As of the 24th, according to Hoopdata, the Bulls were by far the most dominating rebounding team in the NBA, grabbing 53.6% of all available rebounds -- 32.7% of offensive rebounds (ORR). Monday, they fell completely flat, only grabbing 41.5% of rebounds and despite shooting much more efficiently than Denver (.561 eFG% to the Nuggets .545), the Nuggets grabbed 34.1% of their offensive rebounds to elongate possessions and give themselves extra chance after extra chance to score. Though the Bulls shot well, losing a whopping 86.2% of offensive rebounds gave the fast-paced Nuggets too many chances to get mistakes out of the Bulls transition defense.
The Nuggets had 23 fastbreak points and 18 points off of the Bulls' 16 turnovers, but they most exploited the Bulls by stringing stops together in bunches and making the Bulls run. Andre Miller was masterful at controlling the pace of the game for just about every one of the 29 minutes he played. When the Bulls recovered well, he moved the offense at many different levels and found players to exploit.
When Kyle Korver was out there, Aaron Afflalo (22 points on 8-for-12) and Ty Lawson (27 points on 11-for-21) went nuts on him. When Korver was actually able to chase well off the ball, Al Harrington (17 points on 6-for-14) would catch Taj Gibson flat-footed and step out for efficient shots of his own. Gibson, along with Carlos Boozer and Jakim Noah were so flustered by Harrington stretching the floor that they consistently froze. It'd be one thing if they camped inside, let him shoot and boxed to ignite points in transition, but they were caught in no-man's lands too far from Harrington to challenge him and way out of position for rebounds.
The Bulls looked great blocking shots. Omer Asik had a game-high five of the Bulls' 11, but Denver didn't stop attacking. Despite all of those blocks, Denver scored 51 in the paint.
The Bulls shot a ridiculous 13-for-20 on 3s (65%), but only scored 24 in the paint. With only 20 shots at the rim, it's no surprise they only got 11 free throw attempts. Denver played awesome, alert defense without fouling, but the Bulls let them get away with a large margin of error by not forcing mistakes.
There was something slow about the Bulls that Denver exploited, as one of the best halfcourt offenses in the league. Losing the loose balls never gave the Bulls chances to catch breathers and Denver stepped on the Bulls throat as the game fatigued them. As the Bulls were slower and slower to help, get positioning on rebounds, move efficiently off the ball on both ends, it was clear coach George Karl kept his team in the mode of not letting the Bulls catch their breath to re-group and come back.
Denver's a talented bunch with no dominating force, but no soft spot in their rotation. The Bulls defense has trouble when two or more guys on the floor aren't moving their feet in an intelligent manner, as the opposing offense is in constant motion. Denver was extremely effective at this motion, notching 24 assists with only nine turnovers to shoot 50% from the floor, always finding someone to exploit.
If Derrick Rose were healthy, he surely could've converted more possessions in that putrid second half, but the Nuggets were beating the Bulls so bad in the halfcourt that I fail to see how Rose aids to create the stop necessary to ignite a winning comeback.
The Bulls win with defense and rebounding over everything else. Monday, they were awful at both.
The Bulls still have the top record in the NBA at 40-11, but they're 6-3 when notching a 25% or lower ORR. They've lost three of the last four games in which that's happened, showing that opposing coaches are successful when that goal of crashing the boards hard is pounded into opponents' heads. It's no easy feat that Denver achieved, as the Bulls have been over that mark in 26 of the last 30 games. So, we can safely notch the phenomenon of Monday night up as a blip on the radar; but was a harsh of reminder of rebounding's extreme value to this contending team to negate its own weaknesses and accentuate its strengths.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.