and that's our stopper! - USA TODAY Sports
As Jay conveyed in his recap, this was a pretty dreadful game. The Bulls only had a single quarter where they scored above 20 points (a 21-point fourth) and both teams finished under 40% shooting. One of the few bright spots for the Bulls was that run by Nate Robinson. I admit he seduced me into thinking the Bulls were going to actually win it, but ultimate he's a tough guy to ride: he shot the Bulls out of the game but was the only reason they got into it in the first place. He's basically criticism-proof to me, not just because he actually provides scoring off this bench but he is one of the few non-dreadfully-dull players on this team. (also, when he plays that means Kirk Hinrich doesn't, so it's just viscerally pleasing)
Nate can go a bit overboard with the antics and using perceived slights (or real ones, as George Hill just pushed him down on one play) as motivation, but it gets him going and the crowd follows suit. Maybe Jimmy Butler's leaping ability gets second billing to the Nate show, and then beyond that it's a lot of...defense and hustle. blech.
Neil and Stacey went into the oft-used description of a 'Scottie Pippen type' when describing Paul George physically, but the truth is he has had an inconsistent season. Coming into Tuesday he was on a dreadful streak, just 7-31 in his last three games. But against the Bulls his jumper was going in, and thus the shot selection didn't look lazy but unblockable. Deng and Butler did what they could with the guy, but he has such a high release it really is difficult to guard. And when he was out in the open-court it was even tougher, as he felt more comfortable going to the rim from any angle, and had the handles to do so.
More impressive than that from George may have been his individual defense, straight-up stripping Luol Deng a few times. It was a tough matchup for Lu because usually he can out-muscle opposing SFs to get off his jumper. I still think Deng put in a heck of a performance given his physical disadvantage against George, he used a lot of veteran tricks to spring free (including that last play - and the Bulls actually ran a play late in this game - where he cut baseline only to meet Roy Hibbert...and I thought the no-call was accurate and Asik-esque, btw) and hit a couple huge second-half baskets. Neil Funk called Deng 'the run stopper'...which says more about the Bulls offense than Deng, but he did put in a very good effort.
But George was on a whole 'nother level compared to the rest of the players on the floor. He had 14 of his team's 29 field goals. David West started 0-5 and didn't get much better, playing like a less effective (if more aesthetically pleasing) Boozer. Roy Hibbert was a complete travesty for much of the game (yet somehow finished with a double-double), to the point where you wonder how someone that slow and deliberate can really be more than a situational player. Tyler Hansbrough completely ruined the second quarter forcing fouls on nearly every play on both ends of the court. Their PG combination shot 3-18. Lance Stephenson played 37 minutes and scored only 6 points, and had one of the worst attempts I've ever seen when he was isolated on Taj Gibson.
The point is, Paul George was pretty good and it was only inflated in looking at how godawful the Pacers looked in general. Screw them and Roy Hibbert holding his arms up to the crowd at the end of that game and their shitty brand of basketball. At least the Bulls version has Derrick Rose as an excuse.
The new SGs
Rip Hamilton may always get chided here for his lack of efficiency, but his flat-out production and volume and simply working hard off-the-ball is missed considering the alternative. Belinelli doesn't look as lost as he did at the beginning of the season, but his play certainly doesn't give Thibodeau enough reason to allow his defensive shortcomings. Jimmy Butler continues to be an amazing rebounder for a wing player, and earned the majority of the minutes at the position, but he also only had 4 points (on 4 shots) in those 30 minutes. Thibs went to Hinrich+Nate only at the very end, and Hinrich is just the worst so I'm not clamoring for more.
Types of turnovers
The Bulls did lose the turnover battle pretty handily, 19 to 12. But I thought it was made even worse because of the types of TOs the Bulls were giving up. The Pacers had 10 steals and were able to run from of the unholy trap of abysmal half-court basketball. Meanwhile, their own turnovers seemed to only be of the variety where they'd barrel into a Bulls defender or throw the ball into the second row, which necessitated a stoppage of play.
And speaking of turnovers, Taj Gibson only officially had one, but it seems like he's having an awfully hard time this season collecting the ball on both inside passes and pick/pops, to where it completely shuts down the action of the offense. Gibson was pretty terrible overall, putting up a goose egg in 21 minutes. While Carlos Boozer's late-game defense once again left a lot to be desired (the Pacers took over the lead right after he came in), he played, by far the better game of the two PFs. Taj (like it has been for much of the season) didn't make a case to steal the job. As Bulls by the Horns points out, Taj is down to 41.7% shooting on the year.