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Queue scrutiny of Thibs' minutes management after blowout over horrible Pistons team

No better way to say it; the Pistons are a pile of dung with no redeeming quality and they lost to the Bulls in a way you'd expect.

The Bulls closed out the last 7:20 of the first half on a 20-9 run that put them up 51-35, holding a completely inept Detroit squad to 31% shooting. Mid-way through the third quarter, the Pistons put together an 11-3 run to put them within 12 at the 4:26 mark and closed out the quarter down 71-58. The Bulls opened the fourth with a 5-0 run to put them up by 18, but Detroit responded with an 11-4 run, closing the Bulls lead to 11 at the 6:38 mark. The Pistons wouldn't get any closer for the remainder of the game.

Derrick Rose played all but the final 1:13 of the second half. Luol Deng played the entire third quarter, as well as the first 5:28 of the fourth and another 4:11 after resting 1:28 for 21:39 of playing time in the second half of a game where the Bulls were up by as much as 20 and were never up by less than 11.

Doug Thonus lays out the concern pretty clearly:

The Chicago Bulls are going to make the playoffs. They are going to get a top four seed. There simply is no way this doesn't happen. Quite honestly, it's hard to imagine them not getting a top two seed unless they suffer an injury.

Last year, the Bulls struggled in the playoffs with nagging injuries. Carlos Boozer had a toe. Joakim Noah's ankle never fully recovered. Derrick Rose had something going on that cost him some explosion.

It's time that Tom Thibodeau take in one final lesson from Doc Rivers. In the year Boston lost to the Lakers in game seven, Doc rested all of his players down the stretch. They lost spots in the seeding, but they hit the playoffs with fresh legs. The team then surprised everyone by coming within a Kendrick Perkins injury from winning the NBA title [and almost won in spite of Perk's injury].

The oversimplification of the comparison to the 2010 Celtics aside, there's no denying that the Bulls' health issues last season where in no way helpful. Those injuries were only harmful and they still landed the top seed in the conference and made the Eastern Conference Finals, sparking inevitable 'what ifs' and a raised scrutiny this season -- of all seasons -- where health will prove to be king like no other NBA schedule format.

The criticism is valid, but there's the counter that the core of this Bulls team simply doesn't have the on-court minutes together than the core of the target on which Thonus shamelessly fixates in the same post: the Heat.

There are game situations where you ride your thoroughbreds and others where you take the win and take drastic measures to minimize long-term risk. The scoreboard says you do the latter, but there's an argument that the timing of the Pistons' runs disrupted rotating Rose and Deng out for longer periods of rest.

The argument for Deng is that he sat the Bulls' 20-7 in the 2nd quarter, only playing the first 3:34 and the final 0:46 after playing the entire second quarter. The argument for Rose is that he rested the first 7:07 of that 2nd quarter and that the risk of pulling the most reliable scorer when the team is getting stopped and the opponent is connecting only prolongs the opponent's run, cutting into the deficit, and lowering the win probability.

Thibs' minutes management will be under the microscope all season because of the schedule's nature, the 'what ifs' that followed the Bulls rising above all expectations despite injuries, and the fact that he consistently defies what observers perceive as conventional wisdom. His philosophy is unclear; is riding hot hands and momentum, disciplining and rewarding in-game, pre-planned with contingencies according to prior and upcoming loads? It's easy to jump at one, but all we can say for now is that it's sporadic enough to comfortably say that Thibs goes with his gut. The gut is well-educated with a compulsion for the video room and statistical analysis of how every three-, four-, and five-man unit on his team produces, but there's an unpredictability about it and we're all unsure how many parts of the cocktail are genius and how many are madness.

If you wanna take Sam Smith's advice, just deal with it, I guess:

If you like Thibodeau's coaching, this comes with it.

He believes in playing your best players the most minutes. When the Bulls won championships in the early 1990's, Michael Jordan averaged more than 39 minutes per game and Scottie Pippen averaged just under 39 minutes. And both were slightly older than Rose and Deng are now.

So second guess all you want. I seriously doubt it's changing. And even with Deng not having a strong game Wednesday, Thibodeau took him out midway through the fourth quarter with the Bulls ahead by 11, but brought him back about 90 seconds later for the finish.

