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Atlanta 113, Bulls 108: Frontcourt fiasco

The Bulls aren't going to win much if Thomas and Noah don't play well. The roster has been pretty much cleared out for them to get big minutes, and they were charged with even more responsibility with Drew Gooden out.

So not only did they not deliver solid games, they layed a collective stinkbomb in 48 combined minutes: 5 points on 2-11 shooting, 13 rebounds, 3 TOs (all by Tyrus). Defensively, they were abused inside by Al Hortford and Zaza Pachulia, who was perhaps inspired by reading Sam Smith saying that Ben Gordon could guard him. No Sam, he couldn't, but neither could Thomas, who would constantly give up position for a prayer shotblocking chance.

Such a combined suckfest means that Vinny feels the need (shortsidedly or not) to rely heavily on Nocioni, who played a manageable 31 minutes but it included the final 18 minutes of the game. Or Aaron Gray, who....again, he's just not an NBA player (not for 17 minutes, anyway). Or worse: playing them together, which has been proven many many times over that it's not sustainable as they can't rebound or defend for their positions.

I would've preferred that Vinny just realize that no matter how bad Thomas or Noah play, Noc/Gray is not an answer...but if there was a night where he felt he couldn't put them back in, I guess this would be it. 

But while I think the extended stretch to end the game had him out of gas, Nocioni had a great night. It exhibited the disconnect between what Noc actually does well, and what I read from others suggesting he does well. He had a great game tonight not because he hustled or screamed or flopped, but because he was running to the 3-point line, quickly getting his shot off, and making 4-9 from that range. When he does that, it's a great contribution off the bench, especially since it fits so well with Rose's penetration (Neil Funk called Nocioni Rose's "favorite"). But it's also something he has to do successfully to be productive: he still had 4 rebounds and 5 fouls in his time out there, so expecting him to handle major minutes at the 4 is foolish.

But that's really not his fault, it's on Thomas and Noah to man those frontcourt spots. Heck, Josh Smith wasn't even playing tonight.

More thoughts on the game.

  • Gordon was a bit too shot-happy, and while a lot of it went in the first half, it didn't in the second. If 19 points on 8-20 shooting (and 4ast 1TO) is the worst we see, it'll be a heck of a season, but the more important thing is him still running 'my turn' possessions when Rose is on the court. When Rose is off the court and he's running the point, I'm perfectly fine with the Ben Gordon show. Defensively, while Joe Johnson didn't do as much damage as the midget-phobes had suggested, he did loafed at times rotating to 3-point shooters, and it killed them in the 4th.
  • I thought Deng had a good night, outside of a stretch where 2 TOs (his only of the game) led to 2 Bibby 3-pointers. They seemed to look for him early in each half, and he was actually posting up after the Hawks would switch on picks. Also got to the line 6 times, and had 10 rebounds.
  • Thabo had his first real good game of the year. Still can't shoot, but he had 3 steals and two blocks. Those typically mean the fast break, which then means it doesn't matter if he can shoot or not.
  • Near the end of the game Vinny basically tanked it, with Rose/BG/Thabo/Deng/Noc. Of course, Al Hortford gets a couple offensive rebounds, and Stacy King says "they have to keep Hortford off the glass", as if it's a question of effort.
  • Then Gray came in with two minutes left for no real reason.
  • Interesting that to end both the 2nd and 3rd quarters, it was Rose (not Gordon) who was the one dribbling out the clock. Rose scored on both possessions.