Before firing up the DVR for this one, I checked ShouldIWatch?com, and figured the 20 point loss. Nope. And it wasn't a 15, nor 10 point loss either. It was a 9 point loss after Luol Deng hit a meaningless three as the clock expired. If only the algorithms could've been tweaked to account for such things...
Though I'm actually glad it didn't. Not that I wouldn't watch it anyway, but watching and knowing the result would've made this certainly less enjoyable, as even though it never really felt like the Bulls were going to beat the Lakers Tuesday night, it shockingly didn't feel like an impossibility either.
The Bulls certainly dished their best opening blow, shooting a crazy percentage and 31 points (the Bulls!). But Kobe Bryant had 20 on his own and the Lakers scored 31 too. Right then it was correct to be worried, and over the course of the game the Bulls reverted to their cruddy shooting percentage and offensive inefficiency.
But they did certainly bring more effort than they had against much worse opponents, most evident on the offensive glass, headlined by Noah's incredible 14 rebounds on that end (20 overall). Noah was all over the Lakers less-mobile frontcourt tonight, another achievement in his season, possibly the lone undeniable bright spot for the Bulls in the year so far.
Other solid nights from Brad Miller, Derrick Rose (who came back from an early rib(?) injury and exploited the Lakers poor defensive PGs) and Kirk Hinrich, who managed to make me think of his defense as simultaneously underrated for the way he guarded Kobe Bryant, yet overrated because it didn't matter. Bryant's game is so refined, and any further praise is better left to those watching him more, as I'm guessing we only got a sample. And while the Bulls would try help, the passes and movement (real 'ball movement', not the wing-it-around-the-perimeter-hot-potato-until-the-clock-runs-out stuff the Bulls do) would also make them pay, though an awful shooting night from Ron Artest and a fairly passive (though give Noah credit for this) night from Pau Gasol made the pain much less than the usual Lakers dominance.
And sure, if the Bulls played like this every night they may have won more games up until now. But while they (I dunno, someone's said it somewhere) say shooting can slump but effort doesn't, effort undoubtedly isn't there for all 82 games. It can't be, and the franchise's unreasonable reliance on it for success keeps them from being as good as the teams the rely on talent.
It does indicate that the Bulls haven't completely given up on VDN. They're still a professional group, and while it means they're not tanking games before they step on the court, they also know within a game when they don't have it. Tonight they started hot and stayed close. But we can't expect any trend to come of it, as the effort wouldn't always need to be there if they were a better assembled and coached team.
A couple random things that bugged me:
- I'm going over old territory, but why does Neil Funk insist on ripping players from opposing teams? I'm all for making fun of the less fortunate or able (in basketball, and in life!), but the Bulls are one of the worst teams in the league. Pau Gasol is miles better than any player the team has had in 10 years. Yet they spent the whole game ripping his play. Can't they instead laud Joakim Noah for doing what he did against great players like Gasol? Neil Funk sucks and he's blind. (alright, I did like him and King using Kobe's performance to further rip dancin' Lebron)
- Shannon Brown had a nice game, giving token pressure to Rose and shooting perfect from the field, ranging from a 3-pointer to a thunderous breakaway dunk. I won't fully commit a 'why couldn't my favorite sports team keep that guy they once had who is now good on another team!' rant, but it is a bit annoying that the Bulls couldn't even give him (even though he was an impending free agent) more than a 22 minute tryout during a completely lost season. A real Org. during such a year tells bozo interim coaches to play guys like this over Larry Hughes.