Rose has actually played fractions of a minute less so far this season (36.9) than last season (37.4) and his career average (37.1). Deng is second in the league with 39.4 MPG only to Monta Ellis' 40.2 and totaled over a minute less than that average in Wednesday's game. That said, the two both in the top ten in the NBA per game, but surprisingly five of those are guards and four are point guards (Rose, John Wall, Brandon Jennings, and Jarrett Jack).

Rose's bruised elbow

As mentioned in yfBB's recap, X-rays cleared Rose of any serious injury to his elbow after sustaining a rough fall with 3:36 remaining in the game. All in all, Rose said, "It's a bruise, but I'm good. I just got knocked off, but I'm fine. It has happened before so I should be all right. It's just like any other time you fall. You're going to be sore. Thank God we don't play (Thursday) and I can rest."

The more minutes he plays, the more minutes there are for him to get hurt, but the probability of getting hurt is the same in a drive to the basket in the first minute of the game than in the final minutes. There were three bad-looking fouls in that quarter, but they're largely being blown out of proportion. Rose is a daredevil and Ben Gordon's too small to challenge an attempt by Joakim Noah without his arm getting caught wrapped around a part of Noah's body. It sucked that it was his neck, but all was well and there was clearly no intention to wrap up his neck. Please don't say you believe that.

The risk later in blowouts isn't the frustration of competitors being expressed, but that there are two states of playing a sport where everyone's risk of injury heightens: when players play too aggressive and when players are deliberately too passive. We may have seen the latter last night, if anything.

Rose is a tough kid. He played it out, but it's completely reasonable to say the coach had absolutely no reason to send him back out there.

Other notes:

  • Lost in the minutes hysteria is that Rose had another perfect night beyond the three-point arc, bricking all six of his long-range attempts. He's now bricked 23 of his last 30 (76.7%), 21 of all 25 (84%) attempts outside of the Staples Center this season, and a whopping 271 of his last 379 (71.5%) since Jan. 7, 2011. In other news, he was also 5-for-5 at the rim, shooting a great 64.9% there this season and his long-2 attempts are down to two per game from 4.5 last season and 6.9 in 2009-10, according to Hoopdata.
  • C.J. Watson actually dislocated his elbow. "I just felt it pop out of place and suffered a lot of pain. I was hoping it wouldn't be anything really, really bad but I knew I would be out for a bit. When I bent it myself it popped back into place. I guess that was a good thing. [...] They're saying a week or so or day-to-day depending on how much pain I can handle."
  • John Lucas III is getting it done. He's 4-for-7 (57.1%) on 3s for 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, and two turnovers in 23 minutes. His eFG% is .583 over the minute sample and the turnover rate's an acceptable 14.3%, the assist rate's over 30% (31.8%) and his PER's at 18.9. The defense can make the eyes bleed, but he's the 5'11" backup to the backup. Solid guy to have. (Stats via Basketball-Reference)
  • Thibs picked his spots wisely to throw the halfcourt trap against the ballstopping Joe Johnson late in Wednesday's game, Beckley Mason noted in a great visual analysis.
  • CSN Chicago's 7.66 rating for Tuesday's game made it the highest rated regular season game in the network's history.
  • The Celtics reportedly called the Kings about a trade to acquire DeMarcus Cousins. Over/under on the amount of days it wil take for Kevin Garnett to whack him in the back of the head?
  • When the Pacers were 4-1, it was time to begin wondering how much of that is related to the acquisition of David West has now begun. Until, of course, the Heat go 18-for-26 at the rim and 24-for-26 at the line against them.
  • The Cavs went into last night 3-2 through the first five games and had people wondering. I don't know what people were wondering, but that's just kind of something people who write about sports say, so I said it. I'll let Matt McHale take over from here:
    Would you believe that, according to Basketball-Reference, the Cadavers currently rank 12th in both Offensive and Defensive Rating? And they're 11th in MOV (2.67), ahead of both the Celtics (2.43) and Thunder (0.57). Could...could it be...that Cleveland isn't horrible this season?

    Nah. Last night's 92-77 loss to the Craptors should dispell any delusions of adequacy on the part of the Cadavers. Cleveland actually shot better from three-point range (30.4 percent) than overall (29.6 percent). But that's nothing to start throwing confetti about.


    Bonus bawful: The Cads and Craptors combined four 8 fast break points. This, my friends, is what we call Scalper's Night Off.