So amid all the annual trade deadline silliness (not as much this year) and the hullabaloo surrounding Reggie Rose's rather ill-timed remarks about the organization, there was an actual game to be played on Thursday night. And it was a rather large one at that, with the defending champion Heat coming to the United Center for the first time this season. Unfortunately, the Bulls seemed determined to prove Reggie right, putting together an unwatchable performance in an 86-67 loss (that I obviously watched all of).
The story of this one was the sloppy play, although it was certainly not confined to the Bulls. Both teams came out of the gates determined to throw it to the other team, racking up eight turnovers apiece in the first quarter. The problem was that the Bulls continued to turn the ball over throughout the rest of the game, and an especially poor sequence in the second quarter saw them turn it over on five of seven possessions to help the Heat build a double-digit lead.
For the game, the Bulls coughed it up a whopping total of 27 times, leading to 24 Heat points. And I guess this would now be a good time to bring up that Kirk Hinrich
fell back into a well sat out this game due to his elbow injury flaring up again. There's still zero chance the Bulls actually win this game with Hinrich in the lineup, but I'm guessing the offense wouldn't have looked QUITE as out of sync as it did. The Heat defense is obviously great when it tries and they were especially aggressive tonight, but the Bulls' offense was just completely out of sorts from the opening tip.
There were a few possessions early where Carlos Boozer was being guarded by Shane Battier in the post, and he didn't even get one touch down there. Boozer didn't even take a shot until late in the second quarter, which is completely unacceptable against a team that doesn't have much size down low. Kirk would have helped this. I think. Of course, the fact that he can't stay on the court is a huge problem in itself, and one of the biggest reasons I didn't want him this offseason. But I digress.
The Bulls somehow managed to keep it somewhat competitive throughout much of the night despite the sloppy play and generally horrible offense, and even had the deficit as low as seven in the third quarter. Then LeBron James said enough was enough, knocking down a couple ridiculous jumpers and essentially ending the night. Sure the Bulls were able to get within nine at the start of the fourth, but it never felt like they posed a serious threat.
LeBron finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, all while shooting 11-of-15 from the field. The scary thing is that it seemed like he was just on autopilot the entire game. He wasn't even all that assertive on offense in the first half, looking seemingly content to set up his teammates. But when it came down to putting the foot on the throat in the second half, he did it. It would also seem necessary to point out that he helped hold Luol Deng to 6 points on 3-of-12 shooting. If you're keeping track, that's 5-of-21 for Deng in two games against the Heat this year.
If you're looking for any positives, it's hard to find them. The Bulls only won the rebounding battle 39-36 and had an offensive rebound rate of just 27.7. A far cry from the dominance in the Bulls' win in Miami earlier this year. Then there's the hideous three-point shooting, as the Bulls went just 2-of-10 from deep. Marco Belinelli missed a couple of WIDE open looks, while Kyle Korver's trade exception wept on the bench.
I guess we can commend Joakim Noah for showing up. Noah finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, although he was as guilty as anybody else with turnovers, giving it up four times. Noah did appear to tweak an ankle at one point, but he did return to the court and didn't seem to show any ill effects. Something to monitor though.
On the whole, this game tape needs to be burned and never spoken of again. This outcome doesn't teach us anything we don't already know in the big picture, but it certainly does suck to get methodically taken apart on your home floor by arguably your biggest rival.
Now get back to arguing about Reggie Rose!