about his wrist (at least for now). We've seen him go into the post more, and he's also been drawing more fouls, as he's getting to the free throw line 4.7 times per game. If he kept that number up, that would tie a career high.

Deng has been especially deadly on long twos so far this season, draining 52.0 percent on 4.4 attempts per game according to Hoopdata. And while that number is probably not sustainable, I'd have to imagine we see a bit of an uptick in his three-point percentage to offset the dip in percentage on long twos. The poor three-point shooting (22.7 percent) is really the only complain I have about Deng right now, because he's doing almost everything else right.

Taj Gibson struggling offensively

We all like to rip on Carlos Boozer when he struggles (and I've done it already), but the fact of the matter is, Gibson hasn't been all too hot on the offensive side of the ball this year either. And it's not just his shooting.

But first, let's talk about the shooting, which we heard was supposed to improve this year. Gibson was 1-of-4 last night in 21 minutes, and the three shots he missed are indicative of one of the problem's he's having: too many jumpers. All three shots that Taj missed against the Celtics were from 16-23 feet, and according to Hoopdata, he's attempted as many shots per game from that distance as he has at the rim this year. That's an issue when the guy is shooting 27 percent from 16-23 feet and 80.0 percent at the rim. I think Gibson's post game is somewhat underrated, so I'd much rather see him concentrate on playing down low rather than floating out and attempting jumpers. I certainly have no issues with jumpers once in awhile, as it's almost a necessity sometimes in this offense, but he needs to focus on playing closer to the bucket.

Besides the shooting, Gibson's offensive rebounding has also taken a downturn so far this season. In his first three seasons, he put up offensive rebound rates above 11. So far this year? Down at 8.2. Part of what made the Bulls so dominant at times the past couple of seasons was Gibson's and others work on the offensive glass. Last year, the Bulls led the league in offensive rebound rate. This year they're currently at No. 12.

It was brought up in the comments of Matt's recap that Gibson's new contract could be weighing on him like it did with Joakim Noah. I wouldn't be surprised if that would be the case, although at least Taj has been mostly great on the defensive end, which helps when Boozer goes through his long stretches of suckitude.

A few other thoughts:

  • Tom Thibodeau was naturally upset with the Bulls' defense, which surrendered over 100 points for the first time since last April. Much of it was warranted, as the Bulls did a pretty poor job protecting the paint. Boston was 19-of-24 on shots at the rim, by far their best mark of the year. However, the Celtics also did hit a bunch of tough jumpers. They shot 14-of-30 on long twos, and if you take out Kevin Garnett, who missed a bunch of jumpers in the fourth, that number goes to 13-of-23. Sometimes there are nights when you run into a hot shooting opponent.
  • Noah continues to be a monster, and may well be on his way to his first All-Star Game, especially with Andrew Bynum out for the foreseeable future. Jo had 17 points and 11 rebounds and helped fuel the Bulls' run. But man, I sure do worry about him breaking down. Noah played 42 more minutes last night, putting him at 39.3 minutes per game this season. That's WAY above what he's ever played before. And he pretty much has to play, because it's looking more and more like Nazr Mohammed's excellent preseason was smoke and mirrors. Thibs has shown little patience with Mohammed, because the guy really can't defend and has done very little on offense. As ESPN Chicago's Jon Greenberg says, it sure would be nice to still have Omer Asik around (he's killing it in Houston), but we can't dwell on what we can't change. It was a tough situation that played out poorly, so we'll just have to hope Noah can handle the minutes load and continues to play at this torrid pace.
  • Finally, while we usually try to avoid hyping up any Rose rehab news around here, it is worth mentioning that he started cutting again. It's not huge news, because this simply means he's on schedule. Rose may meet the team in Los Angeles when the Bulls visit there this weekend.
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