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The Bulls controlled play for much of the night against the Raptors, but more fourth quarter struggles almost resulted in a loss. The backcourt was especially bad, and for some reason, the Bulls relied on Marco Belinelli isolations down the stretch, which failed miserably.
The one good thing about the game getting close is that it provided some nice fodder for analysis. Those blowouts are just so boring to write about! So let's take a look at some stuff that happened last night, including more 4th quarter suckage from the Bulls, highlighted by the turd that Marco Belinelli laid out on his former team's home floor.
Belinelli finished 2-of-9, missed several key free throws and for some odd reason became the go-to guy in the clutch. Numerous possessions devolved into Belinelli isos at the top of the key, including the last attempt in regulation, which failed miserably. While I appreciate Marco's aggressiveness and ability to handle the ball, there's no reason the Bulls should be going to him as a primary scoring option down the stretch. Belly's simply not very good at it, with many of his drives turning into wild forays to the rim that seem to miss more often than not. At least they certainly did last night. And did I mention his defense was appallingly bad? Alan Anderson? Really?
And we've seen the poor late playcalls from Thibs before, as Hamilton has gotten iso calls in last second situations several times this season (with predictably poor results). But outside of Richard Hamilton's 13-point outburst in the third quarter, the Bulls' backcourt was just god-awful. And naturally, Hamilton didn't play a single minute in the fourth quarter or overtime because of some mysterious minutes limit that Tom Thibodeau has put him on. The Bulls appear to be in some weird position with Hamilton where they want to showcase him with the starters to perhaps entice a potential trade partner, but won't play him too much so he stays healthy. Rip only played 18 minutes last night.
What made the mystifying over-reliance on Belinelli late all-the-more bizarre was the fact that Boozer had been cooking all game long. The Bulls went away from Boozer down the stretch, as he attempted just four shots in the fourth quarter. Sure he went just 1-of-4, but it was a major mistake to go away from the hot hand and ride Belinelli, who was 1-of-7 in the final frame. Deng should probably have seen some more touches as well, because his three shots in the fourth doesn't really cut it either.
The Bulls as a team shot just 35 percent in the fourth quarter, and it was the only quarter where the bigs were really outplayed. The Raptors attacked the backboards with reckless abandon in the fourth, winning the rebounding battle 15-9 and grabbing seven offensive rebounds in the process. Noah only had one rebound in the fourth, although some of that was because he was so busy helping on guards that he was often out of position on the glass.
It almost seems pointless to point out these fourth quarter woes because they are so prevalent, but sometimes, like last night, they are almost baffling. The Bulls' offense was rolling through the first three quarters, but then the game tightens up late and everything falls apart.
The lack of talent in the backcourt really shines through in these moments. Oh, the point guards. Kirk Hinrich has been awful the past few games (or should I just say the entire season?), scoring 11 points and making two baskets total in the last four contests. He's seemingly in foul trouble every game these days, and he fouled out last night (though it was a fishy call). The sad thing is, as bad as Hinrich has been, the team truly does run better when he's out there as opposed to Nate Robinson. Nate was completely ineffective last night, putting up a goose egg and getting torched repeatedly by Kyle Lowry. It's pretty sad that we often find ourselves pining for a guy like Hinrich, who is more effective simply because he makes the right passes and doesn't fuck up nearly as much as Nate. And I guess he makes some nice plays on defense, although he has had issues on that end as well. Just not as many issues as Nate.
This should hopefully be fixed once Derrick Rose is back to his normal self. But until then, we'll have to deal with Hinrich bricks, wild Belinelli drives and Nate doing Nate.
At least Thibs learned from the Belinelli mistake in regulation and went to Deng for the game-winner. A win's a win.